Friday 29 March 2013

Red Rum: The Making of a National Hero

The Grand National is synonymous with one horse - Red Rum. This champion thoroughbred racehorse won this prized steeplechase in 1973, 1974 & 1977. In the two intervening years he finished second. The ultimate test of horse & jockey was tamed by his supreme efforts, an achievement which to this day has been unequaled. Remarkably, Red Rum never fell in 100 races.

On Saturday 6th April, viewers across the world will remember the achievements of a truth racing legend & enjoy a racing spectacle - 2013 Grand National.

Red Rum was bred at Rossenarra Stud, in Kells, County Kilkenny, Ireland by Martyn McEnery. His name a creation of the first three letters of his mother & father. This bay son of Quorum out of a mare called Mared was born on the 3rd May 1965. 

Although bred to be a miler, he started his career as a sprinter, dead heated at 5f at Aintree, which used to feature Flat racing even before its steeplechase status. He was once ridden by Lester Piggott.

In many ways Red Rum's story began when he was purchased by Ginger McCain for his new owner Noel le Mare. McCain, a Southport car dealer, trained the horse on the sands at Southport, Merseyside. The sea water was said to have helped ease an incurable bone disease of his feet. In fact, his trainer took him for a therapeutic swim in the sea of Southport before his first National appearance. 

In 1973, Red Rum beat Australian chaser Crisp in a new course record. Crisp looked to have the race won with a impressive lead over the last fence but jockey Brian Fletcher collared him at the line in what has been called the greatest Grand National in history. Richard Pitman who wrote the second horse said: ''I still dream about that race, of Crisp running so strongly and jumping so fearlessly, and then the sound of Red Rum's hooves as he got closer and closer at the end. I felt as though I was tied to a railway line with an express train thundering up and being unable to jump out of the way.''  

In 1974, he won his second National when carrying 12 stone. The intervening years so him finish a gallant second. However, there was contention between Fletcher & McCain, which led to Tommy Stack taking the latter of the rides, after Fletcher angered the outspoken trainer by telling the press the horse didn't feel right after losing in preparation for the race in 1975. Red Rum always saved his best for the National and at the grand old age of 12 he achieved his record third in 1977. 

Commentator, Peter O'Sullivan described the moment:

''The crowd are willing him home now. The 12-year-old Red Rum, being preceded only by loose horses, being chased by Churchtown Boy... They're coming to the elbow, just a furlong now between Red Rum and his third Grand National triumph! He gets a tremendous reception, you've never heard one like it at Liverpool... and Red Rum wins the National!''

Red Rum was prepared for his 6th Grand National but retired after suffering a hairline fracture the day before the race. 

He may no longer been able to race but his celebrity status saw him leading the Grand National parade for many years. Among his guest appearances he switched on the Blackpool illuminations. 

Red Rum passed away on 18th October 1995, aged 30. Such was his popularity that it made headlines of national newspapers. Fittingly, he was buried at the winning post of the Aintree racecourse. His headstone reads: 

 ''Respect this place/ this hallowed ground/ a legend here/ his rest has found/ his feet would fly/ our spirits soar/ he earned our love for evermore''

Champion jockey, Tony McCoy said of the great horse: ''Red Rum's feats, of three Nationals and two seconds, are legendary. They will never be equalled, let alone surpassed. They say records are there to be broken, but Red Rum’s at Aintree is one which will stand the test of time.''

On Saturday 6th April the world will remember Red Rum.