Red Rum: What Makes a People’s Horse?

Good Evening!

Welcome to another post here at zoelouisesmithx.com. Today is another part in my What Makes a People’s Horse series and with the Grand National fast approaching there is no better time to write this post! This one is a horse I wanted to look into, because let’s be honest, he will always go down as one of the greatest there ever was and that is, of course, the absolute legend that is Red Rum. So without further ado, let’s just get right into it.


Red Rum was foaled on May 3rd 1965, by Quorum, out of Mared. He was bred in Ireland by breeder Martyn McEnery at Rossenarra Stud in Kells, County Kilkenny. He was named Red Rum when Martyn McEnery took the last three letters of his dam and sire, respectively. Red Rum was sold as a yearling at the sales in Dublin for 400 guineas.

Initially, Red Rum was bred to win one mile races, little did anyone know, he would end up winning over the longest distance he could. He started his career running in a five furlong flat race at Aintree Racecourse (Oh the irony), where he dead heated. As a two year old he ran another 7 times including a win over 7 furlong at Warwick Racecourse. In his early career he was ridden twice by Lester Piggott. Another interesting fact, comedian Lee Mack was a stable lad at the time and he had his first ever riding lesson on Red Rum. (Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/lilyallen/celeb_leemack.shtml)

Very early in Red Rum’s career, disaster struck when he was diagnosed with Pedal osteitis – a debilitating, incurable bone disease.

Red Rum was passed around trainer to trainer to trainer when he became a jumper as he was written off by many. However, Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain, who at the time, was running his very modest horse training establishment in Southport behind a car showroom, brought Red Rum at Doncaster for just £6,000. When he got Red Rum home, he actually found that he was lame, at the time worrying that he had wasted Noel Le Mare’s money.

Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain looked after Red Rum by taking him for therapeutic gallops and swims on Southport beach, this seemed to help treat his pedal osteitis.

We then move onto the 1973 Grand National at Aintree Racecourse, a far stretch from the five furlong sprint he started his career in. Eight year old Red Rum carried a weight of 10-5 starting the race at 9/1 under Brian Fletcher. Crisp, an Australian chaser with Richard Pitman riding led the field practically the whole way round, when he jumped the last fence, he was 15 lengths clear of Red Rum, however Red Rum, with Brian Fletcher on board made up the ground two strides from the finishing post and pipped Crisp on the line by three quarters of a length. They were 25 lengths clear of L’Escargot (11/1) and Tommy Carberry in 3rd. Red Rum won the race in a record time of 9:01.9. – If you have not seen this race then you can watch it right here and I highly recommend you do! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCjhsE6kox4

In 1974, Red Rum once again went to Aintree to try and retain his title, this time carrying 12 stone, a whole 23 pounds more than in 1973. At 11/1, Brian Fletcher took the ride again. Where once again, Red Rum won the race, beating last years 3rd place, 17/2 shot L’Escargot with Tommy Carberry on board.

Just a few weeks later Red Rum and Brian Fletcher headed to Ayr, Scotland for the Scottish Grand National, where carrying 11-13 he ended up winning. To this day, he is the only horse to have won both the English Grand National and Scottish Grand National in the same season.

We then move on to 1975, this is where the tables reversed. This time Red Rum, carrying 12 stone for a second time, under Brian Fletcher and starting as the 7/2 favourite, finished 15 lengths behind L’Escargot and Tommy Carberry who carried 11-3 as a 13/2 shot.

In 1976, Tommy Stack took the ride as Brian Fletcher had angered trainer Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain by telling the press that Red Rum no longer felt ‘right’ after a defeat. This time Red Rum carried 11-10 and started at 10/1. However, he was held off by Rag Trade (14/1) and John Burke, carrying almost a stone less, 10-12.

Moving swiftly into 1977, Red Rum was thought to be ‘too old’ at the age of 12 to win the Grand National again, for a third time. He had started the season poorly, winning at Carlisle before seeming lacklustre in the next four races. At the time, people said that trainer Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain had lost all confidence in him, however he redeemed himself in his final race before Aintree, seemingly back in fine form. Initially Red Rum was given the top weight for the Grand National, however it had dropped to 11-8. He started the race as the 9/1 joint favourite under Tommy Stack, and breaking all records, he won the race to Churchtown Boy (20/1) and Martin Blackshaw in second place. To this day, Red Rum’s record of winning 3 Grand National’s still stands.

In 1977, Red Rum also visited the BBC Studios to appear on Sports Personality of the Year. (https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/av/sports-personality/25316270) where he delighted viewers when he recognised the voice of jockey Tommy Stack who was appearing via a video link.

Also in 1977, Red Rum helped open the Steeplechase Rollercoaster at Blackpool Pleasure Beach as well as switching on the Blackpool Illuminations.

Now a three time Grand National winner, in 1978, Red Rum was entered to run again, however the day before the Grand National took place he had a canter at Aintree Racecourse and he was declared out of the race due to a hairline fracture, however he was still allowed to lead the post race parade. It was at this time that it was decided Red Rum would be retired.

The evening of Red Rum’s retirement, he was the lead story on every news channel as well as front page news for every newspaper the following day.

After retiring from racing, Red Rum became a national celebrity, he would lead the Grand National parade every year up until the 1990’s, but not only this, he also opened supermarkets, appeared on playing cards, paintings, jigsaw puzzles and more. He had many books wrote about him as well as a song called Red Rum by a group called Chaser, written by Steve Jolley, Richard Palmer and Tony Swain.

On October 18th 1995, at the age of 30, Red Rum sadly passed away. He was buried at the winning post of Aintree Racecourse. The epitaph reads ‘Respect this place, this hollowed ground, a legend here, his rest has found, his feet would fly, our spirits soar, he earned our love for evermore.’ I was lucky enough to visit Red Rum’s final resting place and the feeling you get whilst standing there is one I cannot describe, he was a very special horse, one I could only have wished I was around to see.

In the early 1970’s, the future of the Grand National was uncertain, however Red Rum’s record breaking few years ensured huge public support for the fund to buy Aintree Racecourse and put it in the hands of the Jockey Club.

20 time Champion Jockey AP McCoy later said of Red Rum:

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.”

Later, a life sized statue of Red Rum was put up at Aintree Racecourse as well as a smaller bronze statue inside Wayfarers Arcade in Southport.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/horseracing/8775130/Tony-McCoy-jump-jockeys-owe-Ginger-McCain-a-huge-debt-for-saving-the-Grand-National.html

On September 19th 2011, Red Rum’s trainer Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain passed away aged 80.

Red Rum had 100 runs, 24 wins, 15 seconds and 23 thirds, earning him £146,409.80.


Overall, I don’t think I even need to say anything. Red Rum is a legend within horse racing, but also to people who don’t even support the sport. In 2006, 11 years after his death, a survey found that Red Rum was the not only the best known racehorse, but also the best known equine animal, with 45% of Britons naming him and 33% naming Black Beauty. This to me is enough proof that Red Rum is a people’s horse. Personally, I was not even alive when Red Rum was, but I know who he is, I have watched his races and I have loved him just as much as those who did witness his greatness first hand. If new generations know him and love him, this furthers the proof that he is a people’s horse.

With Tiger Roll being pulled out of the 2021 Grand National, it may be many years until a horse wins 3 Grand Nationals to equal Red Rum’s record and even longer for a horse to come along and beat it – If it ever is beat.

I loved this post, there is not much information on Red Rum’s smaller victories, most of the articles and pages I have read focus on his Grand Nationals, English and Scottish, but not much else. I hope you all enjoyed this one and I will hopefully see you in my next post!

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