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!

An Interview with Theo Gillard

Theo Gillard

Hey guys!

Today’s post is an interview with Theo Gillard, who is currently a conditional jockey based with Donald McCain. Let’s get straight into it!

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Me: What is your favourite race of your career, win or lose?

Theo: Riding a winner at Aintree has to be the standout one, but having a ride over the National fences was some buzz too.

Me: If you could ride any horse that you never have, past or present, what horse would you choose?

Theo: Master Minded in his prime looked electric. There are plenty of others, but he stands out the most to me.

Me: What are your opinions surrounding the discussions of banning the whip?

Theo: Same opinion as any of the other lads in the weighing room. It’s there for safety and encouragement so if you stick to the rules, which are spot on as they are now, I think they should stay the same.

Me: As a jockey, weight is obviously a huge thing for you guys, so what would you eat on a regular day? Are there any periods across the year where you can actually eat anything and everything or is it a strict kind of diet all year round?

Theo: I tend not to eat breakfast, usually because I don’t get up in time for it! As for lunch, I tend to have mugshots or noodles, which work well for me with a but of fruit or something. For tea I try to stick to lean meats, but you’ve got to get takeout now and then to keep yourself sane. In the current situation I’m sure plenty of the lads will make use of the few weeks off we have, as I will too, to enjoy food a bit more than we normally would.

Me: What would you say to anyone who thinks racing is animal cruelty?

Theo: To anyone that thinks racing is cruel, I’d love to show any one of them around any racing yard in the country to prove how well they are looked after and loved by all stable staff in the industry. I’m sure it would widen plenty of peoples eyes to racing if they did a bit of proper research on it.

Me: Racing is an all year round sport, so when you do get some down time, what do you like to do?

Theo: We get a few weeks here and there in the summer, so it’s always nice to get away on a holiday or away with the Mrs to have some down time away from racing and feel like a ‘normal person’ for a few days.

Me: Who do you look up to in the weighing room?

Theo: There are a lot of good lads in the weighing room, but Dicky (Richard Johnson) is a proper role model. It doesn’t matter if you’ve ridden one winner or a thousand, he always has time for anyone and everyone and is an all round top man.

Me: What is one race you’d love to win?

Theo: At this point in my career, winning any race is a great day for me. But the Gold Cup, as for many other lads is iconic, as well as the Grand National, but I wouldn’t be picky mind.

Me: What would be your ‘horse to watch’ for the next season or two?

Navajo Pass ran a great race to be the 4th in the Triumph at this years Festival and could be a real nice stayer in the future. But the unfortunate Goshen looked extremely impressive too an could turn out to be anything.

Me: What is your favourite course to ride at and why?

Theo: Ironically, I love riding at Bangor. Donald’s horses tend to run well there and I think front runners are hard to peg back round there, so that’s what makes it my favourite course. As well as it’s only 10 minutes from home, so it makes it ideal for me.

Me: What is your best advice for young people who have a passion they want to follow, whether it be in racing or something else?

Theo: Racing or not, starting off your career in anything, keep your head down and work hard but enjoy yourself. Take it seriously, but not too seriously, because your head can play some serious mind games with you if you get too worked up about everything. As long as you can look back at it and be proud of what you have you’re career, what you’ve achieved and be happy with it, then you’re grand.

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Firstly, as always, I want to thank Theo for taking time out to answer some questions. It is appreciated. Theo works for a top trainer with some brilliant horses and with the passion he has for the sport, you can see he will go on to do great things and I, for one, cannot wait to follow his career over the next few years!

I really hope you enjoyed this post! See you all in my next.