Red Rum – A Horse Of A Lifetime.
Surely no one can even consider a series of Grand National stories without starting with Red Rum, the most successful horse in the history of the contest and part of racing folklore – and rightly so. Now I appreciate his achievements were those of another decade (they are actually before my time as well, amazingly), but most racing fans will have at least heard his name, and be aware that he will forever be associated with the one race – rightly or wrongly of course.
Those who know the story can read my take on it, those unfamiliar are in for a treat, as we discuss who basically broke all the rules and all the records in five years of total madness in the nation’s favourite race and at the expense of many a bookmaker. Those who think Arabic sounding names are something new will be surprised to read that Abd-El-Kader became the first horse to win the official race twice in the years 1850 and 1851, a feat later repeated by The Lamb (1868 and 1871), The Colonel (1869 and 1870), Manifesto (1897 and 1899), and others since, but no one had ever won it three times until Red Rum appeared on the scene. Bought for just 400 Guineas before seeing a racecourse his first run was at Aintree but over the minimum sprint distance of five furlongs, not over the marathon four and a half miles that brought out the best in him.
Sold at the sales for 6,000 Guineas thanks to a mediocre track record and an expensive medical condition that affected his bones, his new owners took little time in sending him to Ginger McCain and the rest, as they say, is history.
In 1973, aged seven, Red Rum took the race from Crisp in a new course record (and at odds of 9/1), which would be enough for most animals, but in my opinion, his other races were when we saw him at his peak. People often forget the Grand National is a handicap, meaning horses are allotted differing weights depending on their abilities, and in 1974 poor old “Rummie” was lumbered with twelve stone which some would feel was enough to stop a train – but not him! After doubling up at odds of 11/1 and taking his place in history by beating L’Escargot, he went on to finish a gallant runner up to the same horse in 1975 and then filled the same position behind the same horse (who he gave eleven pounds to) in 1976 until history was made in the Jubilee year of 1977. Sent off as the 9/1 second favourite that day, he was giving weight away to all of his rivals but still came home an amazing 25 lengths clear of Churchtown Boy (who carried a massive twenty-two pounds less), with all of the first five home carrying ten stone four or less – except the winner of course! The phrase “lifted the roof of” is used far too often in this sport of ours but in this case it came closest to the truth, with hats flying, newspapers thrown in the air, roars cheers and sore throats aplenty, and why not, they were witnessing history being made in front of their eyes.
Sadly, a last minute injury deprived his adoring fans of seeing him one last time on the racecourse at the 1978 renewal, but maybe it was better to remember him winning the year before in dominant fashion, and retirement beckoned where some say he made more money than he did on the track. Appearing on the BBC Sports Review of the Year in 1977 he made numerous charity appearances and opened bookmakers and so on (and why not – his public simply adored him), before old age caught up with him in 1995 when he passed away at the age of 30, making newspaper headlines the World over one last time. Buried near the winning post at his beloved Aintree, he may be gone but will never be forgotten with most of us quietly confident that his records will simply never be broken – rest in peace superstar, your memory will remain with us for ever and a day.