Aintree celebrates the 40th anniversary of Red Rum's first Grand National triumph
PUBLISHED: 13:07 04 April 2013 | UPDATED: 21:26 05 April 2013
It's 40 years since Britain's most iconic horse won the nation's favourite race and Aintree plans to party to celebrate. Barry Gregory reports.
Red Rum remains a colossal sporting figure whose name stands proudly alongside the likes of Fred Perry, Bobby Moore or Sterling Moss as an icon of Great British endeavour.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of his epic first Grand National win, when the eight-year-old bay gelding who trained on Birkdale beach, came from 15 lengths down to beat Australian frontrunner Crisp in one of Aintrees most memorable finishes.
Under jockey Brian Fletcher, Red Rum would go on to retain his title in 1974, followed by two second-placed finishes and his record-breaking third win in 1977 under new rider Tommy Stack, a feat unsurpassed to this day.
Red Rum and his trainer Ginger McCain became household names across the UK and nowhere were they more revered than in Southport. McCain, who also owned a car dealership on Aughton Street in the resort, was widely heralded for his unique training techniques, which involved galloping the horse through sand and sea water in a bid to treat a debilitating bone disease in his foot, known as pedal osteitis.
McCain, who had also worked as a taxi driver, bought Red Rum in August 1972 on behalf of Noel Le Mare, whom he had picked up in his cab a few years earlier. Winning a Grand National had been a shared dream of the pair for many years and, despite a few setbacks in his early days at McCains stable, Red Rum would go on to enjoy greater success than either could have imagined.
Organisers of this years Grand National Festival are keen to ensure this important anniversary is suitably celebrated and there will be no shortage of homages to arguably the worlds most famous horse across all three days of the festival, which begins on Thursday April 4.
For the first time ever, the Thursday event will be known as Grand Opening Day, and families are being encouraged to visit, with those aged 17 and under given free entry to the Tattersalls Enclosure when accompanied by a paying adult.
A music bill is led by chart-topping girl group The Saturdays, while awe-inspiring parachute display team The Red Devils, complete with their distinctive maroon berets, will be dropping in to join the festivities.
The Olympic spirit will be alive and well, with appearances by Natasha Jonas and David Price, as well as the Liverpool Signing Choir, who touched the world when they performed John Lennons Imagine at the Olympics Closing Ceremony.
Meanwhile, on the track racegoers can watch the prestigious John Smiths Aintree Hurdle, which has been switched from its traditional Saturday slot and now has a record prize fund of 200,000.
It is clear that the legacy of Red Rum lives on today, not only in the physical statues erected in his honour at Aintree or Southports Wayfarers Arcade, but also emotively in the scale and success of the modern day Grand National Festival.
As the events most iconic figure, it is difficult to say exactly where the Grand National would be in the affections of the Great British public without the legendary efforts of Red Rum, so interwoven are
Everyone who was lucky enough to witness that fateful day in 1973 will have their own distinct memories of where they were and how it felt.
Yet the person maybe best placed to recall it is Crisps jockey Richard Pitman, who said: I still dream about that race, of Crisp running so strongly and jumping so fearlessly, and then the sound of Red Rums 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.
Anyone who has been in the presence of true greatness may have a similar, humbling story to tell.
If you would like to share your memories of Red Rum, why not drop us a line at email@example.com.