How old was Red Rum when he won his third Grand National?
One of the most famous horses in the world, Red Rum requires little or no introduction. Such was his celebrity in his heyday that his retirement, on the eve of the 1978 Grand National, was the lead item on the BBC Nine O’clock News. All told, Red Rum ran in 100 races over hurdles and fences, winning 24 times, but his unprecedented third victory in the Grand National, on April 2, 1977, made real sporting history.
Bought by trainer Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain, on behalf of owner Noel le Mare, at Doncaster Sales in August, 1972, Red Rum suffered from pedal osteitis, or inflammation of the pedal bone, but was famously nurtured back to full health on Southport Sands. He won the Grand National, at the first time of asking, in 1973, but only after snatching victory from the gallant Crisp – who was conceding 23lb and led by 10 lengths at the Elbow, but emptied to nothing in the final hundred yards – in the dying strides. In 1974, Red Rum defied the welter burden of 12 stone to beat L’Escargot by 7 lengths and become the first horse since Reynoldstown, in 1936, to win the National two years running.
Red Rum was denied a third National win by L’Escargot in 1975 and, again, by Rag Trade in 1976, such that when he lined up, as a 12-year-old, for the 1977 renewal he was considered past his best by some observers. Indeed, winning jockey Brian Fletcher had already been replaced by Tommy Stack for voicing such an opinion. In anu event, Red Rum galloped home in splendid isolation, winning by 25 lengths, with only loose horses for company.