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banner Friday, 30 March, 2001, 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK
A right Rum tale
Red Rum wins his third Grand National
Red Rum: the only three-time winner of the National
Red Rum is not just a racing hero, he is a sporting legend.

His feats on the racecourse remain unsurpassed and his place in the public's affection is undiminished nearly 25 years after the end of his career.

His death made the front pages of the national newspapers and his name is still probably the first that non-turf fans will proffer when asked to name a racehorse.

Red Rum's legend centres not just around his amazing feats on the racecourse but also the circumstances in which he achieved them.

He had been bred to be a sprinter but ended up winning one of the world's most arduous steeplechase not just once, but three times.

  Red Rum's Grand National record
1973: 1st (9/1JF)
1974: 1st (11/1)
1975: 2nd (7/2F)
1976: 2nd (10/1)
1977: 1st (9/1)

He was a horse who overcame a career-threatening disease who was ridden to his first two Grand National wins by a jockey who had come back from serious head injuries to ride again.

After then coming second twice in a row, the locally trained Red Rum gamely returned at the grand old age of 12 to win a record-braking third Grand National.

He remains the only horse to win it three times.

Although 'Rummy' was successful on other courses, it is with Aintree that he will be inextricably linked.

His sound jumping (he fell just once in over 100 races), stamina and bravery were perfectly suited to the demanding fences of the Grand National course.

First triumph

He was born in County Kilkenny in the Republic of Ireland on 3 May, 1965, and was sold for a mere 400 guineas as a yearling.

Appropriately, he ran his first race at Aintree, aged 23 months, and dead-heated with a horse called Curlicue.

Potential disaster struck relatively early in his career when Red Rum was diagnosed as suffering from pedalostitis, a debilitating bone disease which can cripple horses.

Not long after this time, Southport trainer Donald "Ginger" McCain bought Red Rum for 6,000 guineas for owner Noel Le Mare.

McCain's training regime, which took place on the local beach, proved effective in curing Red Rum of his bone problems.

Red Rum and Brian Fletcher after the 1973 success
Red Rum and Brian Fletcher after the 1973 success

The horse then won five races and as a consequence started joint favourite for the 1973 Grand National.

Ironically, Red Rum was the villain of the piece in his first victory in a race that witnessed one of the classic fnishes in Grand National history.

Crisp, ridden by Richard Pitman and carrying the top weight of 12 stone, had led for the entire second circuit and jumped the final fence more than 15 lengths clear of Red Rum, under Brian Fletcher.

But Crisp was tiring dramatically and Red Rum, carrying 23 pounds less, managed to reel in his rival on the notoriously long run-in to snatch victory on the winning line by just three-quarters of a length.

The time of nine minutes, 1.9 seconds set a new record, 20 seconds faster than the previous best mark, and one which would stand for another 16 years.

National double

The following year it was Red Rum's turn to shoulder the top weight.

Again ridden by Fletcher, he cruised home to become the first - and to date last - back-to-back winner since Reynoldstown in 1936.

Three weeks later, he won the Scottish Grand National carrying 11 stone 13 pounds.

He is the only horse to have achieved this double - a statue of the horse at Ayr now marks the feat.

The 1975 National saw Red Rum, a heavily backed 7/2 favourite beaten into second place by L'Escargot.

The following year, ridden for the first time by Tommy Stack, Red Rum again came second, this time losing out to Rag Trade.

By the time the 1977 Grand National came round, Red Rum was a 12-year-old and was generally seen to be a spent force.

Red Rum leads the Grand National parade
After his retirement, Red Rum often led the National parade

But he lined up for Aintree's big race and to the delight of both the local crowd and the watching millions on TV, came home for an unparalleled third success by a winning margin of 25 lengths.

The horse was prepared for a sixth attempt at the Grand National the following season but suffered a hairline fracture the day before and was subsequently retired.

Red Rum stayed in the spotlight, and led the pre-race parade in many Grand Nationals thereafter.

The horse died on 18 October, 1995, at the age of 30.

Fittingly he was buried by the winning post on the Grand National course at Aintree.

A life-size bronze statue was also erected at the course in tribute to the horse.

In 1998, a handicap chase at the Aintree meeting was renamed the Martell Red Rum Chase.

It is a fitting tribute to Red Rum, whose name is synonymous with both Aintree and the Grand National, and who is surely the greatest horse ever to set hoof on the course.

Martell Grand National - Saturday 7 April. Live coverage on BBC One, Sport Online and Five Live. Race starts 15:45 BST/14:45 GMT.

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