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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 April, 2004, 18:37 GMT 19:37 UK
Aintree enjoys Ginger tonic
By Frank Keogh
BBC Sport at Aintree

Ginger McCain produced a great sporting story as he saddled Amberleigh House to Grand National glory 27 years after the trainer's last triumph with the legendary Red Rum.

McCain claimed three wins with record-breaking 'Rummy' in the 1970s, and this fourth triumph justified his long-held hope that another victory was possible.

For a man so associated with the course, and who has earned the nickname 'Mr Aintree', it was an amazing achievement at the age of 73.

GINGER McCAIN FACTFILE
Ginger McCain
Born: 21/9/1930
Name: Christened Donald, but nicknamed Ginger
Started training: 1952
Base: Started out with small stable behind used-car showroom in Southport. Now has stables in Cholmondley, Cheshire
Total Grand National runners: 20
National wins: Four
National places: Runner-up twice, third once.

Yet he had been typically bullish beforehand about the chances of the 12-year-old horse, who finished third in the contest last year.

"Amberleigh House is the one they all have to beat," he told BBC Sport. "He really should be a short-priced favourite."

Afterwards, he admitted to really thinking his chance of winning again had gone when Amberleigh House finished third in 2003.

McCain, a ruddy-faced plain speaker who would not win any awards for political correctness, said: "This is a lovely, lovely day. You can take me round the corner and shoot me now - I don't give a bugger."

He now stands alongside the great Fred Rimell as the only trainer to have won the National four times, and is refusing to rule out trying for a fifth.

"I said if I could win another National I might retire and hand over to my son Donald, but he can wait," said McCain.

"After all, Fred Rimell won four so we'll come back next year and make it five."

Red Rum won the National in 1973, 1974 and 1977, and was also twice runner-up.

You could almost feel the old horse, who died aged 30 in 1995 and is buried by the winning post at Aintree, pulling Amberleigh House over the line in an epic finish to the 2004 race.

Clan Royal, whose jockey Liam Cooper had lost his whip, was passed on a dramatic run-in where he veered off course.

In typically ebullient fashion, McCain told how his winning horse was bought by owner John Halewood for 90,000 punts (about 75,000) in Ireland.

"I went over to see the horse and the woman who was selling him had the greatest legs I'd ever seen. I'm a great legs man and I couldn't resist," he said.

The drinks will be on Liverpool-born Halewood, the millionaire boss of a wine and spirits business, who was introduced to McCain when he was based in nearby Southport during the Red Rum days.

"I told everyone he would win, and there will be no shortage of celebrations," said Halewood.

"It's the best day of my life. That jockey Graham Lee gave Amberleigh House a brilliant ride.

Amberleigh House

"I'm a local lad and after I saw Red Rum win, I vowed I'd come back one day and win the race."

McCain was furious when Amberleigh House was balloted out of the 2002 race because he did not have a high enough rating.

But the trainer persisted, knowing certain horses simply had a liking for Aintree's 30 unique obstacles - Liverpool horses, as he likes to call them.

"It's stone-cold magic," he said, nursing a glass of champagne and a wide grin after his latest victory.

"You can have your Gold Cup days at Ascot with all those formal up-nosed people, and you can have your Cheltenham with all your county types and the tweeds and whatever, this is a people's place and a people's race.

"I've seen it all my life. Some horses come here and run out of their skins. It's a great course, unique, There's no fences in the world like these."

Amberleigh House pretty much brought the house down on a day when the bookmakers claimed record turnover of more than 200m.

Legendary gambler and racehorse owner JP McManus, whose horse Clan Royal was a gallant second, was among the first to offer congratulations to McCain with a hearty "Well done".

And former Liverpool footballer Emlyn Hughes, who is recovering from brain cancer, called out to him: "I'm made up for you."

Judging by the cheers which echoed around the winner's enclosure, he was not the only one.


WATCH AND LISTEN
Amberleigh House trainer Ginger McCain
"I thought I'd never win another National"




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