50th Anniversary of Red Rum’s Win at Ayr Racecourse
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No horse had ever won the Grand National at Aintree and the Scottish Grand National at Ayr in the same season but Red Rum was no ordinary horse.

Three weeks after winning at Aintree for the second time after his famous 1973 success from the luckless top-weight Crisp, Rummy was sent to Ayr to try and complete the Grand National double and, despite connections’ pre-race worry that the task might prove too difficult, jockey Brian Fletcher brought him home 4 lengths in front of the high-class Proud Tarquin, ridden by the future Lord (John) Oaksey.

The roar from the 18,000 crowd was compared in one newspaper to that of the famous Hampden Roar at the home of Scottish football and the 11/8 favourite was given a hero’s welcome back into the winners’ enclosure after banking £7,922 to add to the £25,102 he’d collected in Liverpool.

Bosses at Ayr Racecourse commissioned a statue to commemorate the feat and 12 months later, Red Rum became just the second jumps horse to have a sculpted likeness on a British racecourse after Arkle’s bronze image had been erected at the home of the Cheltenham Gold Cup where “himself”  had won the Blue Riband 3 times.

The Red Rum statue can now be seen outside the Western House Hotel at the southern end of the racecourse.

An ordinary chaser with bad feet when purchased by Donald “Ginger” McCain for owner Noel Le Mare, Red Rum had actually contested the Scottish Grand National in 1972 when trained by Anthony Gillam, but he’d gone off the 33/1 outsider of 17 under jockey Martin Blackshaw and finished an honourable 5th behind the Maurice Barnes ridden Quick Reply. 

McCain’s training of the horse on the beach at Southport Sands led to massive improvement and, after he’d caught and passed Richard Pitman on Crisp to win his first Aintree Grand National in 1973, he returned to win the race again under top-weight of 12-0 a year later with L’Escargot in second place.

That 1974 success prompted a public debate as to whether Red Rum should be risked at Ayr or wait to try for a third Grand National in 1975, but McCain and Le Mare bit the bullet and history was made less than a month after his second win at Aintree.

Red Rum then finished second to old rival L’Escargot in the 1975 Grand National and because the statue was being unveiled at Ayr on Scottish Grand National Day, the horse was sent north to try and win Scotland’s big-race for a second time, but he proved to have had enough for that particular campaign and finished 7th of 12 behind Barona.

Another Aintree Grand National second to Rag Trade followed in 1976 and, when the now 12 year-old took his Aintree record to 1-1-2-2-1 by completing a historic Grand National treble in 1977 under Tommy Stack, the decision was taken to have a 4th crack at that year’s Scottish Grand National where the horse finished a well beaten favourite behind Harry Bell’s Sebastian V.

Talk of a 6th run at Aintree to try and land a historic 4th win began almost immediately and, amazingly, Red Rum was ante-post favourite to win the 1978 race when he suffered a bruised foot the day before and was pulled out (to front page accolades) of the race won by Scottish owned Lucius from the previous year’s Ayr winner, Sebastian V.

Lucius was trained by current handler Nicky Richards’ father Gordon (not the legendary jockey of the same name) and Red Rum was in such good fettle, despite his bruised foot, that he was allowed to lead the parade of horses down to the start at Aintree.

Other horses have won the Scottish Grand National (both Ayr and Bogside) and the Grand National at Aintree in different orders and in different years, but no horse before or since 1974 had/has completed the historic big-race double in the same season and Ayr is honoured to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the horse’s achievement in 2024.

Red Rum won the 1974 race on Saturday April 20 and the 2024 renewal will be run on the exact same day.

The greatest Grand National horse in history was also a winner of the Scottish Grand National and that double in the same year will be hard to match again given the current racing calendar.

Ayr salutes Red Rum as we celebrate the 50th anniversary.

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