The Colourful Story of Donald 'Ginger' McCain: 1930-2011

by Jon Culley

The death of racehorse trainer Donald “Ginger” McCain two days short of his 81st birthday brings down the curtain on one of horse racing’s enduring fairytales.

McCain, a former taxi driver and used car salesman, is the only trainer to have won the Grand National three times with the same horse and one of only two to have won the race four times in all.

He won for the first time in 1973 with Red Rum, a bay gelding whom he bought at auction for just 6,000 guineas on behalf of Noel le Mare, a businessman who was a regular ‘fare’ in his cab.  Red Rum won again in 1974 and 1977 as well as twice finishing second.

Red Rum, who had been bred to run mile races on the Flat, arrived in McCain’s yard, behind his car showroom, with a degenerative foot condition but was famously nursed back to health by being galloped on Southport beach.

His story helped save the Grand National after a period of declining attendances and the real possibility that the famous Aintree course -- just 15 miles from the McCain stable -- would be sold to a housing developer. (Continues below...)


Red Rum died at the age of 30 in 1995, to be buried next to the winning post on the National track, but McCain revived his association with the race two years later when Amberleigh House gave him his fourth victory, equalling trainer Fred Rimell’s record.

His son, Donald McCain Junior, maintained that association this year when he trained Ballabriggs to win over the four-and-half-mile distance, watched by his father.

McCain told his story in My Colourful Life: From Red to Amber in 2005, assisted by the Daily Mail sports journalist Malcolm Folley.

Racing journalist and author Ivor Herbert had published Red Rum: The Story of Ginger McCain and His Legendary Horse earlier in the same year.

All three of Red Rum’s triumphs can be watched in their entirety, beginning with his epic chasing down of the Australian chaser Crisp, on a DVD entitled The Twelve Greatest Ever Grand Nationals [DVD], narrated by former BBC commentator Sir Peter O’Sullevan.

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