Of course, the late Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain – who died in 2011, just two days shy of his eighty-first birthday – has his name writ large in the annals of Grand National history as the trainer of the incomparable Red Rum. Nevertheless, ‘Mr. Aintree’, as McCain was affectionately known in his heyday, remained in the training ranks until 2006, when he handed over his licence to his son, Donald Jnr., and, in 2004, won a record-equalling fourth Grand National.
That emotional victory came courtesy of the twelve-year-old Amberleigh House who, according to BBC commentator Jim McGrath, came ‘absolutely flying down the outside’ under jockey Graham Lee to beat joint-favourite Clan Royal by three lengths. Two years previously, Amberleigh House had been balloted out of the Grand National, despite winning the Becher Chase, over 3 miles 3 furlongs on the National Course, the previous November. Nevertheless, despite entering the ‘veteran’ stage of his career, Amberleigh House returned to Aintree to make Ginger McCain just the second trainer, after Fred Rimell, to saddle four Grand National winners.
The revered Red Rum, of course, made five appearances in Grand National, winning in 1973, 1974 and 1977 and finishing second in 1975 and 1976. However, much earlier in the annals of the Grand National – in fact, in the decades around the turn of the twentieth century – Manifesto made eight appearances in the space of ten years.
Bred and originally owned by Irish solicitor Harry Dyas – who also rode him, albeit no further than the first fence, in the 1896 renewal of the National – Manifesto won twice, in 1897 and 1899, and finished in the first four on another four occasions, including on his debut, as a seven-year-old, in 1895. His second victory, in 1899 – by which time he had been sold to stockbroker John Bulteel and transferred to trainer Willie Moore – was notable for the fact that he carried 12st 7lb. So, too, was his highly creditable third, under an eye-watering 12st 13lb, behind Ambush II in 1900. Manifesto made his final appearance in the National, as a sixteen-year-old, in 1904, finishing eighth and last.
Exactly how many horses with colours in their names have won the Grand National depends on whether or not your definition of colour is confined to the visible spectrum or, in other words, the colours of the rainbow. If it is, the answer is three, namely Red Alligator in 1968, Red Rum in 1973, 1974 and 1977 and Red Marauder in 2001. If, on the other hand, your definition of colour includes any distinguishable shade or tone, the answer is nine. Three horses with ‘Silver’ in their names, namely Ascetic’s Silver in 1906, Nicolaus Silver in1961 and Silver Birch in 2007, have all won the Aintree marathon, while the other ‘colourful’ winners were, in chronological order, the legendary Golden Miller in 1934, Nickel Coin in 1951 and Royal Tan in 1954.
In 2019, Tiger Roll made history by becoming the first horse since Red Rum, in 1974, to win the Grand National two years running. Of course, Red Rum went on to complete an unprecedented hat-trick in the world famous steeplechase in 1977 but, before ‘Rummy’, as he was affectionately known, the last horse to win two consecutive Grand Nationals was Reynoldstown in 1936. Before that, Poethlyn won two consecutive renewals of the Grand National, but the first of them, in 1918, came in the so-called ‘War National’, run at Gatwick Racecourse.
Three other horses – Abd-El-Kader in 1850 and 1851, The Colonel in 1869 and 1870 and Manifesto in 1897 and 1899 – have won the Grand National more than once so, including Poethlyn, a total of seven horses have done so. A horse called The Duke won the first two renewals of the Grand Liverpool Steeplechase – the race which later became the Grand National – in 1836 and 1837, but the first ‘official’ running of the Grand National took place in 1839.