The cancellation of the 2020 Grand National due to the coronavirus pandemic has put paid, at least temporarily, to any attempt by Tiger Roll to win the celebrated steeplechase three years running. Of course, Red Rum won the National three times, in 1973, 1974 and 1977, but what is, perhaps, less well-remembered is that ‘Rummie’, as he was affectionately known, also finished second in the National in 1975 and 1976 on his only other attempts.
In 1975, despite being sent off 7/2 favourite, Red Rum was denied a third consecutive victory by L’Escargot, trained by Dan Moore and ridden by Tommy Carberry, who won comfortably by 15 lengths. In 1976, Red Rum started at 10/1 and went down by two lengths to Rag Trade, trained by Fred Rimmell and ridden by John Burke.
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.