Racing Legend: A Brief Look at the History of Red Rum

After more than 30 years since his death, Red Rum still remains to be one of the UK’s greatest sporting celebrities. His three Grand National wins were historic, and he helped ensure the success of horse racing for decades to come. With some of the most memorable moments in racing history, Red Rum has become legendary and is still the most famous horse to have ever raced in the UK. Even more astonishing about his story was the number of obstacles he overcame, including an incurable bone disease in his foot.

While we still remember Red Rum fondly, many of us are still unaware of his complete story. From Ireland to the Grand National, Red Rum’s story is a remarkable one, and we will look at just how this horse became the icon of British horseracing that he is today.

Inauspicious Beginnings

Red Rum was never meant to win a Grand National title. Born and bred in Kells, Ireland, he gained his name from a combination of the last three letters of his sire and dam, Quorum and Mared respectively. He was initially bred to win only one-mile races, not the four-mile four-furlong races of the Grand National. Initially Red Rum’s future didn’t look entirely promising, and he was kept mainly to cheap races as a sprinter. That all changed when car deal Ginger McCain bought the horse and began training him on the beaches of Southport, Merseyside.

The sea water proved highly beneficial to Red Rum who suffered from a debilitating bone disease in his foot. Before his Grand National wins, McCain would take Red Rum for a therapeutic bath in the sea water, which clearly must have worked because the horse would go on to great success.

Grand National

The 1973 Grand National is still remembered for providing one of the most spectacular photo finishes in racing history. For much of the race, Australian chaser Crisp dominated and his victory seemed assured. At the last fence he was 15 lengths clear of Red Rum, but on the final stretch Red Rum made up the distance and took the Grand Title by three-quarters of a length.

The following year, Red Rum retained his title, but he would come second in the following two years. After these loses, many assumed Red Rum’s best days were behind him, but in one of the most stunning comebacks in sporting history, Red Rum won his record-breaking third Grand National title in 1977.


Red Rum was prepared to defend his title at the 1978 Grand National, but just a day before the race he suffered a hairline fracture and was put into retirement. His retirement, however, did not diminish his celebrity, and he spent the rest of his years supporting charities, opening supermarkets, inaugurating roller coasters, and leading the Grand National parade. Horse gifts such as souvenirs, statues, paintings, puzzles, and posters were all made in his likeness, and when he died in 1980 his death made the front pages of the national newspapers.

Red Rum was a horse that only comes by once in a few generations. His story is remarkable not just for his record-breaking three Grand National wins, but for the obstacles he overcame to achieve those wins. To this day Red Rum is still one of the greatest sporting celebrities the UK has ever produced.

John McKenzie is an avid toy collector. His articles mainly appear on toy collection blogs. 

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