Frankly, there’s not much that can be written about Red Rum that hasn’t been written already. “Rummy”, as he was affectionately known, became a household name after winning the Grand National three times, in 1973, 1974 and 1977. His death, at the age of 30, in 1995 was front page news and, 11 years later, he was still the best-known horse in the country, according to a survey commissioned by Brooke animal welfare charity.
His first National, in 1973, was arguably the greatest of all time, but Red Rum became the villain of the piece after catching Crisp – who was conceding 23lb and had been 15 lengths, or further, clear jumping the final fence – in the shadow of the winning post to win by three-quarters of a length. In 1974, Red Rum was saddled with top weight of 12st, but put in probably his best ever performance at Aintree when beating L’Escargot by 7 lengths.
After back-to-back victories in the National, his progress towards equine immortality faltered, but there was no disgrace in his 15-length defeat by old rival L’Escargot in 1975, or his 2-length defeat by Rag Trade in 1976. In 1977, as a 12-year-old, Red Rum was left in the lead when favourite Andy Pandy fell at Becher’s Brook on the second circuit and gradually drew further and further clear, eventually passing the post 25 lengths ahead of Churchtown Boy, to a tumultuous reception.
In fact, Red Rum was due to run for a sixth time in the National, in 1978 but, on the eve of the race, was found to have suffered a hairline fracture of a small bone in his foot and immediately retired. Following his death, Red Rum was buried at the winning post at Aintree and his grave marked with a head chronicling his unprecedented National record. He is also commemorated by a life-size statue, sculpted in bronze by former jockey Philip Blacker, which overlooks the paddock at Aintree.