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17 Mar 2015

How Many Times Did Red Rum Win the Grand National?

On the 11th April 2015 (4:15 Aintree) horse racing fans across the world will be searching for the winner of this most famous National Hunt steeplechases - The Grand National. Run over 4 miles 3 1/2 furlongs, 30 jumps have to be cleared over two circuits in the ultimate test of horse and jockey. Take a look at the the runners and odds for the Grand National 2015.   

The Grand National is steeped in racing history. 

The remarkable stories of triumph over adversity have captured the heart of millions. Who could forget Bob Champion and Aldaniti and their touching story when winning in 1981. Champion, a jockey battling cancer, Aldaniti, a horse who was deprived in its younger years and suffered terribly from chronic leg problems. Their victory captured so beautifully the feeling of hope, later made into a film starring John Hurt - Champions.

This great race brings equal measure of triumph & tears. Foinavon proved a surprise winner in 1967. Just about the whole field had been hampered or dismounted at the 23rd fence (in 1984 this fence was named in the memory of Foinavon) but this lucky horse, detached by at least half a furlong found space to jump and won a most unlikely victory at odds of 100/1.

Commentator Michael O'Hehir described the chaotic scene:

''And now, with all this mayhem, Foinavon has gone off on his own! He's about 50 to 100 yards in front of anything else!'' 

His owner had so little faith in winning that he traveled to Worcester instead.

One horse synonymous with the Grand National is the legendary Red Rum. This beautiful, bay gelding won three times (1973, 1974 & 1977) and finished second in the intervening years. Trained by Ginger McCain in the ownership of Noel le Mare, his victory in 1973 is considered the greatest Grand National in history after being some 30 lengths behind the leaders. Without question Red Rum loved to jump a fence. He was a master of all fences and never fell once in 100 races. His third win was voted in 2002 as the 24th greatest sporting moment of all time.  

Commentator Peter O'Sullevan said of his third win: 

''The crowd are willing him home now. The 12-year-old Red Rum, being preceded only by loose horses, being chased by Churchtown Boy... They're coming to the elbow, just a furlong now between Red Rum and his third Grand National triumph! It's hats off and a tremendous reception, you've never heard one like it at Liverpool... and Red Rum wins the National!''

 In addition, he won the Scottish National in 1974. 

He was a celebrity in his own right opening super markets, bookmakers shops and leading the annual Grand National parade. He switched on Blackpool illuminations in 1977. Along with merchandise, many books were written about Red Rum.  

Red Rum died of natural causes in 1995 at the age of 30. In a fitting tribute he was buried at the winning post of the Aintree Racecourse. His epitaph reads: Respect this place/ this hallowed ground/ a legend here/ his rest has found/ his feet would fly/ our spirits soar/ he earned our love for evermore. A life size statue of Red Rum stands at Aintree racecourse.

In the 1970s the future running of the Grand National was uncertain. However, Red Rum and his historic victories captured the heart of a nation and ensured huge public support for the fund to buy Aintree which is now ownership and protected by the Jockey Club.

Tony McCoy said of this National hero:

 ''Red Rum's feats, of three Nationals and two seconds, are legendary. They will never be equaled, let alone surpassed. They say records are there to be broken, but Red Rum's at Aintree is one which will stand the test of time.''        

The Grand National is so much more than just another horse race. Which story will be told this year?