The Legendary Horse: Red Rum

Red Rum

Any list of the most famous horses of all time has to include Red Rum. If we’re talking UK runners exclusively, then he’s right near the top of the list.

It’s now been almost five decades since Red Rum peaked, but he’s still one of the best-known horses in racing history. Let’s look at how this incredible legend was formed.

Rick Weston from UK, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons
Red Rum. Image Rick Weston from UK, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Humble Beginnings

Red Rum was born on 3rd May 1965, in Ireland. His breeder was Martyn McEnery, who named him by taking the endings of his sire and dam’s names – Quorum and Mared.

While he would go on to earn his fame at the Grand National (4 miles and 2 ½ furlongs), Red Rum was actually originally trained to run one mile races. He had a solid start to his racing career, but not an exceptional one by any means. He finished in a dead heat in his first race and won two of his first seven races overall.


The fortunes of both Red Rum and the betting public turned when he was bought by a car dealer in Southport, Ginger McCain.

The Turning Point

Ginger McCain’s own story is remarkable. The best decision he ever made, however, was buying Red Rum. He’d seen the horse race at the Scottish Grand National, where it only finished fifth. It was also already suffering from a bone disease. McCain didn’t care, and stumped up 6,000 guineas (a significant amount of money, back then) to buy him.

McCain put Red Rum on a training regime which has become legendary in itself, running him through the shallow water on Southsea beach to help protect his feet. The results speak for themselves.

Red Rum’s Remarkable Run

Few horses indeed have dominated the British racing scene like Red Rum.

The Grand National is not only an incredibly famous race, but also a very difficult one. Red Rum beat the record in 1973, catching up from a massive 30 lengths back in the process. He won again in 1974, also triumphing in the Scottish Grand National that year.


In 1975 and 1976, Red Rum could ‘only’ come in second. His jockey, Brian Fletcher, fell out with Ginger McCain, who replaced him with Tommy Stack. At 12 years old, Red Rum promptly came back for an incredible, record-breaking 3rd victory in 1977, which remains one of the most famous events in British racing history.

A Bettor’s Dream

Red Rum retired in 1978, after picking up an injury before he could run his sixth Grand National. He had not only gone down in history, and become a nationwide phenomenon, but – of course – had made the British betting public a whole lot of money in the process.

Red Rum to win the Grand National was one of the safest racing wagers it’s ever been possible to place, regardless of which of the best sports betting sites in the UK you chose to use. If you’d even just taken him to finish in the top two, you’d have won five straight years. Consistency like that is basically unheard-of, and has rarely been repeated since, with Tiger Roll one of the few horses to come close.

In one of the most remarkable betting stories of recent years, it turned out that the betting public still hadn’t stopped profiting from the horse. In 2017, pensioner Bob Holmes discovered a betting slip in his deceased father-in-law’s home. It was a £1 bet, at 11-1, on Red Rum to win the 1974 Grand National, and it had never been claimed.

William Hill proved themselves not only one of the UK’s most prestigious bookies but one of the classiest in this case. They not only agreed to honour the wager but even adjusted for inflation and paid out £130. It is still thought to be the oldest winning bet ever cashed in. Even 22 years after his death, Red Rum was still making money for punters.


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Author: Suzanne Ashton Founder, Everything Horse Ba Hons Marketing Management email:

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