Donald “Ginger” McCain, National Hunt trainer

  • Donald “Ginger” McCain (21 September 1930 – 19 September 2011) was an English National Hunt trainer.

    Famously plain-speaking and politically incorrect, he won the Grand National four times – three times with Red Rum (1973, 1974 and 1977) and a fourth time with Amberleigh House (2004).

    When Ginger left school aged 14 he helped his grandfather, John Wright, drive his horse-drawn float.

    He was often allowed to ride local tradesmen’s horses that he jumped at local shows.

    After National Service Ginger returned to Southport – where he was born – to work in a wallet factory, but lasted only three weeks.

    He then took up a job at a stables in Cheshire owned by Frank Speakman. However, at 12st he was too heavy to become a jockey.

    Ginger began training in 1962, using stables behind his used-car garage in Southport. Before his Grand National successes he supported himself by taxi driving.

    His first winner came in 1965 with San Lorenzo at a selling chase in Liverpool.

    In August 1972 he bought Red Rum for 6,000 guineas.

    Despite vets thinking he had an incurable bone disease – pedalostitis – Red Rum won six out of his nine races in the 1972/73 season.

    Ginger put Red Rum’s recovery down to exercising him on the sands and in the surf of Southport beach.

    It was Brian Fletcher who rode him to his first Grand National victory in 1973, narrowly beating the Australian chaser Crisp.

    And in 1974 Red Rum became the first horse to win successive Nationals since Reynoldstown in the 1930s.

    After an incredible third National win in 1977, Red Rum was forced into retirement just before the 1978 race with a hairline fracture in a heel. He died in October 1995.

    Ginger moved from Southport to Bankhouse, Cheshire in 1990.

    He took the National for a fourth time with Amberleigh House in 2004.

    In 2005 he handed what was now a very full yard to his son Donald, who claimed the McCains’ fifth Grand National in 2011 with Ballabriggs.

    Ginger died on 19 September 2011, aged 80. His memorial service was held at Liverpool Cathedral in November 2011 where a 1000-strong congregation celebrated his life.

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