Legendary horse racing jockey Mick Fitzgerald has paid tribute to the late Ginger McCain, labelling the Aintree icon “Mr Grand National”.
The four-time Grand National winning trainer, most famous for his hat-trick of victories with Red Rum in the 1970s, sadly passed away on 19th September this year, just two days shy of his 81st birthday.
In an exclusive interview with JMU Journalism, Fitzgerald, a National winner himself on board Rough Quest in 1996, spoke of McCain’s passion for the world’s most famous steeplechase.
He said: “If anybody had anything bad to say or wanted to
make changes to the National course, Ginger was always
the first person to jump to its defence. He genuinely
believed the Grand National was the greatest race in the
McCain will always be remembered for being one of the
sport's most colourful characters, often courting
controversy. Indeed, when asked about female jockey
Carrie Ford's chances going into the 2005 Grand National,
he joked: "Horses don't win Nationals ridden by women."
For those unfamiliar with horse racing, McCain could
sometimes appear to come across as offensive but
Fitzgerald has nothing but fond memories of the former
used car dealer from Southport: "Ginger was always great
fun and always made me smile. He was just a genuinely
nice guy who spoke his mind.
"I visited Ginger's house a couple of times and I cannot speak highly enough of his family, they are really great people. My thoughts and condolences are with them at this sad time.”
Although McCain will always be best remembered for his successes with Red Rum, he would go on to extend his legacy at Aintree some 30 years later with yet another victory in the Grand National, which Fitzgerald says proved his class: "What he did with Amberleigh House winning it in 2004 showed that he wasn’t a one trick pony.
"He showed just how good of a trainer he was even so long after he first came onto the scene."
McCain would eventually retire from training in 2006, handing over the stable to his son, Donald.
But his great affinity with the Grand National would go on to see that familiar smile embrace the Aintree winners enclosure one last time, with Ballabriggs giving Donald his first Grand National triumph and a fifth for the McCain family earlier this year.
"I remember how happy and proud he was when Donald won the National with Ballabriggs earlier this year, he leaves a great legacy behind and will be sorely missed," said Fitzgerald.
By David Downie, Sports Editor
More JMU Journalism stories
Ginger McCain with three-time National winner Red Rum; first win of Red Rum's Aintree treble in 1973
© Trinity Mirror
© Trinity Mirror