The Grand National is an English horse race that is run annually at Aintree Racecourse. This race has been run every year since 1839, making the Grand National a prestigious race for the National Hunt racing community. The Grand National has the largest purse out of any jump race in Europe and is a prominent race on the European racing calendar.
The race is 4 miles and 514 yards and requires jumping thirty fences over this distance. This makes it one of the toughest races in, the world and the Telegraph wrote that it is “the ultimate test of a horse’s courage”. Over its illustrious history spanning nearly two centuries, there have been some fantastic participants and record winners.
Winningest Horse: Red Rum
Besides having a perfect sounding name, Red Rum was the most successful horse to ever run in the Grand National. In the years from 1973 to 1977, Red Rum brought home three wins, and two runners up finish in five races. No other horse has won as many races as Red Rum, and seeing such dominance year over year in a notoriously fickle and competitive sport is rare.
More impressive than the number of wins is how Red Rum won. He came won from behind, he won in record fashion, and he won while carrying substantially more weight than the second-place horse. In 1973 Red Rum set a new record time of nine minutes and one second. Red Rum is truly a Grand National legend.
His trainer, Ginger McCain, is also regarded as one of the best trainers in the sport after leading Red Rum to his three victories and then gathering the fourth victory in 2004 at the end of his career. He is tied for overall Grand National wins at four with two other trainers.
Leading Trainers: A Historic Three-Way Tie
Three trainers have won four races apiece and sit atop the win board for the Grand National. These include Ginger McCain, Fred Rimell, and George Dockeray. McCain and Rimmell were both a part of the amazing era that spanned the 1970s. Rimmell won the 1976 Grand National with Rag Trade, who beat out Red Rum to win. McCain had all three of Red Rum’s victories as well as both of the second-place finishes, one of which was to Fred Rimmell.
George Dockray was a trainer in the 19th century and racked up wins in 1839, 1840, 1842, and then again in 1852. Rimmell collected his victories over twenty years between 1956 and 1976, with Rag Trade’s epic win over Red Rum being his last. These trainers did not just win the most and contribute some of the best horses in Grand National history, but they won over sustained periods. All of them trained, competed, and won at the highest level over decades.
Leading Jockey: George Stevens
Red Rum accrued three wins, the great trainers of the age each took home four, but George Stevens leads the Grand National pack with five total wins in his career. This is the greatest single number of wins for anyone competing in the Grand National. Stevens won his five Grand Nationals from 1856 to 1870 on four different horses.
The greatness is again on display in the consistency overtime in one of the most grueling horse races in the world. His winning stretch covered two decades and multiple horses and trainers, but his wins continued to come through. In addition to being the winningest jockey for the Grand National, George Stevens is to said to have won seventy-six total races in his career.
Compare these numbers to modern-day jockey Richard Johnson, and George Stevens’ accomplishments become more apparent. Richard Johnson has the record for most Grand Nationals run at twenty-one and has been active from 1999 until the present, but he also has the record for most races run without a win. This reminds us that greatness is not just about the time put into the sport.
The Grand National has a long and storied history that stretches back many decades, but some names will remain timeless. Red Rum, Ginger McCain, George Stevens, and more. They gave us incredible rides and incredible eras of competitive excitement and continual dominance. Their legacies remain etched in the mystical history of the Grand National to this day.