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1977 Grand National
Saturday 2nd April 1977

The sun came out to shine upon, Red Rum at Aintree on Saturday 2nd April 1977, to illuminate the happiest scene that was ever going to be witnessed on a British racecourse. The King of Aintree had come to claim his kingdom and he did it in great style, as he galloped home alone, to become the first and only horse ever to win three Grand Nationals. The roar of the crowd, which welcomed him, was echoed round the universe. Now it can surely be said without fear of contradiction that during the 1970s, in the British Isles at least there was not a racehorse more famous or more universally admired, as the great Red Rum.

As Tommy Stack and Red Rum pulled up the people that loved this horse quickly gathered around them. The two police horses that traditionally escort the Grand National winner back to the winner's enclosure needed all their strength and weight to force a clear pathway for the winning duo.

On the Friday 1st April 1977 there had been so much rain and wind, that at the time it was washing Red Rum's chances down the drain, nobody expected the glorious sunny day that followed on the Saturday, which was only one of several well-deserved favours which fortune offered to our hero. As he made his way over his beloved fences, cool, economical, sure-footed as a cat, no fewer than four other horses fell when still in front of him. By the fence after Becher's second time round there were only loose horses left in front of him. Red Rum's genius was the sort that creates its own good fortune. From start to finish, foot perfect as always his progress was as relentless as the script of a fairy tale, with an ending so happy that it brought tears to your eyes.

Five horses fell at the very first fence, bringing down two others in the chaos. They were the well-fancied Pengrail, Duffle Coat, Spittin Image, the only grey runner Willy What, and Huperade, the oldest in the field. The two brought down were War Bonnet and High Ken. Although these disasters occurred in the middle of the field, not far from Red Rum's path, this was not one of Tommy Stack's only two really anxious moments. The first of those came at Becher's second time when Andy Pandy, who had been jumping superbly, toppled over in the lead. Red Rum needed all his famous agility to avoid being tripped up. Although that left him in front with only riderless horses for company, it was they who then became Tommy Stack's second nightmare.

Round the Canal Turn one of them could so easily have gone straight on and carried Red Rum wide off the course. But they all turned and headed off over Valentines, just as if they were being ridden. Tommy pulled calmly back to give the loose horses a chance to get out of his way. Red Rums path to glory only became completely clear two fences from home where the remaining loose horses ran out safely to the right. From then on, with Churchtown Boy in second place, it was a triumphal progress all the way... Boom Docker was 15 lengths in front as the survivors galloped past the stand after one circuit and although he cleared the Chair, Sage Merlin fell heavily in second place. 

Red Rum was sixth by now and at the first fence second time round the band in front of him was cut short again. Boom Docker had seemed till then to be enjoying every moment of the race. But he clearly considers that 4 and a half miles is twice as far as a race should be and running down the fence he had jumped so well first time, he declined to take any further part. That left Andy Pandy alone in front going so strong and jumping so well that his trainer, Fred Rimell must have had dreams of a fifth Grand National winner to go with the four he has already trained. But the famous drop which claimed Captain Becher in 1839 was just too much for Andy Pandy; the horse leapt the fence perfect, but jumped it just too well and failed to get his undercarriage down in time. Winter Rain fell at that same fence. Andy Pandy had been the fourth leader to disappear.

But as Red Rum and his riderless attendants swerved round the Canal, another threat materialised behind them. Churchtown Boy had won the Topham Trophy over nearly three miles of the Grand National course on the Thursday before and now, jumping as well as he had then, he was making a most gallant bid for his own place in the history books. No horse has ever won both races in the same year and sadly for his connections; Churchtown Boy had to be content with second place. There were 11 finishers in all.

Charlotte Brew and Barony Fort were not, among them. But the first woman ever to ride in a Grand National was a very long way from disgraced, pulling up just four jumps short of completing the course, which would have been a wonderful sporting achievement. It was done, a couple of years later by Geraldine Rees and Cheers.

RED RUM (The Extraordinary Story of A Horse of Courage) By  Ivor Herbert


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