All of the inside scoop on Virginia's biggest day of Steeplechase racing -- the Virginia Gold Cup. Hey, 50,000 of your closest friends can't be wrong! Do you have your tickets yet?

Thursday, September 29, 2011



Donald McCain was a cab driver and a car salesman.  He trained a few horses behind the car lot in Southport, England and it turns out he was pretty good at it.

The man that came to be known as “Mr. Aintree” won Europe’s most famous race – the English Grand National at Aintree – four times with two different horses. He also played a major role in reviving the famous race when there was much talk of the old racecourse closing back in the 1970s.

The story goes that one of his “drive for hire” customers, Noel Le Mare, was a wealthy business man and McCain was a good enough salesman to convince Le Mare to buy a racehorse that he would train on the beaches near his garage and stable.

From the Doncaster Sales, the new battery of owner and trainer purchased Red Rum who would eventually (and quite famously) win the Grand National three times and finish second twice more.

Like the Kentucky Derby or the Virginia Gold Cup, winning the prestigious but dangerous and overcrowded Grand National one time is a major accomplishment, but winning it multiple times is spectacular feat.  

To put it in perspective, Red Rum was in the same class as Saluter (who won six Gold Cups), but as taxing as the Gold Cup may be, the English Grand National run over four miles and 30 very scary fences including the imfamous  Becher's BrookThe Chair, and the Canal Turn, is considered the toughest test in horse racing. (Words we would have never written were Nick Arundel still alive to argue the point!)

Red Rum was retired after being injured on the eve of the big race in 1978, but McCain continued to pursue another win.

"Rummy", as he was known to millions, didn’t retire quietly, he appeared at supermarket openings and guest starred on TV.  He died in 1995 at age 30 and is buried at Aintree quite near the finish line.

It took McCain 27 years to return to the Grand National’s winner’s enclosure, but he found his way there with a record-equaling fourth victory in 2004 with Amberleigh House.

After his son took up training and also won this year’s Grand National with Ballabriggs, the senior McCain opined, "He can train this boy, but he doesn't drink and he doesn't party - can he really be my son?"

Contemporary press reports suggest Mrs. McCain was not amused.

McCain died of cancer September 19 at the age of 80.

To read his obit skillfully written (as usual) by T. Rees Shapiro of the Washington Post, click here

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