Ginger McCain, along with Fred Rimell one of only two trainers to have been responsible for the winner of four Grand Nationals, died this morning after a short illness. He succumbed to cancer just two days before his 81st birthday.
Many people with no knowledge of racing knew exactly who Ginger McCain was. Their interest may have been in the remarkable Red Rum, but they knew all about the unusual preparations he was given by McCain on the sands of Southport. It was Red Rum and the three Grand Nationals that he won over the space of five years in the 1970s that took the name of Donald McCain throughout the world.
Leading the tributes to McCain, former National Hunt jockey Mick Fitzgerald, who rode rough quest to win the Grand National in 1996, told Sky Sports News, "I'm very saddened. He leaves a legacy and every time you think of the Grand National, you think of Ginger. He was the National, to be honest. He was a great ambassador for our sport and racing needs characters like him. It's a very sad day for everybody and especially anybody involved with the Grand National."
Charles Barnett, former managing director of Aintree racecourse identified a key role McCain played at a time when the future of the National was in serious doubt. "He was instrumental in helping to save the Grand National. At that time in the early 1970s when Red Rum was winning his three races, Ginger was very supportive to it (Grand National) and got the public very much behind the appeal to purchase the track."
Sir Peter O'Sullevan, who as the "voice of racing" commentated on all of Red Rum's Nationals for the BBC, summed up both McCain's training achievements and his personality. "It was a career of remarkable achievement and is bred a good trainer himself. He will always be remembered for red Rum and rightly so because he and the horse appeared absolutely at the right time and were very much instrumental in saving the National at a period when it was very much in peril. Red Rum had a remarkable record. Five runs in the National, three victories and two seconds â€“ unbelievable. And then he won it again years later with Amberleigh House. It was nice for Ginger to have the opportunity to show he wasn't just the one horse trainer. He was a professional curmudgeons and he goes leaving behind very good memories."
McCain's wife Beryl said, "Donald, Ginger as we all knew him, passed away peacefully in his sleep after a short illness this morning â€“ he would have been 81 on Wednesday. There will be a private family funeral followed by a later memorial service, for which there will be more information in the coming weeks. Joanne, Donald Jnr and I appreciate all the kindness we are being shown and, at this difficult time, would appreciate it if we were afforded some privacy."