Ginger McCain memorial service hosts 1,000 mourners

The life of legendary racehorse trainer Ginger McCain was celebrated during a memorial service at Liverpool Cathedral on November 15.

Around 1,000 people, including race horse owners, trainers and jockeys, attended the service.

Mr McCain, who died at home aged 80, is best known for training three-time Grand National winner Red Rum.

Many have attributed the resurgence of the Aintree meeting, which had hit a low ebb during the 1970s, to the former car salesman.

Tommy Stack, who rode Red Rum to his third victory in 1977, said: “Ginger was unique because he kept the National alive. He was a very kind man and the way he looked after that horse was a credit to him.

“To go to Aintree five times and win three times and be second twice will never be done again.”

Grand National memorabilia benefits Swansea miners’ families

An impressive £73,000 was raised at a fundraising event that took place at Ffos Las Racecourse in South Wales in early November.

The money will be given to the Swansea Valley Miners’ Appeal Fund, which has already raised £500,000 to support the families of the four miners killed at Gleision Colliery in September.

Funds collected at the Ffos Las meeting came from hospitality income and auctions.

One of the highlights of the auction was a print of Brian Fletcher with Red Rum, which raised £2,600. The print was donated by Mr Fletcher, who rode the famous horse to his first two Grand National wins in 1973 and 1974.

Six-year-old horses banned from Grand National

According to reports, new safety regulations could make next year’s Grand National a much safer event for horses and jockeys alike.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA), which is orchestrating the changes, says more effort will be made to round up loose horses, and that horses aged six will no longer be allowed to take part. All horses that run will have to prove their stamina by finishing fourth or higher in a steeplechase race.

While jockeys previously had to have ridden 15 winners over obstacles in the past, ten of these wins must be over fences rather than hurdles in the future. If they fail to meet the criteria, they will no longer be able to apply for dispensation from the BHA.

There was a mixed response from animal rights groups. The World Horse Welfare charity said it hopes the changes will make the 2012 Grand National the safest yet; however, Animal Aid believes not enough has been done to prevent further injuries and fatalities.

Demand for 2012 Grand National at all-time high

Officials at Aintree Racecourse, where the annual John Smith’s Grand National takes place, claim demand for the 2012 meeting is at an all-time high. Advance tickets for the event, which will take place on April 14, are up 27%.

Ticket demand for the 2011 meeting surprised some, selling out for the first time in 30 years. The event also attracted 8.8 million television viewers.

Commenting on 2012 sales to-date, Julian Thick, managing director at Aintree Racecourse, said: “We are delighted with ticket sales so far for the 2012 John Smith’s Grand National meeting.

“Seated enclosures always sell quickly due to limited availability, but it is particularly pleasing to see such a surge in demand for general admission areas, which typically don’t sell out until closer to the event.

“In August we released news of some balanced course modifications, which are now complete. We’re gearing up to racing over the Grand National course in December in a race that offers some clues as to possible entries for the 2012 Grand National.

“I believe today’s sales news is a good indication of the appetite for one of the biggest sporting events in the calendar.”

Date for Ginger McCain memorial service announced

A service will be held to celebrate the life of Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain on November 15. The service will be held at 2.30pm in Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral.

Aintree spokesperson Emma Owen told BBC Radio Merseyside: “Ginger was a character that was larger than life. He’ll be sorely missed here at Aintree.

“People loved seeing him on a race day. He brought the Grand National back to life. His legacy lives forever.”

Ms Owen emphasised the fact that the service would be a day of celebration.

“We’re remembering Ginger at a service at Liverpool Cathedral and everyone is welcome to attend,” she said.

“We really want this to be a celebration of his life and what he achieved and all the memories that people have of Ginger over the years.”

Ginger McCain is best known for training three-time Grand National winner Red Rum. He died at his own home last month at the age of 80.

Ban for Grand National winner Tony McCoy

Grand National winner Tony McCoy is one of nine riders to receive a 10-day suspension following an incident at Wetherby.

Chaos ensued when a yellow “void race” flag was shown and many of the riders failed to stop.

The Betfair Handicap Hurdle, which took place on October 12, was stopped because an injured horse was receiving treatment on the track.

The flag was displayed by head groundsman, Ian Ward, on the home turn. Denis O’Regan, riding King’s Counsel, was allegedly seen to briefly stop riding before entering into a short discussion with several other jockeys before they set off again.

An inquiry was called for before the celebrations were over, much to the chagrin of the riders, who felt there was plenty of space for the race to continue safely.

Jonjo Sanderson, chief executive of the racecourse, said: “The stewards held an inquiry and their report will be sent to the British Horseracing Authority.

“Our head groundsman, who has 30 years of experience, has the responsibility for making the decision as to whether the yellow flag should be deployed and he made the judgment call that he didn’t think it was safe to continue.

“Maybe, in hindsight, he didn’t get it right, but he had to make that call for safety reasons and he has my full support.

“Of course, I feel a great deal of sympathy for the riders and the circumstances in which they have received their suspensions.”

New intensive care unit to treat Grand National racehorses

A new equestrian intensive care unit (ICU) was unveiled on October 4 by Lord Derby as part of a £6 million University of Liverpool initiative.

The new unit contains 11 intensive care horse boxes that are monitored on CCTV around the clock. It also offers a motion detection system, the first of its kind in the UK.

The £2 million facility is the second stage in a series of progressive measures to improve the Philip Leverhulme Equine Hospital on Wirral’s Leahurst campus.

The first developments, which cost £1.5 million, were introduced in 2009 by Princes Anne. The centre already houses two operating theatres, an MRI facility and state-of-the-art stables that can cater for 35 horses, including ordinary horses and Grand National runners.

BHA whips Grand National jockeys into shape

Jason Maguire was suspended for excessive use of the whip during his winning 2011 Grand National race and would also have lost prize money under new guidelines unveiled by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA).

The new rules, which take effect on October 10, state that jockeys can only use the whip seven times in a flat race or eight times in a jump race, and just five times during the final furlong or after the final obstacle.

Penalties for rule breaches have also been elevated, with jockeys forfeiting their riding fees and prize money if a ban of three days or more is imposed.

The change comes after a 10-month review, during which consultations with jockeys, trainers, racehorse owners and animal welfare groups took place.

Despite having received bans for misuse of the whip in the past, BBC Sports Personality of the Year and winner of the 2010 Grand National, Tony McCoy, commented: “I hope my colleagues embrace the proposed changes as being in the best interest of the sport. I, for one, support the changes.”

Grand National legend ‘Ginger’ McCain passes away

Donald McCain, known to most as Ginger, died from cancer on September 19, two days before his 81st birthday.

Starting out as a taxi driver and car salesman, Mr McCain had a history of training horses. A fortunate meeting with businessman Noel Le Mare, who used his taxi services, led to his buying the now world-famous Red Rum. The horse went on to win three Grand Nationals and finish second in two others.

Mr McCain was so passionate about the Grand National during his life that he was nicknamed “Mr Aintree” during Red Rum’s glory years, while the horse was affectionately known as “Rummy”.

This took place amid rumours of Aintree closing, and it was the popular horse and his even more popular rider that helped to rekindle interest in the annual Grand National meeting.

“All is well” with Grand National-winning jockey Maguire

Jason Maguire is on the road to recovery after sustaining a spinal injury at Cartmel at the end of August.

The Grand National-winning jockey was airlifted to hospital on August 27 but discharged with minor injuries. However, he later returned to hospital and the full extent of his injury was realised.

“I spoke to him on Sunday morning and all is well,” his agent, Chris Broad, told Sporting Life. “The neck-collar is making movement pretty difficult for him, but he’s fine and is progressing well.

“It’s impossible to set a date for his return. November has been kicked around, but it’s an awkward injury and some people heal quicker than others.

“There won’t be many men in the country who will want to return quicker than him, but the bone must heal first.”