FRIENDS and horse racing colleagues have hailed Ginger McCain as ‘unique’ and a ‘true legend’.
John Halewood, owner of Amberleigh House who Ginger trained to victory at the 2004 Grand National, led the tributes.
He had known Ginger for nearly 30 years and stood among the crowd as Red Rum secured an historic hat-trick at Aintree in 1977.
Mr Halewood, who lives near to the McCains in Hampton Heath, said: “He was a good friend and I remember him not just for the horses we had together but also for the great fun we shared.
“Especially a truly memorable day with Amberleigh House in a fantastic Grand National win.
“It is impossible to replace him, he was a man’s man in every sense but I also know he was very proud of Beryl and the family and was delighted with Donald’s deserved success.
“A very sad end of an era – a true legend and I will miss him very much.”
Tommy Stack, who rode Red Rum to his famous third win, added: “Ginger was a great man and a great friend and it was my pleasure to have known him.
“To produce Red Rum on five occasions at Aintree and to never finish out of the first two is an achievement which will never be equalled.”
Victorious Amberleigh House jockey Graham Lee spoke of his great debt to Ginger.
He said: “It’s every jockey’s dream to win the Grand National and I will be forever grateful that he gave me the chance to do it.”
Former stablegirl, Lesley Rimmer, 51, who worked with him when she was 16, said: “He was a legend, just the most wonderful man in racing. He gave me my break in life when I’d just left school and didn’t know what to do.”
Ballabriggs’ owner Trevor Hemmings said he was delighted that Ginger got to see his son Donald follow in his footsteps.
“Legend is the correct word for Ginger,” he said. “It was so nice to have the character in racing that he was. We all know that this game needs characters and Ginger was unique.
“I’m delighted that he saw his son win the National. As much as racing did for him, racing owes Ginger a lot as well.”