FRIENDS and horse racing colleagues have labelled 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."
‘HE WAS A CHARCTER ALRIGHT’
Stars from the world of horse racing have been paying tribute to Ginger McCain.
Manchester United striker Michael Owen, who co-owns Manor House stables in Malpas, posted on Twitter: "So sad to hear Ginger McCain has passed away. Thoughts are with Donald and the McCain family from your friends ‘next door’ at Manor House."
2010 Grand National winning jockey Tony McCoy tweeted: "Sad to hear about the death of Aintree legend Ginger McCain trainer of the great Red Rum, my thoughts are with his family RIP."
BBC sports presenter and journalist Clare Balding posted on her Twitter page: "Ginger McCain was 3 days short of his 81st birthday. He was an old-fashioned type & said what he thought but he was a character alright.
"Whenever I approached Ginger with a microphone it raised the heart rate. He might swear, say something offensive or be pertinent and funny."
Jenny Pitman, the first woman to train a National winner, said she was ‘gutted’ by the news, adding: "Ginger’s words when Red Rum died – ‘we’ll miss the old bugger’ – come to mind. Ginger is just irreplaceable."
The ‘voice of racing’ Sir Peter O’Sullevan, who commentated on all of Red Rum’s Nationals for the BBC, said: "It was a career of remarkable achievement."
TRACKING THE STORY OF A LEGENDARY LIFE
Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain was born in Southport on September 21, 1930.
He was married to wife Beryl for 50 years and had two children – daughter Joanne and son Donald Jnr, who followed in his father’s footsteps by winning this year’s Grand National.
Ginger’s horse racing journey began in 1952 when he took out a permit to train.
He landed his first winner – at Aintree – in 1965 before taking out a full license four years later for stables behind his car showroom in Upper Aughton Road, Southport.
He worked as a taxi driver to supplement his income and it was in that role that he became acquainted with Noel le Mare, for whom he bought Red Rum.
It was with ‘Rummy’ that Ginger McCain rosewent from relative obscurity to fame with three Grand National victories.
His first win at the world’s greatest steeplechase came in 1973 and he repeated it a year later before securing a historic hat-trick in 1977, having come close with two consecutive second-place finishes.
Red Rum died in October 1995 and is buried near to the finish line at Aintree, where Ginger would lay flowers every year.
Ginger moved to the family’s home, Bankhouse Stables in Cholmondeley, in 1990. It seemed his Aintree story was over.
However in 2004 Ginger once again tasted Grand National glory with Amberleigh House, who finished third a year earlier.
Ginger handed over the reins to his son in 2006 and a new chapter was written in the McCain Aintree dynasty as Ballabriggs romped home to give Donald Jnr his first Grand National success back in April.