Red, Silver and Gold give John Smith's Grand National Winners a Festive Hue 14/12/10
The festive spirit is already upon us here at Aintree, the first doors on the advent calendar are open and thoughts are turning to turkey, carols, the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton and of course the benevolent chimney plunger himself, Father Christmas.
Speaking of the man in the crimson suit, it is probably a safe bet that red, along with silver and gold, are among the most popular colours during the Christmas season, with many a Norwegian Spruce adorned with shiny baubles and perhaps even a bit of unabashed tinsel of those festive hues.
It just so happens that their popularity is not confined to the Christmas tree. They are also the most popular colours among John Smith’s Grand National winners. In fact, they are the only colours represented in the names of the winners of the world’s greatest chase.
Maintaining the Christmas theme, lets start with gold - after all, as any child involved in a school nativity this month can tell you, gold was one of the gifts the three wise men gave to the infant Jesus. One Grand National winner has gold in his name, the great Golden Miller, five times a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner and triumphant at Aintree for his eccentric owner Dorothy Paget in 1934.
Silver occurs in the names of three Grand National winners, the first of those being the 1906 victor, Ascetic’s Silver, who was trained and ridden by Aubrey Hastings for Prince Franz von Hatzfeldt.
Nicolaus Silver has a festive ring to it and the Fred Rimell-trained gelding became only the second grey to win the Grand National when triumphant in 1961.
Most recently, Silver Birch took the 2007 Grand National for Gordon Elliott and Brian Walsh, who respectively became the youngest trainer and owner in the history of the Grand National.
Red has also appeared in the name of three Grand National winners but is the most popular colour by virtue of the fact that one of those horses just happened to win the race a record three times.
Red Rum triumphed in 1973, 1974 and 1977 for trainer Ginger McCain and owner Noel Le Mare. As we noted a couple of weeks ago in the piece Smith’s All Round At The Red Alligator, the John Manners-owned Red Alligator took the spoils in 1968 for County Durham trainer Denys Smith.
The third “Red” was another triumph for County Durham when Richard Guest rode Red Marauder to victory. The 11-year-old prevailed for Brancepeth-based permit holder Norman Mason, who named many of his horses with the “Red” prefix after discovering red was considered a lucky colour in Chinese culture.
“The luck I had that day was at the Canal Turn when a horse alongside us ran across the fence and I was literally the last horse to get through,” recalled Guest. “I could see it coming and I was squeezing like mad to get through.
“The loose horse nearly tipped Red Marauder’s backside when running across the middle of the field. A lot of horses behind me were taken out and that’s where I had my luck in the race.
“Red Marauder was one of those horses that probably hadn’t achieved what he should have. He had some problems in his life - he’d had leg problems and had broken blood vessels, so it was fitting that he came good and won a Grand National because I think if things had gone differently for him as a younger horse, he could have been a Gold Cup horse.”
Guest now trains at Stainforth, South Yorkshire, where Red Marauder, approaching his official 21st birthday on January 1, is enjoying a happy retirement.
“He loves retirement - some horses hate it but he loves it. He and my wife’s old riding horse, Annie, are like two lovers together in the field. He’s also out there with Cheltenham Festival winner Our Armageddon and a couple of young horses - he’s king of the field and boss of the herd.”
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