Ginger McCain and the Grand National

The English Grand National at Aintree has been a steeplechasing tradition since 1839 and it is considered the most prestigious and grueling test for thoroughbreds.

The 4.5 mile race is a daunting loop of spruce-covered jumps, including some that stand more than five feet high. The obstacles were never a challenge for Red Rum, the Grand National’s only three-time winner. The acclaimed thoroughbred was trained by Ginger McCain, who died yesterday age 80.

This was second time that I have written about someone with a connection to the Grand National.

In 2010, I wrote the obituary for Dick Francis, the British mystery novelist and former jockey who rode Devon Loch in the Grand National.

At Aintree, there’s a small hut next to the paddock that houses a glass case holding Devon Loch’s shoe.

I saw it last April when I went to Aintree to watch the Grand National. I’ve been lucky enough to see a Super Bowl kick-off in person. I’ve watched from the greenside as Tiger Woods sank a crucial putt in the final round of the Masters to stay in contention.

But to me, there may be no more exhiliarting moment in sport than when the flag drops at the start of the Grand National.

Forty snorting horses and their besilked jockeys gallop toward the first fence bunched together, stirrup-to-stirrup, in a cavalry charge of color.

T. Rees Shapiro is an education reporter.

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