The death of Ginger McCain caught my attention last week. He was, along with Red Rum of course, widely regarded as the main reason we still have the Grand National today. It is inconceivable to think that the race almost disappeared in the late 1960s. Under the ownership of Miriam Topham, the future of the racecourse had been constantly in doubt. The stand and course needed urgent funding in the days when there was no television money and commercial sponsorship on the table. The Tophams had owned the lease since 1848 but their stewardship was clearly coming to an end, although Grand Prix motor racing had been fairly successfully introduced during the 1950s.
1965 was a low point. Miriam Topham had had a major row with the BBC over live coverage and only backed down at the last moment. The race itself was won by Jay Trump (the first to be American owned, trained and ridden) but, judging by the photograph by Pat Weekes, there was a pretty thin attendance.
Thanks to Red Rum and Ginger McCain, the race recaptured its popularity and, with sponsorship and television money flooding in, it is now an international event watched throughout the world. Shame about the motor racing – what a boon that would have been to the local economy and profile if Formula One was staged here.

Grand National, 1965

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