The name of Donald “Ginger” McCain will always be synonymous with that of Red Rum, the most successful horse in the history of the Grand National. However, later in his career – in fact, 27 years after Red Rum completed his historic treble – McCain won the National again, with Amberleigh House in 2004. In doing so, he joined George Dockeray and Fred Rimmell as one of just three trainers to win the Grand National four times.
Amberleigh House had been brought down at the Canal Turn on his first attempt over the National fences in the 2001 Grand National and finished third, beaten 14 lengths, behind Monty’s Pass in the 2003 Grand National. He had also won, and twice been placed in, the Becher Chase, over 3 miles 3 furlongs on the National Course, so wasn’t lacking experience over the unique Aintree fences.
In the 2004 Grand National, ridden by Graham Lee, Amberleigh House was sent off at 16/1 eighth choice of the 39 runners behind 10/1 co-favourites Clan Royal, Juracon II, Joss Naylor and Bindaree. Behind in the early stages, Amberleigh House made steady headway heading out into the country for the second time and jumping the third last had moved into fourth place, although still a long way behind the leading trio.
However, as is often the case at Aintree, the complexion of the race changed dramatically in the closing stages. Hedgehunter fell at the final fence, leaving Clan Royal with an advantage of two or three lengths. Ridden by Liam Cooper, who’d lost his whip at the fourth last fence, Clan Royal wandered left, then right, on the run-in and was almost joined at the “Elbow” by Lord Atterbury. Meanwhile, Amberleigh House made relentless progress on the outside, taking the lead inside the final hundred yards and staying on well to win by 3 lengths.