Grand National 1976 Winner: Rag Trade Cleans Up

Rag Trade Grand National 1976
Rag Trade had the distinction of being the second of just two horses, after L’Escargot in 1975, to beat Red Rum in the National. In so doing, he provided Fred Rimmell with his fourth, and final, National winner after E.SB. in 1956, Nicolaus Silver in 1961 and Gay Trip in 1970. 

Originally trained, with limited success, by George Fairbairn, Rag Trade was bought for 18,000 by the flamboyant celebrity hairstylist Raymond Bessone, otherwise known as “Mr. Teasie Weasie”, in early 1975. He was sent to Epsom trainer Arthur Pitt, with a view to running in the Grand National, just two months later. That he did, finishing a distant last of ten finishers under 22-year-old John Francome, who later described him as “the most horrible horse I’ve ever ridden”. 

Nevertheless, Rag Trade improved to win the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter, under John Burke, three weeks later and, having joined Fred Rimmell at Kinnersley Stables in Worcestershire won a competitive renewal of the Welsh National at Chepstow the following February. 

Barona, trained by Roddy Armytage and ridden by Paul Kelleway, started 7/1 favourite for the Grand National, with Red Rum, bidding for his third victory in the race, second favourite at 10/1 and Rag Trade seventh choice. Brian Fletcher, who had ridden Red Rum on his three previous attempts in the National, was replaced by Tommy Stack after the 11-year-old ran poorly, not for the first time that season, at Newcastle.

In any event, “Rummy” was to be thwarted for the second year running. Rag Trade tracked the leaders for most of the way and was in the first half a dozen, or so, as Red Rum jumped into the lead at the fourth last fence. Red Rum again landed in the lead over the final fence, just ahead of Eyecatcher, ridden by his former jockey, Brian Fletcher, but John Burke gathered Rag Trade and delivered his challenge, under a right-hand drive, on the stands’ side approaching the Elbow. Red Rum did his level best to rally in the last hundred yards, but Rag Trade stayed on well to win by 2 lengths. Eyecatcher finished third, a further 8 lengths behind. 

John Burke, who’d won the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Royal Frolic, also trained by Fred Rimmell, the previous month, became just the fifth jockey in history to complete the Cheltenham Gold Cup – Grand National double in the same year. Mercy Rimell, the widow of Fred, later said, “John Burke rode a blinder…No one can deny that Rag Trade fully deserved his success.”  



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