Sport Horse Racing

Saturday 7 December 2019

Brian Fletcher, rider of Grand National hero Red Rum, dies, aged 69

Brian Fletcher, who rode three winners of the Grand National including two on Red Rum, has died, aged 69
Brian Fletcher, who rode three winners of the Grand National including two on Red Rum, has died, aged 69

Brian Fletcher, who rode three winners of the Grand National including two on Red Rum, has died, aged 69.

Fletcher first came to prominence at Aintree when he steered Red Alligator to third place in the famous renewal won by Foinavon in 1967, when just a 19-year-old.

He made no mistake the following year on the Denys Smith-trained Red Alligator and went on to become part of Aintree folklore for his wins on Ginger McCain's Red Rum.

The Jockey Club, owners of Aintree, tweeted: "Deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Brian Fletcher, an @AintreeRaces legend. Our condolences to his family and friends."

The National story of Red Rum began back in 1973 when he caught the gallant Australian chaser Crisp in the final strides of one of the most thrilling finishes in the race's history.

But for Fletcher, the drama began to unfold two fences from the winning post.

He saw Crisp flash his tail, and with the confidence born of having already been a National winner with Red Alligator, Fletcher crouched lower in the saddle.

Red Rum went on to become the most successful horse ever to race over the daunting Aintree fences, teaming up once more with Fletcher the following year, although Tommy Stack was on board for 'Rummy's' third win in 1977.

A glittering career also saw Fletcher win the Scottish National as well as finish runner-up to Josh Gifford in the jockeys' title race. He retired in 1977.

He said some years ago he did not regard either of Red Rum's victories in the Grand National as the best race of his career, but instead plumped for the Aintree great's triumph in the Scottish version of 1974.

Recalling the worst moment, which was when he lost the ride on Red Rum - "I was devastated," he said.

Former champion jockey Peter Scudamore described Fletcher as an "unsung hero"

He told Press Association Sport: "He was an unsung hero and without the unsung heroes of that era National Hunt racing wouldn't be where it is today.

"It goes without saying he was a very good horseman and to win the Grand National three times is an incredible achievement.

"It's just a shame that after he finished in racing you didn't hear a lot about him."

Former jockey now trainer Chris Grant left school as a 15-year-old to work for Smith, and remembered Fletcher from his early days at the yard.

He said: "I was just starting out when Brian was finishing, so I didn't know him that well, but he was someone you always looked up to.

"Red Alligator won the National in 1967 and I didn't start with Denys until 1972, but you obviously knew when you were in the yard what Brian had achieved.

"He had an unbelievable record over the National fences, obviously.

"He was a top-class rider."

Nigel Payne has been associated with the National since the 1970s in his role as press officer and said: "I remember Brian as someone whose name is imprinted on the Grand National in respect of his two wins on Red Rum and his victory on Red Alligator.

"He's someone we had contact with since his retirement, I'd spoken to him a couple of times about certain promotions and it has come as a bit of a shock. He is one of the iconic names associated with Aintree and perhaps he didn't get the recognition he deserved.

"To win the Grand National three times is truly amazing and it is really sad news."

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