Fred Rimell is one of steeplechasing’s all time greats, having won four jump jockey’s championships and trained four National winners – E.S.B. (1956), Nicolaus Silver (1961), Gay Trip (1970) and Rag Trade (1976).
The first time he entered the National did not seem as if it was going to be a race he would ever be involved with again – he was riding Avenger, the 100-30 favourite who had been trained by his father, when he ran into the seventeenth fence and was killed through a broken neck.
Having grown up hunting, fishing and shooting, Rimell didn’t let it put him off, having won thirty four races on the Flat before switching to jumps, he was just too enamoured with horseracing to give up on the National. Unfortunately, even though was one of the country’s most outstanding jockeys; he rode five winners in one day, at Windsor and Cheltenham; the National continued to elude him – his best result of five rides was twelfth place on Provocative in 1938.
He might not have come anywhere close to winning that race but what stood out was the fact that he yanked Bruce Hobbs back into his saddle when he lost balance going over the seventh fence.
Rimell’s riding career came to an abrupt end when he fractured his neck for the second time when riding Coloured School Boy in the 1947 Cheltenham Gold Cup – eight months spent in plaster spelled the end of one career but proved to be just the beginning of an even better one.
Having started training in 1945 with his wife Mercy as his working partner, he went on to build up Kinnersley, his father’s stables, to be one of the most successful in England. His one regret as a jockey may have been that he never got to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup but he more than made up for it as a trainer winning it twice in 1967 and 1976, as well as two Champion Hurdles, four Welsh Grand Nationals, the Triumph Hurdle three times, four Mackeson Gold Cups, the Scottish Grand National, the Whitbread Gold Cup, three Irish Sweeps Hurdles and four Grand Nationals, to name just a few.
An impressive CV, made possible by the fact that Rimell utilised very thorough training methods and his belief in ‘loose schooling’ – where the trainer stands in the middle of an enclosed oval, cracking a crop to send the riderless horse over jumps.
His methods were nothing but effective – E.S.B. achieved the fourth fastest time in the history of the race, Nicolaus Silver was the first grey to win the race in ninety years and Gay Trip won by twenty lengths even though he was burdened with the top weight in the race and had previously never won a race more than two and a half miles long. Rag Trade won to the unrivalled Red Rum by two lengths – say no more.
Rimell died in 1981but left the Rimmell legacy to be carried forward by his wife, his daughter Scarlett and nowadays his grandson Mark.