Richard Dunwoody

One of a select club of jockeys to have won National Hunt's top three races

Tony McCoy is not the only jockey from Northern Ireland to have carved out a memorable riding career for himself up and down the racecourses of Britain and


While McCoy has dominated National Hunt racing for almost as long as anyone can remember, there was a time when even he was chasing a rainbow. The pot of gold was Richard Dunwoody’s career record of 1699 winners. Dunwoody’s career began with a his first professional winner at Cheltenham in 1983 on a horse called Game Trust and came to an end more than 9,000 rides and some 16 years later.


Comber born Dunwoody would have enjoyed further success but for a serious arm and neck injury which forced him to retire from the saddle in 1999 at the age of 35.

While history will show that McCoy has ridden more winners and created records which may stand for a long time, he has yet to gain membership of a very elite club to which Dunwoody is a member.


Fred Winter, Willie Robinson, Bobby Beasley and Dunwoody remain the only jockeys since the second world war to have won National Hunt’s top three races. He won the 1988 Cheltenham Gold Cup on Charter, led Kribensis in to the winner’s enclosure in the 1990 Champion Hurdle and steered West Tip and Minnehoma home to victory in 1986 and 1994 in the Grand National.


Channel Four commentator and former champion jockey John Francome is one of a select quintet who along with Peter Scudamore, Stan Mellor, Dunwoody and McCoy have ridden over 1000 winners.


Francome’s compliment to Dunwoody on retirement was that the County Down jockey possessed the ability to make bad horses look good and that every day he was at his best. Dunwoody was champion jockey three times between 1992 and 1995 and in five seasons his mounts accumulated the most prize money in the sport.


While the Grand National has eluded Tony McCoy, Richard Dunwoody’s double achievement in the world’s greatest steeplechase over 15 consecutive seasons might have been a treble but for a fall on West Tip in 1985. Well placed for victory on their first outing together in this race, they came to grief at Beecher's Brook on the second time around the course. They made no mistake the following year.

Dunwoody was also closely associated with riding popular Irish horses, Doran’s Pride, Florida Pearl, One Man and the most famous of all, Desert Orchid. This partnership saw the pair win seven races, including the King George VI Chase in 1989 and 1990.


When Dunwoody stopped riding it took some time to make the transition to a new life. He went on an expedition to the North Pole, took up motor sport, and in 2004 completed the
London marathon in a creditable time of three hours and 17 minutes. He also has helped as a charity fundraiser and joined the after dinner speaking circuit.


In an interview with Observer Sport Monthly he gave an honest view of how much he missed being a jockey:


‘When my career ended the BBC asked me to do some work. I did about five meetings and it was terrible. All my mates were out on the track and I just wanted to be with them.


‘For two years after that I did not go near a course and had nothing to do with racing. I know it's selfish, but I had to come to terms with my career being over. Total withdrawal was the only way forward. I did not even look at The Racing Post.

‘But it was not easy. Few people understand the position and that can be frustrating. Some people said I had turned my back on the sport. It wasn't that. I just had to get on with my life.’


By Padraig Coyle