Richard Dunwoody’s greatest Grand National memories

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Three times Champion jockey Richard Dunwoody is one of Britain’s most successful jockeys ever. He was at the forefront of English National Hunt racing in the 80’s and the 90’s, winning the Big Three races – the Grand National (twice) aboard West Tip and Miinnehoma, the Champion Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

When he hung up his boots at the age of 35 due to injury in 1999, he had won a record 1,699 races. He is best known for his partnership with the legendary Desert Orchid. Richard was awarded an MBE in 1993 for services to his sport.

ImageRichard (left) has always been passionate about photography and in 2011 he signed up to a nine month intensive photojournalism course at the Speos Photographic Institute in Paris.

Since graduation, Richard has taken on a diversity of photographic assignments working around the world for organisations such as the The Brooke Charity and The Adventurists (Mongol Derby). For further information please see www.richarddunwoodyphotography.com

 

Ahead of the 2014 Crabbie’s Grand National, we asked Richard about his favourite Aintree moments:

ImageRed Rum 1977 – He will always be our National treasure. No horse loved Aintree more or performed there with such consistency. ‘Rummy’ carried 12st to victory in 1974, following up his defeat of Crisp the previous year (see below) and after finishing runner-up in 1975 and 1976, and at the age of 12, landed his third National in 1977 under Tommy Stack.

Sir Peter O’Sullevan’s spine-tingling commentary says it all: “He’s coming up to the line to win it like a fresh horse in great style. It’s hats off and a tremendous reception… you’ve never heard one like it at Liverpool… Red Rum wins the National!” 

ImageFoinavon 1967 – No running of the National was more remarkable, as the 100-1 no-hoper, named after a Scottish peak, scaled some very unlikely heights after taking advantage of an infamous pile-up that took place at the 23rd fence.

Riderless Popham Down veered right to left across the fence and caused mayhem, but John Buckingham – having his first ride in the race – steered Foinavon through the carnage and on to an unlikely victory. After John retired in 1971, he became a valet and ‘looked after’ 14 National winning jockeys in 30 years, including me. 

ImageAldaniti 1981 – Just two years after being diagnosed with testicular cancer and being given four months to live, Bob Champion won the nation’s hearts with his victory on Aldaniti (who had recovered from a serious leg injury).

Bob’s recovery was so astonishing, it remains the most inspiring comeback in sporting history, one encapsulated in a book and in the 1984 film Champions, starring John Hurt. They used to play the theme tune before we went out to ride in the National and it always had our adrenaline pumping. I’ll never forget O’Sullevan’s commentary: “Here comes 54-year-old John Thorne putting in a storming finish… it’s Aldaniti from Spartan Missile… Aldaniti is going to win it.”

ImageCrisp 1973 – The most magnificent defeat in the National outside of Devon Loch and Dick Francis, it sparked the interest of a whole new generation of racing fans.

Red Rum and Crisp served up a leap into exhilaration – the huge-hearted Crisp against the horse destined to become an Aintree legend. Crisp had established a long lead until, tiring dramatically under Richard Pitman, he was reeled in two strides from the line by Red Rum and jockey Brian Fletcher. Crisp’s defeat was pure anguish, Red Rum’s victory the stuff of myth.

 

Image Esha Ness 1993 – The National that never was and the most turbulent day in the race’s history. Animal rights activists initially delayed the start, and two false starts reduced the race to a farce, as the tape failed to spring up quickly enough, entangling several riders. The tape got stuck around my neck the second time, but 30 of the 39 riders failed to realise it was a false start and set off around the track, including John White, who ‘won’ the race aboard the Jenny Pitman-trained gelding. With £75m riding on the outcome and 300m viewers across the world, the National was declared void, and starter Keith Brown was grossly and unfairly criticised.

 

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