Belfast-born Thomas Richard Dunwoody MBE, who retired from race-riding, on medical advice, in December, 1999, after a long-term neck injury, which led to a loss of strength in his right arm, was aggravated by a series of falls, was one of the most celebrated National Hunt jockeys of his generation. He began riding, as an amateur, for the late Tim Forster at Old Manor House Stables, near Wantage, in the Vale of the White Horse, in 1982 and rode his first winner in Britain, Game Trust, at Cheltenham the following May.
In his first season as a professional, in 1984/85, Dunwoody rode 46 winners and must surely have gone close to winning the Grand National on the favourite, West Tip, trained by Michael Oliver, had the 8-year-old not fallen, when travelling conspicuously well, at Becher’s Brook on the second circuit. In any event, in 1986, by which time Dunwoody had become stable jockey to the late David Nicholson, but was released from his retainer on Port Askaig – who parted company with Graham McCourt at the first fence – to ride West Tip, the partnership set the record straight, winning the National by 2 lengths and 20 lengths from Young Driver and Classified.
Dunwoody won the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Charter Party, trained by Nicholson, in 1988 and the Champion Hurdle on Kribensis, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, in 1990. In 1989, he also began his association with Desert Orchid, trained by David Elsworth, on whom he would win seven races, including the King George VI Chase twice, in 1989 and 1990.
For all his early success, though, Dunwoody did not win the jockeys’ title for the first time until 1992/93, by which time he had succeeded Peter Scudamore as stable jockey to Martin Pipe. That season he rode 175 winners and retained the title in 1993/94 and 1994/95, with 197 and 160 winners, respectively.
In 1994, Dunwoody won the Grand National again, on Miinnehoma, trained by Pipe and owned by Liverpool comedian Freddie Star. That year, the race for the jockeys’ title featured an engaging, head-to-head battle between Dunwoody and the 23-year-old Adrian Maguire, who had replaced him as stable jockey to David Nicholson. Despite being banned from riding for 14 days – which included the Cheltenham Festival, in its entirety – on March 2, after being found guilty of deliberately obstructing a horse ridden by his arch rival, Dunwoody, with the resources of Pipe at his disposal, won the jockeys’ title by a score of 197-194.
At the end of his career, Dunwoody had ridden 1,874 winners, including 1,699 on British soil and, like his predecessor at Pond House Stables, become the most successful jockey, numerically, in the history of British National Hunt racing.