The late John Leeper Dunlop OBE, who died in July, 2018, at the age of 78, after a long illness, was one of the greatest racehorse trainers of his generation. Following National Service, in 1961, Dunlop accepted a job as general factotum to New Forest trainer Neville Dent and, two years later, became assistant trainer and secretary to Gordon Smyth, private trainer to the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk at Castle Stables in Arundel, West Sussex. In late 1965, following the retirement of Jack ‘Towser’ Gosden, Smyth moved to Heath House Stables in Lewes, East Sussex to become a public trainer and Dunlop took over the training licence at Castle Stables at the age of 26.
As he expanded his operation, Dunlop became the first British trainer to enjoy the patronage of the royal and ruling family of Dubai, the Al Maktoum family. All in all, in a career spanning nearly five decades, before retiring at the end of the 2012 season, Dunlop saddled over 3,500 winners, including 10 British Classic winners.
However, despite spending many years at the top of his profession, Dunlop was Champion Trainer just once, in 1995. His stable star that season was Bahri, winner of the St. James’s Palace Stakes and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes for Hamdan Al Maktoum, but, all told, Dunlop saddled 126 winners from 628 runners in Britain, at a strike rate of 20%, and collected over £2 million in prize money. Bahri aside, his only other domestic success at the highest level came courtesy of Beauchamp King in the Racing Post Trophy, but Dunlop also saddled Beauchamp Hero – owned, like Beauchamp King, by Erik Penser – to win three races, including the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Princess of Wales’s Stakes at Newmarket in a memorable season for the Swedish financier.