Fred Winter is the only person to have won the Grand National twice as both jockey and trainer and also the only man to have both ridden and trained winners of the Grand National, the Champion Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Born in September 1926, the son of a famous Flat jockey, he began riding Flat winners before his increasing weight made him start competing over fences. He won first time out over fences on his father’s horse Carton.
A fractured spine put him out of racing for a year, but after his long recovery he teamed up with Findon trainer Ryan Price, with whom he had a sixteen year association, making his debut in the National on Glen Fire in 1951. He got as far as the Canal Turn, which won him a bet as other riders wagered he wouldn’t get beyond the first Becher’s.
Four times champion jockey, the first time being in the 1952-53 season with 121 wins, he didn’t enter the National again until 1955, where he fell at the eleventh fence on Oriental Way, the least favoured of four Vincent O’ Brien runners. The following year he returned on Sundew, the second favourite, but fell at the second Becher’s.
They returned the following year to win the 1957 National at 20-1, by eight lengths from the ‘ever the runner-up’ Wyndburgh. Winter failed to get around in his next three Nationals – on Springsilver (1958), Done Up (1959) and Dandy Scot (1960) and even though 1961 saw him win his third Champion Hurdle and his first Cheltenham Gold Cup, he only managed to come fifth on Kilmore in the National.
In 1962-63 Winter accepted a retainer to ride for Fulke Walwyn, who later stated that Winter was the greatest jockey that he had ever seen. He fulfilled any obligations to Price, and therefore rode Kilmore again in the 1962 National, which was a good job, as he won by ten lengths, ahead of (again the runner-up) Wyndburgh. It was with Kilmore that Winter had his last National ride in 1963 before they both went on to pastures new.
Winter was to become an even greater trainer than he had been a jockey, and his rise as a racehorse trainer of immense distinction was meteoric. In his first season he trumped all the big stables with Jay Trump, the first National winner to be American bred, owned and ridden. Not only did Winter prepare him for the National he also taught his part owner and rider Tommy Smith how to adapt to the Aintree fences.
His second season as a trainer saw him repeat his success with Flat-reject Anglo, a 50-1 shot who won by twenty lengths to favourite Freddie. He became the dominant trainer of the seventies with 830 winners and seven champion trainer titles and ended his training career with the victory of Celtic Shot in the 1988 Champion Hurdle.
Although he survived more than 300 falls in his time as a jockey, Winter had retirement forced upon him by a skull fracture and stroke following a fall down his stairs at home in September 1987. He died two days before the 2004 Grand National aged 77, but not before he had captured the hearts of the racing public as a jockey, trainer and one of the greatest ambassadors horseracing has ever known.