Richard Dunwoody was born into a racing family in County Antrim, Northern Ireland in 1964. His father was a jockey who rode many winners before turning to horse training, his maternal grandfather, Dick Thrale of Epsom, was also a trainer.
Richard was riding a pony by the age of 2 and hunting with hounds by the age of six! The family moved to Newmarket and aged twelve Richard began to ride for Paul Kellewa, on leaving school he joined Tim Forster’s yard in Oxfordshire where Hywel Davies was a stable jockey.
In 1982 as an amateur he had his first ride finishing second in a two mile flat chase at Chepstow. His first winner was in May 1983 on Game Trust in Cheltenham’s hunter chase meeting. In 1984 with Hywel Davies injured, Richards rides increased dramatically and in his first professional season in 1984/5 he rode 46 winners and almost as many seconds and thirds.
The same season he had a winner at the Cheltenham Festival when West Tip won the Ritz Club Chase. Sixteen days later he partnered West Tip, the joint 13/2 favourite, in the Grand National at Aintree. West Tip was leading the race when he fell at the second Becher’s, twenty one year old Dunwoody, the youngest rider in the race vowed they would “come back next year and win”.
The partnership did win the following year and in all made five Grand National appearances together, Richard achieved an outstanding record in the race, competing in fourteen consecutive races and being placed in eight.
In 1985/6 he became stable jockey for the late David Nicholson with great success, which was crowned by winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1988 on Charter Party. In 1990 he took his first ride on the legendary Desert Orchid, in all the pair won seven races including two King George V1 Chases and the Irish Grand National.
In 1993 Richard moved to Champion trainer Martin Pipe and became Champion Jockey for the first time, the same year he was awarded the MBE for Services To Racing, he retained the championship twice more and won his second Grand National in 1994 riding the stables Minnehoma.
In 1995 he turned freelance and rode for many of the leading yards in England and Ireland, a neck injury forced him to retire prematurely on medical advice in 1999, he was 35 years old. He had beaten Peter Scudamore’s record for all time jumps wins, had won the Big Three, the Grand National, the Champion Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and had notched up almost 1,900 winners worldwide.
In 2000 Richard published his acclaimed autobiography ‘Obsessed’ in which he told frankly of his punishing regime of running, gym work, dieting and the emotional cost of his obsession with riding winners.
He has undertaken various challenges since retiring including a cross country ski race to the Magnetic North Pole, a trek of 673 miles to the South Pole and a 150 mile sled pull across Baffin Island. The latter was to raise funds for the Motor Neurone Disease Association, the disease had claimed trainer Colin Nash, for whom Richard had rode his first winner.
Richard is now a member of the BBC racing team and writes weekly racing columns for various newspapers, he also mentors and advises young jockeys. In 2009 he made a short lived appearance in Strictly Come Dancing and in 2010 his book ‘Method In My Madness’ in which he recounts his retirement so far was published.