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Dunwoody enjoying life through the lens 30 years after top Tip

By Frank Brownlow

Dozens of photographers captured the picture of a beaming Richard Dunwoody 30 years ago after he steered West Tip to victory in the Grand National at Aintree - but today the Ulsterman spends his time at the opposite end of the lens.

Dunwoody has been a professional photographer for the last five years and also spends much of his time travelling, usually combining the two pursuits.

He retired from racing in 1999 due to a neck injury.

"I travel a lot - I'm just back from Ethiopia - and photography is my job now," he said.

"After experiencing other things - running a business, TV work, motivational speaking, which I still do - travelling and photography became my passions," said the 52-year-old, who five months ago became a father for the first time, his partner Olivia giving birth to little Emilia.

"We're delighted. It hasn't hit my sleep pattern too badly so far!" said Dunwoody, who was voted off Strictly Come Dancing after a fortnight back in 2009.

"It was a tremendous experience, with a great team, and it was very interesting to see how it all worked," he said.

"It certainly made me feel more nervous than I'd ever been. And I also found out that I couldn't dance whatsoever - despite my partner Lilia Kopylova's best efforts. I only lasted two weeks but I am very glad it was not an experience I'd passed up on."

The family divide their time between Berkshire and the southern Spanish town of Gaucin.

When he retired from racing, Dunwoody took part in several expeditions, including a 48-day charity trek to the South Pole (right).

He also leads adventure holidays - often involving horse riding - to far flung destinations such as Afghanistan, Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan with the travel company Wild Frontiers.

"I became a professional photographer after completing a course at the Speos photography school in Paris, but I've loved cameras all my life - I was in the school darkroom from the age of 12 developing my own black and white prints," he said.

"My camera comes on all my Wild Frontiers trips too, of course.

"I first got involved with the company three years after I retired, having met Jonny Bealby, the founder, through his brothers who work in the racing world. It's a fascinating job."

Dunwoody is also a keen runner and is now at his natural weight of 12st - two stones heavier than when he was racing.

He rarely goes racing these days but will watch the Grand National on television and hopes Onenightinvienna triumphs - the horse is owned by the Luff family, who also owned West Tip.

"It will be nice to see the Luff colours in the National 30 years after West Tip's win," said Dunwoody, who also won the big race in 1994 on Miinnehoma, owned by the comedian Freddie Starr.

But it was West Tip's victory in 1986 as 15-2 favourite that made Dunwoody - three times champion jockey during a glittering career - the punters' pal.

"The 30 years have gone very quickly. I was only 22 at the time and it's all a bit of a blur," he said.

"West Tip gave me a fantastic ride, he was always travelling very well.

"He had fallen the year before and I suppose that made victory all the more sweet.

"We had a bit of a party that night and thankfully there was no racing on the Sunday!

"But you get back into your routine again very quickly after that.

"Winning the National was certainly a big boost for my career.

"As for the win on Miinnehoma, I think you appreciate it more second time around.

"West Tip had a favourite's chance while Miinnehoma had less chance so winning was more of a surprise. I didn't know that much about Miinnehoma beforehand, unlike West Tip.

"It's a very tough race - you can be on the right horse but you need a bit of luck as well," said Dunwoody, who backs moves by the organisers to make the race ever safer.

"The National is so high profile that the organisers have to be careful," he said.

"Safety first in the big race is the only way for racing to go. In any race over obstacles there are going to be dangers but horses get hurt in flat racing as well."

Dunwoody - who also won the Cheltenham Gold Cup on board Charter Party in 1988 as well as the King George four times, twice on the legendary grey Desert Orchid - held the champion jockey crown until fellow Ulsterman AP McCoy's incredible run of 20 successive titles.

McCoy retired last April and Dunwoody has spoken with him on several occasions.

"I had to retire in 1999 because a neck injury was causing muscle weakness in my right arm. Five years later, I had surgery to drill away part of the bone in my neck that was pressing on the nerves," he said.

"When you retire it takes time to adjust and I'm sure AP is finding that. You miss the lifestyle. But you come to appreciate that there's a big world out there to enjoy."

Belfast Telegraph


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