Willie Wumpkins

Willie Wumpkins Willie Wumpkins is one of a select band of horses to have won four times at the Cheltenham Festival, but his record is all the more remarkable for the fact that his first victory was fully eight years before his last. Originally trained in Ireland by Adrian Maxwell and ridden by Pat Colville, Willie Wumpkins opened his Festival account, as a five-year-old, in 1973, winning the Aldworth Hurdle (now the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle) at 11/1.


However, it wasn’t until much later in his career, now trained under permit by his owner Mrs. Jane Pilkington, that he returned to Prestbury Park to contest the Coral Golden Hurdle Final (now the Pertemps Network Final) in 1979. Ridden by Mrs. Pilkington’s son-in-law, Mr. Jim Wilson, arguably the best amateur jockey of his day, the 11-year-old revelled in the testing conditions and, despite carrying overweight, won easily at odds of 25/1. The partnership returned for the same race again in 1980 – the year in which Wilson became just the third amateur to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, on Little Owl – and won again, at 10/1. Willie Wumpkins, now 13, and Wilson were back again in 1981, justifying odds of 13/2 to a tremendous reception.


Amazingly, Willie Wumpkins never won anything of consequence anywhere other than the Cheltenham Festival; he won just 7 of his 65 races over obstacles, but four of those wins were at the Festival. He enjoyed a happy retirement in the Cotswolds and died in 1995 at the ripe old age of 27.

Michael Dickinson

Michael Dickinson Nowadays, Michael Dickinson is probably best known as the inventor of the Tapeta synthetic racing surface but, in his younger days, wrote his name indelibly into the record books by training the first five home in the 1983 Cheltenham Gold Cup. Aged just 33 and in only his third season as a trainer, having taken over his father, Tony, Dickinson produced a marvel of preparation that would later win him a Racing Post poll of the 100 greatest training feats in the last century.


In order of preference, his ‘Famous Five’ were Bregawn, ridden by Graham Bradley, Captain John, ridden by David Goulding, Wayward Lad, ridden by Jonjo O’Neill, Silver Buck, ridden by Robert Earnshaw and Ashley House, ridden by Dermot Browne. The The favourite, Bregawn, who’d finished second behind Silver Buck in 1982, made all the running to beat Captain John by 5 lengths, with Wayward Lad a further 1½ lengths away in third.


The first three finished a distance, and further, clear of Silver Buck and Ashley House in fourth and fifth, but Dickinson summed up his achievement in his post-race interview, saying, “If only people realised just what a hell of an achievement it is to get a horse here fit to run well in the Gold Cup…just to get them here, let alone to win, is almost impossible.”

One Man

One Man One Man was a hugely popular, but ultimately ill-fated, grey steeplechaser trained in Greystoke, near Penrith, Cumbria by the late Gordon W. Richards and owned by John Hales. All in all, One Man won 20 of his 35 races under National Hunt Rules, and 17 of his 26 steeplechases, but is probably best remembered for his emotional victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 1998.


Having tried, and failed, to win the Sun Alliance Chase in 1994 and the Cheltenham Gold in 1996 and 1997, he was sent off 7/2 joint second favourite for the 1998 Queen Mother Champion Chase, despite dropping back to the minimum trip for the first time since his debut, in a novices’ hurdle at Hexham, in 1992. However, his high cruising speed and exceptional jumping ability served him well and, in the hands of Brian Harding, he went clear from the second last fence to beat Or Royal by 4 lengths.


Sixteen days later, though, One Man was dead. Stepped back up to 2 miles 4 furlongs for the Melling Chase at Aintree, One Man started 2/1 favourite to beat just four rivals, including Queen Mother Champion Chase runner-up Or Royal. However, having raced prominently, he failed to leave the ground for the ninth fence and suffered a fatal fall.


In his bright, but all-too-brief, career, One Man had also won the King George VI Chase at Kempton (twice), the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby (twice), the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon, the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury and the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase. His Timeform Annual Rating, of 179, leaves him just short of the truly “great” steeplechasers of the last fifty years or so, but is still only 3lb inferior to Best Mate, for example.