National Hunt racing legend dies

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  • Fred Winter, one of National Hunt racing’s greatest stars, has died aged 77.

    He was the only man in recent times to have achieved the great double of riding and saddling winning horses in the Grand National. He achieved this amazing feat with Jay Trump only three years after riding Kilmore home victorious in the great steeplechase.

    Only the immortal Red Rum prevented Winter from celebrating a Grand National hat-trick, when he pipped Winter-trained Crisp to the post in the final lengths of the 1973 steeplechase.

    Winter notched up a spectacular 923 victories as a jockey, including a record 121 wins in the 1952-3 season. He was champion jockey four times, and with two Grand Nationals, two Cheltenham Gold Cups and four Champion Hurdles under his belt, as well as countless other victories, he was unequalled over the sticks.

    One of the most incredible moments in his riding career came in 1962 at the Grand Steeplechase de Paris on board Mandarin. The horse’s bit snapped at the fourth fence, but Winter persevered using his weight to steer the bit-less horse over the remaining 26 fences and be first past the winning post.

    Winter’s reputation as a trainer was no less impressive. When he hung up his silks at the age of 37, he had little intention of taking up the reins as a trainer, and applied to the Jockey Club as a starter, but was rejected.

    This rejection turned out to be the best thing that could have happened and Winter saddled his first horse to victory in 1965. He then dominated the trainer’s championships in the 1970s, winning the title eight times. Only the Cheltenham Gold Cup – the Blue Riband of the National Hunt season – eluded his grasp, but eventually Midnight Court indulged the trainer in 1978.

    Winter, who is survived by his wife, Diana, and their three daughters, will be fondly remembered by everyone involved in the National Hunt world.

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