Born in Yorkshire, England, on February 3, 1950, Michael Dickinson knew at an early age horse racing was in his blood.
His early success began in Steeplechasing, quickly becoming a champion rider and, later, a champion steeplechase trainer who dominated the trainers’ ranks in England for three successive years. Two of his formative years were spent under the tutelage of Vincent O’ Brien, the legendary Irish trainer who was master of Ballydoyle, the training center in County Tipperary.
His Steeplechase achievements in England have been marked indelibly with five entries in the Guiness Book of World Records, two of which were saddling 12 winners in one day and training the first five finishing horses in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the Kentucky Derby of Steeplechasing.
Dickinson moved to the United States in 1987 and, in short time, established himself as one of American racing’s premier trainers.
From 1996 to present he has annually registered a remarkable 25% win percentage or higher, more than double the average trainer’s win rate. In 2000, he led all New York-based trainers with an extraordinary 35% of winners from starters. His training style has been coined by many as unconventional and unorthodox—prompting the nickname "mad genius"—but his proven success has vindicated him as a master horsemen, having won more than 40 stakes races to date.
Dickinson’s most acclaimed training feat came when he conditioned 1996 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Da Hoss to a repeat win in that race’s 1998 renewal at Churchill Downs, after a two-year layoff. Da Hoss was plagued with so many training setbacks while on the comeback trail most trainers would have relinquished the notion of bringing Da Hoss back to the races. Yet Dickinson’s undaunted determination, tenacity, and keen training acumen not only saw the son of Gone West return to the Breeders’ Cup, but return victoriously, much to the astonishment of the nation and the racing world.
In addition to Da Hoss’ two Breeders’ Cup victories, Dickinson has captured some of North America’s most prestigious graded events, including the Del Mar Derby, Jersey Derby, and Delaware Handicap. In 1998, he notched the Grade I Sword Dancer Handicap and Grade II Bowling Green Handicap with Cetewayo, a one-time $13,000 claimer.
Dickinson came to this country with the dream of building a Ballydolye-style training facility in America, where emphasis is placed on catering to the equine. His dream was realized in the spring of 1998, when the 200-acre Tapeta Farm was opened for training. Tapeta Farm is a state-of-the-art facility combining the latest, most innovative technology in equine care with the fundamental "good sense" of horse husbandry. He spent countless hours in its construction and design, meticulously going over every detail—personally testing via trial and error and much expense—and developed an as-near-perfect training facility as possible. With its many innovations and well-planned asethetic qualities, the Daily Racing Form has called Tapeta the "Chantilly of the Chesapeake."
Over the years, Dickinson has received numerous industry accolades in recognition of his achievements and contribution to American racing. He is a two-time recipient of the Pacemaker International N.H. Trainer of the Year and the William Hill Golden Spurs Award. In 1993, he was elected into the Steeplechasing Hall of Fame and, in 1999, was awarded the C.V. Whitney Award by the New York Turf Writers Association.