The Racing Post
Michael Wins the Racing Post poll of the 100 greatest training feats in the last 100 years.
The Famous Five Fairytale
Michael Dickinson training the first five home - Bregawn, Captain John, Wayward Lad, Silver Buck and Ashley House - in the 1983 Cheltenham Gold Cup
NOW, as then, the dominance was total. No-one else got a look in. Twenty-three years after Michael Dickinson annexed the Cheltenham Gold Cup to a degree never seen before and never likely to be seen again, he overpowered his rivals in the contest to lead the way in the 100 Greatest Training Feats Series, writes Steve Dennis.
The latest '100 Greatest' trod in the footsteps of its three predecessors to a great extent, following largely the same format as 100 Racing Greats, 100 Favourite Racehorses and 100 Greatest Races.
As in the initial series, won by Vincent O'Brien, the top 100 was compiled through the efforts of a panel drawn from all avenues of racing's global village, ameliorated by a multitude of letters from Racing Post readers, each championing their preferred champion. All the recommendations were collated and counted, and the top 100 emerged.
Without the assistance of our readers, these efforts to quantify quality would lack the thumbprint of authenticity, so the top ten training feats were thrown back into the public domain for another round of voting. Those involved in the running of the series had formed their own ideas about whose name would end up at the top of the heap' they were right.
The second round of voting was a breathtakingly straightforward process. If similar depth of feeling was found in the cramped booths in polling stations on the day of a general election, it would amount to a mandate to govern for the next 100 years.
From the outset, the achievements of James Croft, John Barham Day and Ryan Price, although certainly impressive, were destined for scant recognition. Tom Dreaper's seven consecutive Irish Nationals and David Chapman's husbandry of Chaplins Club were more popular, and more appreciated still were the finesse that Nicky Henderson showed with See You Then to coax three Champion Hurdles from his battleworn legs, and the swashbuckling globetrottery of Dermot Weld with Vintage Crop in the Melbourne Cup.
Weld's audacious coup is, therefore, comfortably the greatest achievement by a British or Irish trainer on the Flat and is wholly representative of his genius. When they run the first Group 1 on the Moon, Weld will surely lead Earth's raiding party.
Three training achievements, though, rose head and shoulders above the opposition. In a clear third place was Vincent O'Brien, with 14 per cent of the vote for his feat of winning three consecutive Grand Nationals with three different horses - Early Mist, Royal Tan and Quare Times - in the mid-1950s.
Comfortably ahead of him was another three-time Aintree hero, a man synonymous with the Grand National. Ginger McCain's achievements with Red Rum, winner three times and runner-up twice in five runnings of the great race, convinced 18 per cent of voters that here was the greatest feat of them all.
Not so, but far otherwise. With 36 per cent of the vote, Michael Dickinson's colossal achievement in sending out the first five in the 1983 Cheltenham Gold Cup was rightly rewarded with the label of Greatest Training Feat in the history of British and Irish racing. In his essay on Dickinson's 'Famous Five', Peter Thomas wrote: "...it was the biggest part of the achievement - to find five horses good enough to do justice to the greatest race in the calendar, and get them all to the post in good fettle."
Never can so much excitement in a championship race have been devoted to the fifth horse home. Ashley House came plodding in a country mile behind the winner Bregawn, but a crucial six lengths ahead of sixth-placed Richdee.
Thomas added: "The sound that accompanied the Famous Five back to the winner's enclosure was that of the record books being rewritten in indelible ink."
Dickinson suffered for his art - he lost a stone through anxiety between Christmas and Gold Cup day - but was amply rewarded with racing immortality. It could be considered a more than fair exchange. You, the readers, certainly thought so.