I was a top jockey and household name who won the Grand National – now I live a totally different life behind camera | The Sun

HE was dubbed the 'king of the weighing room' and seen as the perfect blend of poise in the saddle and fierce competitive spirit.

A household name, he won the Grand National twice, was champion jockey three times and even rode the iconic Desert Orchid to victory.

But you'll do well to find Richard Dunwoody, 59, anywhere near a racecourse these days.

Thanks in no small part to the fact he lives in Madrid.

Actually, there is a track on the outskirts of the Spanish capital.

But since retiring from racing, Dunwoody's interests have grown so far and wide that he simply doesn't need to stick around the sport he once dominated.

If he does, then it is with his camera hanging down from his neck.

That's because Dunwoody – the only rider of his generation to win the Grand National, Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle – has reinvented himself as a photographer.

Working with partner Olivia, they set up Dunwoody Web Design and Photography some 1,300 miles from the Aintree track that made him an icon.

Dunwoody's post-racing career has taken him all over the world.

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There was the photoshoot where he stood in a ditch in a town in Guatemala as a young boy in a rodeo outfit held the reins of a blind pony.

There was the trip to Patagonia to photograph the Gaucho Derby, a race dubbed 'one of the toughest and most unusual equine challenges in history'.

Turning his hand (and camera lens) to anything, Dunwoody even did a farmhouse cafe in Northumberland – a far cry from the restaurant he visited in Afghanistan that was later blown up by a suicide bomber.

Nothing is beyond his lens and eye for a snap.

Dunwoody, who was born in Belfast, said the idea of becoming a photographer was something that took hold when he was young and stayed with him during his racing career.

He said: "I had always enjoyed it. We had a darkroom at school and I did a bit of black and white photography there.

"When I was riding, I had some friends who were racecourse photographers.

"My ex-wife worked for one of them and she eventually became a racecourse professional as well.

"So I had that interest, and after I retired from racing I started travelling more and more and became interested in getting better images."

Dunwoody retired from racing in 1999 but it wasn't until over ten years later that photography really took hold – and became a way to earn a living.

Before that came a whole host of life-changing experiences.

In 2008 he followed in Ernest Shackleton's footsteps by making it to the South Pole after a 48-day money-raising trek for charity.

The following year he walked 1,000 miles in 1,000 hours to raise more money before appearing on Strictly Come Dancing a few months later.

Incredibly, after all that Dunwoody still felt he 'wanted to get about more'.

So it was in 2011 that he started a nine-month photography course at the prestigious Speos Photography School in Paris.

That kick-started his second career, which has even seen him working alongside Channel 4's TV 'Supervet' Noel Fitzpatrick, where he captured detailed photos of animals during surgery.

So does he miss the admiration of the crowds? The cheers as he steered yet another horse to victory in front of thousands?

Turns out, he doesn't.

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Dunwoody said: "I prefer taking photos of horses than being on them."

Not many can claim to be good at both. Dunwoody was, and still is, one of a kind.


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