ED DUNLOP was born to train, having grown up in a world - at Castle Stables in Arundel - where his father John masterminded the winning of ten British Classics. While horseracing is a great respecter of tradition, however, no son of a famous father will survive for long in the sport without being able to stand firm on his own two feet, so when Ed was thrown into the deep end by the tragic death of his boss Alex Scott in 1994, he had either to sink or swim.
The Eton-educated 25-year-old had learned some of his trade at studs in Ireland, Kentucky and Sydney, with extra tuition as assistant to top jumps trainer Nicky Henderson in Lambourn, but when he took over Sheikh Maktoum Al Maktoum’s Gainsborough Stables on Newmarket’s Hamilton Road, he entered a different arena entirely.
Before he turned 26, though, he had a winner to his name – Lynton Lad at Yarmouth on October 19, 1994 – and by the time he turned 28, he already had two Group 1s on the board, courtesy of Ta Rib in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches at Longchamp and Iktamal in the Haydock Park Sprint Cup.
Any doubts that Ed had the ‘right stuff’ were quickly blown away, as he racked up a series of big wins across national and continental divides, from Night Style in the Gran Criterium in Milan, to the prolific filly Lailani in the Flower Bowl International at Belmont Park, New York and Fraulein in the EP Taylor Stakes at Woodbine, Toronto.
Yes, Ed had begun life with many advantages, but it was his own talent that took him many rungs up racing’s ladder – and kept him there when the sad death of Sheikh Maktoum meant he finally had to leave Gainsborough and head across town - before the horse arrived that would change his life.
Lord Derby’s Ouija Board ended her two-year-old season as the winner of a modest Yarmouth novices’ event, but under the tutelage of Dunlop she finished her three-year-old campaign as a dual Oaks winner and heroine of the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Lone Star Park in Texas. By the close of her glittering career, she had won seven Group and Grade 1 races, including a Hong Kong Vase, a Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot and a second Breeders’ Cup, establishing her handler as one of the great international trainers of his generation.
To cement his reputation, however, Ed repeated the magic with his next great filly, Cristina Patino’s Snow Fairy, whose six wins at the highest level came as far apart as Surrey, Sha Tin, Kyoto and Dublin, with her two wins against all the odds in Japan’s Queen Elizabeth II Cup reflecting enormous credit on La Grange’s accomplished team of travelling staff.
As if all that weren’t enough, along came Red Cadeaux, the 55,000gns purchase whose wildly divergent, but carefully plotted, career paths have seen him beaten by a kangaroo’s whisker in the Melbourne Cup, runner-up in a Dubai World Cup, and getting his nose in front in the Hong Kong Vase in the back yard of his owner Ronnie Arculli – a victory that helped take his career earnings beyond £4 million.
No trainer can achieve as much as Ed Dunlop has achieved without a strong team of staff and a loyal band of owners behind him, but Ed continues to prove he has what it takes to make La Grange Stables the home of a new generation of success.