If you Google ‘Famous Five’, you’ll be introduced to Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy the dog or, in other words, the characters created by Enid Blyton in her collection of adventure stories for children. However, if you add the word ‘Dickinson’ to your search criteria when you’re looking up racing questions, you will discover not fictional tales of twee postwar Englishness, but rather a factual account of an altogether different ‘Famous Five’.
The ‘Dickinson’ in question is, of course, Michael W. Dickinson who, in 1983, pulled off the most remarkable training feat in the history of horse racing by saddling the first five finishers in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Dickinson had already achieved a notable 1-2 in the premier steeplechase with Silver Buck and Bregawn in 1982 and those two were among his five runners – the equivalent of 9% of all the horses in his yard at Dunkeswick, near Harewood, Yorkshire – who lined up for the 1983 renewal.
For the record, those horses were, in finishing order, Bregawn (10/3 favourite), ridden by Graham Bradley, Captain John (11/1), ridden by David Goulding, Wayward Lad (6/1), ridden by Jonjo O’Neill, Silver Buck (5/1), ridden by Robert Earnshaw and Ashley House (12/1), ridden by Dermot Browne. Bregawn made all the running to beat Captain John by 5 lengths, with Wayward Lad a further 1½ lengths behind and a distance back to the other pair. Amateur jockey Dermot Browne, later a trainer, was subsequently ‘warned off’ for 10 years in 1992, and for a further 20 years in 2002, after admitting doping horses.