John Dunlop, one of Britain's longest-serving and most respected trainers, has announced that he will retire at the end of the season. Doncaster Racecourse will make a presentation to Dunlop Friday to mark his achievements at the home of the final classic, the Group 1 St Leger.
Over a training career which has spanned 47 years, Dunlop has enjoyed three St Leger winners -- Millenary in 2000, Silver Patriarch in 1997 and Moon Madness in 1986 -- and had plenty of other success at Doncaster.
Dunlop saddles Times Up in Friday's Group 2 Doncaster Cup, a race he won with Millenary in both 2005 and 2004 (dead-heat with Kasthari).
"It's been a wonderful innings," Dunlop told Racing Post on Thursday, "but all good things come to an end. I told my owners at the start of the day and obviously we are all a bit sad but there have been some great days, particularly Ragstone's Gold Cup, the two Derby winners (Shirley Heights and Erhaab) and in this week my three St Leger winners at Doncaster, where I will be going tomorrow.
"I do want to thank all the owners who have supported me and my staff, a lot of whom have been with me a very long time. I hope we have made a little contribution towards the game over the years and I am very proud to have two sons (Ed and Harry) continuing training."
Dunlop, 73, described the rationale for his decision to the Press Association.
"There are several reasons behind the decision," Dunlop said. "I now have much reduced stable numbers, and it is now less viable than it once was.
"My wife has also been ill for quite a while as well, so that has been a factor and I can also now live in the shadow of my very successful sons."
Born at Tetbury, Gloucestershire on July 10, 1939, Dunlop is the son of a doctor. He first took out a license in 1966 and had a two-year apprenticeship with Neville Dent and Gordon Smyth before he was asked to take over the reins at the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk's Castle Stables in Arundel, West Sussex, from where he started this season with 67 horses in training.
Black Satin's 1970 Irish One Thousand Guineas success established Dunlop as a trainer of rare quality. He has since landed 10 English classics, including the Group 1 Derby Derby victories with Shirley Heights in 1978 and Erhaab in 1994, and narrowly failed to add a third to his portfolio in 1997 when Silver Patriarch was beaten a short-head by Benny the Dip, although the same horse provided him with some consolation later in the season when lifting the final classic, the St Leger. Dunlop again saddled the Derby runner-up in 2000 with Sakhee and had the third, Let the Lion Roar, in 2004.
Dunlop had his first Group 1 Oaks success with Sir Robin McAlpine's Circus Plume in 1984. He has since enjoyed the fruitful support of owner Hamdan al Maktoum and trained the owner's Salsabil to win the 1990 Oaks, Group 1 One Thousand Guineas and Group 1 Irish Derby. Together they have recorded multiple Group 1 glories with Bahri (1995 St James's Palace Stakes and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes), Marju (1991 St James's Palace Stakes) and Lahib (1992 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes).
His other One Thousand Guineas wins, besides Salsabil's, came through Quick as Lightning (1980) and Shadayid (1991). He sent out Sheikh Mohammed's first winner -- Hatta who won at Brighton on June 20, 1977.
Another top performer was Millenary, who won 11 Group races over six seasons, including the 2000 St Leger, his third winner of the Doncaster classic.
Dunlop was rushed to hospital after the normally fatal rupture of his aorta in November, 2001, but made a full recovery. He was until recently a director of Goodwood Racecourse, his local track. Dunlop was also awarded an OBE for his charitable work.
Champion trainer in 1995, Dunlop has been responsible for 74 Group 1 winners among nearly 300 Group successes. His total winning tally is more than 3,500.
"It's difficult to know where to begin, he's been at the top of the tree for so long," Ed Dunlop told PA Sport. "He's trained two Derby winners, numerous classic winners and has been champion trainer. He's been a great inspiration to me and my brother and we obviously wish him a long and happy retirement. It's going to be a sad day for not only the whole Dunlop family when his career does come to an end at the end of the season, but I'm sure all his staff and his owners.
"There are so many memories from when I was young, too many to mention really -- Shirley Heights winning the Derby and so on. I know how pleased he was when Snow Fairy won last weekend, having trained for Mrs. Patino for many years himself of course. Certainly without him, I probably wouldn't have trained for Mrs. Patino and therefore wouldn't have trained Snow Fairy. I owe him a huge debt for that and so many other things."
Also on hand to reflect on Dunlop's career was Willie Carson, who rode numerous big-race winners from Arundel.
"He is one of the true legends of the sport," Carson said. "I rode a hell of a lot of winners for him. Just a few weeks ago, we were talking about it and I think it was around 680 winners. I rode a lot of class horses for him.
"Salsabil was one of the quickest fillies I ever rode and there were so many other great horses like Erhaab and Marju.
"John was the sort of trainer that could improve horses. Once he worked them out, he could get them to improve and improve and he was always spot-on with what he said. I always had a very good relationship with him and I always remember how he always used to say before a race 'there's plenty of time.'
"Sometimes there wasn't as much time as he thought, but he always portrayed coolness, tried to get the jockeys to relax and have confidence in themselves and the horses they were riding. He's a gentleman who everyone in racing has tremendous affection for.
"The Dunlop name is going to carry on in racing for years to come with his sons, but John was the one who started it all off. He is a master trainer and I can only give him the highest praise," Carson summed up.
Godolphin's Racing Manager Simon Crisford served as assistant to Dunlop for a spell.
"Quite simply, he was one of the greatest trainers of all time," Crisford said. "He gave me my first chance in racing. I turned up and knocked on his door and he asked me what I could do. I told him I could wash his car and cut his ivy, so it just shows the measure of the man that he took me on and gave me a leg up in life.
"He has done so much charitable work down the years, he really is tireless working for worthwhile causes and he has always put everybody else first.
"There's a link with Sheikh Mohammed, also, as he trained his first winner way back when. I, along with everybody in racing I imagine, would like to wish him a very happy retirement."