Born into a horse racing family as Frederick Thomas Winter on the 20th of September, 1926, Fred Winter, as he would become known, was one of the most successful trainers that horse racing has seen. Before he began life as a trainer, however, he was a jockey, meaning that he became the only person to win all of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the Champion Hurdle and the Grand National as both a jockey and then a trainer. Best-known as a National Hunt trainer, he was named the Champion Jockey in British jump racing four times, whilst winning the same title as a trainer on an impressive eight occasions. He died on the fifth of April in 2004, aged 77.
Fred Winter’s father, Fred Sr, was a decent apprentice jockey before the outbreak of the First World War, winning the Oaks as a 16-year-old and becoming Champion Apprentice. When Fred Jr was born in Andover, Hampshire, it was therefore all but written in the stars that he would become a jockey himself. Just as with his father, he began life on the flat, weighing just five stone and seven pounds when he took on his first ride in public as a 13-year-old. Fred Sr went on to train horses, which was to the benefit of Fred Jr who got to ride some of the horses that his dad had trained. He would go on to ride 923 winners over 17 seasons.
Remarkably, though, it was his work as a trainer that he would become best-known for. He retired as a jockey in 1964, becoming the first jockey to be given a CBE for services to racing. He was only just beginning, though, and decided to try training after the Jockey Club turned down his application to become an assistant starter. In his first two seasons, he trained the Grand National winner, going on to build a team that would become the envy of racing. He won virtually everything there was to win as a National Hunt trainer, seeing his career come to an end in 1987 after a second stroke meant he spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair.
We could easily tell you about the numerous races that Fred Winter won as a jockey, given his incredible success in that discipline, but this site is all about trainers. As a result, here is a look at some of the countless races that he won in that discipline, bearing in mind that it isn’t exhaustive and he once won 99 races in a single season:
- Cheltenham Gold Cup
- Grand National
- Champion Hurdle
- Champion Chase
- King George VI Chase
- Grand Annual Chase
- Arkle Challenge Trophy
Given the fact that Fred Winter was one of the most successful trainers of National Hunt horses, it is entirely fair to point out that he had numerous horses associated with his name. As the eight-time Champion Trainer, Winter saw 1,557 winners across 24 seasons. Names like Soothsayer, Derring Rose and Acquaint will long be remembered as having been trained to victory by him. Here are some of the other more noteworthy horses that came under Winter’s command:
When Robin Oakley wrote his book Britain and Ireland’s Top 100 Racehorses of All Time, one of the horses that he included was Pendil. That speaks volumes for the horse when you consider how many phenomenal horses have been trained in the UK and Ireland in the years leading up to 2012. The horse won the Arkle Challenge Trophy and the King George VI chase in 1972, defending his title in the latter event a year later. Yet one of his best performances came in the Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Cheltenham in the December of 1973. Asked to carry the maximum weight, he defeated The Dikler, who had beaten him on the line in the Cheltenham Gold Cup earlier in the year.
Born in the United States of America, Jay Trump won the Maryland Hunt Cup three times. Yet the most noteworthy thing about him was that he was the first horse that Fred Winter trained and won with. That is impressive enough, but when you consider that after he won a race at Sandown he went on to win the 1965 Grand National, you suddenly understand why he’s deserving of a mention. He won the event as an eight-year-old, carrying 11 stone and five pounds, which was the joint-second most carried by any of the finishers. He also came second in the King George VI Chase, returning to the US after a brief stop in France.
The list of races that Bula won in his career is pretty impressive, earning him the title of Champion National Hunt Horse in both 1970-1971 and 1971-1972. His wins were even more impressive when you consider the fact that he ran in the era of horses like Sea Pigeon, Persian War and Night Nurse. It was said that he looked ‘more like a warhorse than a racehorse’ when he turned up at Winter’s yard, but he went on to win the Champion Hurdle twice as well as some other notable races. He won 13 races in succession at the start of his career, which would’ve been 13 if not for a mistake at the last in the Woolton Hill Hurdle.
Born and bred in Ireland, Midnight Court was turned into a top-class steeplechaser when he was under the tutorship of Fred Winter. He appeared on racecourse six times in the 1976-1977 season, winning 50% of his races. Hardly the most remarkable of careers, but things went up a notch the following season. He enjoyed seven starts, winning all seven of them, before he ran in the re-scheduled 1978 Gold Cup at Cheltenham. There were ten horses in the race, with Midnight Court considered the second-favourite. He was pulling clear by the second to last, eventually winning the race by seven lengths of Brown Lad.