The form book records that in the 1983 Cheltenham Gold Cup Bregawn, trained by Michael Dickinson and ridden by Graham Bradley, made all the running to beat stable companion Captain John, ridden by David Goulding, by 5 lengths. As taking a performance as it was from Bregawn, who had finished runner-up to another stable companion, Silver Buck, in the 1982 renewal, it was his trainer who would ultimately take the plaudits.
Aged just 33, Michael Dickinson saddled five runners or, in other words, nine percent of the horses in his care at Poplar House in Harewood, West Yorkshire, and achieved a clean sweep by filling the first five places. Aside from Bregawn and Captain John, the so-called ‘Famous Five’ was completed, in finishing order, by Wayward Lad, ridden by Jonjo O’Neill, Silver Buck, ridden by Robert Earnshaw, and Ashley House, ridden by the subsequently disgraced Dermot Browne.
Dickinson later admitted feeling guilty about sending what he described as his ‘two best horses’, Silver Buck and Wayward Lad, to contest the ‘Blue Riband’ event when they were knowingly under-prepared. He also admitted, with the benefit of hindsight, that there was a ‘real chance’ of none of his quintet finishing in the first three.
He need not have worried, though; four of his quintet filled the first four places turning for home and approaching the final fence it became clear that, barring accidents, the result would be what BBC commentator Sir Peter O’Sullevan called ‘an unprecedented Michael Dickinson quartet’. Wayward Lad momentarily looked dangerous, but was outstayed by Captain John in the closing stages and had to settle for third, 6½ lengths behind the winner. Silver Buck faded, but still finished fourth, albeit well-held and, as the television cameras focussed on the winner, Sir Peter O’Sullevan announced to Ashley House had run on to finish fifth.
Bregawn bounced back from finishing runner-up in the 1982 Gold Cup to land the race in impressive fashion in ’83 but it was wasn’t his performance that warranted his place in the list.
His trainer, Michael Dickinson, trained the first five horses’ home that day, earning himself a place in the history books and a feat that may never be matched again.
he jumped the last with a fair advantage before battling up that famous hill, little paid attention to what was happening in behind.
Four horses had jumped the second last together with Bregawn, Captain John, Wayward Lad and Silver Buck all in contention coming up the hill.
Commentators realised the Dickinson connection however when the front three pulled clear, no-one knew what was about to happen.
The previous year’s Gold Cup winner finished a distant fourth and Ashley House, who faded extremely badly in the run-in, managed to cling onto fifth to send the crowd into raptures.
The fifth horse was given special dispensation to go into the winner’s enclosure (usually restricted to the first four) and Bregawn had to share his plaudits with his trainer and an unbelievable achievement.
It was Bregawn, and a fresh-faced Graham Bradley, that won the race for the then Harewood trainer, with stablemates Captain John, Wayward Lad, the 1982 hero Silver Buck and Ashley House completing the next four places.
After commentating on a pulsating finish between Bregawn and the unheralded Captain John, there was bewilderment – almost astonishment – in the voice of Sir Peter O’Sullevan,
the BBC commentator, as Ashley House, the Dickinson stable’s Grand National prospect that year, emerged from a different county to finish fifth.
The pressure on Dickinson, then champion trainer in conjunction with his parents Tony and Monica, was immense.
“I was only aged 33, and with five horses in the race, I was nervous,” he told the Yorkshire Post.
“I was even more nervous because Silver Buck and Wayward Lad were the two best horses and neither of them were at their best.
safe and sound enough to run in a Gold Cup is hard enough, but getting them home in the first five places is almost inconceivable.