The Way I Was: Riding for a fall on old Neddy: Richard Dunwoody tells Nicholas Roe how he dreamt as a child of winning at Aintree

MY FATHER tells the story that when I was three - about the age I am in the photo - he led me out on a donkey called Neddy, and while he was doing the gate he let go and the donkey ran off across field, bucking and kicking, with me on the back. As we say in racing, he buried me half-way across the field.

My father rushed over, expecting to find me in floods of tears, screaming my eyes out, but I got up and said: 'Daddy, I fell off like a jockey]'

We were a horsy family, not just on my father's side but on my mother's, too. They say you are bred into the sport, and from the earliest age I wanted to ride race horses.

But even from when I was very small indeed, what I really wanted was to ride in the Grand National. That was the one thing that stood out, you know?

I'd watch it at four, five, six, and I was really taken by it. What an event] I was taken by the crowds, by the thrills, the excitement - and by the reception the winner gets.

I remember our local point-to-point, which I hardly ever missed, and one year, when I was five, the dates coincided, and there was no way that I was going to that point-to-point. I wanted to stay at home and watch the National on television.

The glory of it stayed with me into my teens, and it got to a stage when I thought that if I was never good enough to make it as a full-time professional jockey, then I would try to earn enough money to buy my own racehorse so I could ride as an amateur in that race. Luckily, it never came to that.

I was 22 when I won in 1986. It came very early in my career, but it is still the greatest moment. Looking back on the day, it's very much a blur, and I think it passed like that, almost like a dream. I don't honestly think it had sunk in even a week later.

I'd ridden in it the year before with the fancied horse, but fell at Becher's when he was travelling like a winner, so I'd already had that glory, or had that win seemingly taken away from me.

So on the morning itself I was apprehensive, and I just didn't want things to go wrong.

You try to remain cool, you try to do things in the same way you always do them. You just don't want any stupid mistakes to slip in. I wouldn't say I'm a born pessimist, but I'm not the greatest optimist, so I'm never convinced that I'll win a race.

When I passed the post that day, it was an indescribable feeling. It's like being part of the World Cup winning side in football, or like Linford Christie winning a title. It's a feeling that I have always struggled to describe, and I still can't put it into words.

But it's funny how careers can take shape so quickly. As a child I was falling off a donkey, but saying, 'Yes, I'm going to win the National]' As a 17-year-old I was still at school, riding at home, and my jump jockey heroes were Peter Scudamore and John Francome.

And, literally within four or five years, there I am, competing with them, beating them the odd day, getting beaten the next. It's amazing how a career can develop like that, how a life can suddenly change.

I think I was slightly spoiled by having won a National so young, but I don't look back a lot. I'm still in the position that I have a great ambition to win it again, and again.

You know, I'd love nothing more than to go on and win next year's National.

(Photograph omitted)

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