Racing: Dunwoody eager for a final thrust: In a historic setting the champion secures two more victories, but vows his duel with Maguire will continue to the season's last gasp

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IT WAS as he arrived at Cartmel 12 months ago that Richard Dunwoody realised his recently won jockeys' championship would be under threat the following season. As he looked down the card he saw the name of Adrian Maguire pencilled in against horses he himself would normally expect to ride and acknowledged he was a furlong down in the race to collect 'spares'.

A year on, Dunwoody was back in Cumbria yesterday at one of the most parochial and picturesque of Britain's racecourses, retention of his title virtually assured, but only at the end of one of the most protracted duels of recent National Hunt racing with his fellow Irishman.

Cartmel is all low-key rustic charm. Craft centres, cream teas and bare-top drinking at the Royal Oak are all available on the way to the miniature city. But as he passed a sunshine-bathed priory church (which has the historical claim of containing a 1596 first edition of Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene), his mind must have stepped back to the recent past of a torrid season. There will have been replays of nine months of a wet winter, of fighting from behind to catch Maguire (a feat he managed only 12 days ago), and a campaign replete with disappointments and suspension.

Dunwoody and Maguire has been an enduring, and engaging, head-to-head, one which has illuminated the end of the jumps season. Once the Grand National is over, National Hunt racing routinely goes the way of a dying elephant, wandering off wearily to die unnoticed. But 1994 has been different. 'It's added an extra dimension to the end of the season in the weighing room,' Jamie Osborne, Oliver Sherwood's stable jockey, says. 'It's been interesting being a fly on the wall as these two fight it out.'

Like all good contests, this match has featured two disparate characters: Dunwoody, the tall stylist in the saddle and short on emotion out of it, Maguire the stocky, pugnacious rider, bubbling at the prospect of a first title at the age of 23.

'Richard is certainly more intense, incredibly focused,' Osborne says. 'When he was 40 winners behind he might have been saying publicly it was all over, but I knew damn well that inside he was still hankering after the championship. He still wanted it more than anything.

'Adrian also wants it badly but he's living with the fact that he's still young and probably going to get another 10 chances of being champion. Adrian is more approachable and would be the better loser of the two because defeat would hurt Richard more.'

A paradigm of Dunwoody's competitiveness came at Nottingham in March, when the champion squeezed out Maguire's mount and sent the

then title-leader plunging through the wing of a hurdle. Many outside the sport saw this as a prelude to daggers drawn, but the steel they had in their hands that night was cutlery as they dined together in a restaurant.

Dunwoody regrets not so much the barging match, but leaving Maguire the opportunity to get involved in it. 'I admit I was wrong and obviously I didn't mean to put Adrian through the wing, but my main mistake there was to leave too much light on the inner,' he says. 'In the same circumstances, the same thing could happen again and Adrian has said that he would do the same if the roles were reversed.'

There is no animosity between the pair, who live within six miles of each other near Wantage and often travel to the racecourse together. While this may seem unusual for foes (it is difficult to imagine Eubank and Benn bobbling along country roads to their venue playing I-Spy), both recognise they are not fighting each other as much as horses and courses. 'You can't think about anyone else in a race, you've got to concentrate on your horse and what you're doing,' Dunwoody says.

At the country fair of Cartmel, where runners gallop past adjoining back gardens, there was little sign yesterday that the concentration had dimmed and that Dunwoody was already anticipating his holiday to Barbados. The champion jockey started the day with the news that he may lose one of his winners, All For Luck, who has tested positive for a prohibited substance after a victory at Newbury two months ago.

The case could come before the Jockey Club's disciplinary committee at the end of June. John Maxse, a Jockey Club spokesman, said officials were satisfied that no malpractice had been intended.

Despite the prospect of All For Luck's disqualification, Dunwoody immediately extended his lead to nine winners when Love You Madly provided him with his 189th success of the season, taking yesterday's opening race. He later scored on Windward Ariom, a 12-1 outsider.

The champion might well have reflected on how the pendulum had swung from 12 months ago when he later picked up a spare ride from Maguire. The latter had taken the day off to recover from a bruised elbow, and is to resume riding at Hereford this afternoon.

Dunwoody himself has accomplished the incredible feat of going through the whole season without losing a single day through injury (remind him of this and he searches for the nearest table to tap). Two weeks have disappeared through suspension, including the whole of the Cheltenham Festival for his Nottingham misdemeanour, while the rest of the 30-year- old's season has been a model of cold professionalism: long hours in the sauna, countrywide searches for winners and self-castigation for mistakes.

Thus, there were no premature celebration parties last night, merely a scan of the programme book to see how races were still open to Maguire. 'I'm not the brightest optimist and there are lots of meetings left and Adrian could easily ride 10 winners in a week,' he says. 'There is still work to be done.'

And even if he does secure the title before season's end the sleeves will remain at elbow level. When the jumping caravan makes its last journey of the season to Lincolnshire for an evening meeting in nine days' time Thomas Richard Dunwoody will still be riding along. 'I shall be up there,' he says. 'I want to ride in the last at Market Rasen.'

(Photograph omitted)