The great Dawn Run is testament to what can be achieved in racing contrary to the training norms.
Not only was she the most successful racing mare within the jumps sphere, but she managed to do things no others racehorses have done. Dawn Run won the Champion Hurdle in 1984 and the Gold Cup in 1986. She is the only ever horse to complete that double.
As well as that, she was only the second over mare to win the Champion Hurdle, paving the way for the likes of Epatante and Honeysuckle, while she was also the only horse to ever complete a Champion Hurdle treble in England, Ireland and France.
Among her honours are having some high-profile races named after her. The Dawn Run Mares Novice Chase is a Grade 2 at Limerick, while the Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle is the Grade 2 now run during the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Dawn Run’s Pedigree
Dawn Run is the daughter of Deep Run, a very successful National Hunt sire over many years.
She was bought for 5,800 guineas, around £23,000 in 2022, and sent to Paddy Mullins to be trained.
Her success isn’t a great surprise when you look at her lovely pedigree. Deep Run was champion National Hunt sire and the entire family was very successful over jumps.
When she began to mature, she was a big, long-striding type who was always going to take well to fences at some stage.
|Sire/Dam||Grand Sire/Dam||Great Grand Sire/Dam|
|Deep Run||Pampered King||Prince Chevalier|
|Trial by Fire||Court Martial|
|Twilight Slave||Arctic Slave||Arctic Star|
Dawn Run’s first season consisted of three runs in bumper races. Her owner, Mrs Hill, was on board each time and when the pair won their third start at Tralee, 62-year-old Mrs Hill gained her last winner in public.
In her second season she gained a couple more bumper wins, now under trainer’s son Tony Mullins. She took to hurdles well after that and was rated 168 by the time the spring came. She had a number of races before the Cheltenham Festival.
Taking in the Sun Alliance Hurdle, Dawn Run went off at 11/1 and was the best of the Irish-trained runners. Three weeks later she ran on two consecutive days at the Grand National meeting, running all over her rivals in a handicap hurdle under top weight before being beaten by only a length against the first three from the Champion Hurdle.
Her star was rising and in taking in so many races, her toughness was by now very evident.
Her second season as a hurdler led to her reaching a rating of 173. She managed eight wins from nine starts, clocking up significant mileage again, winning from two miles to more than three and on ground from heavy to firm. She earned a record £149,957 across the 83/84 season which was a record for a jumper, some £430,000 today.
In 1984 Dawn Run did something no other horse could do. She took down then Champion Hurdles in England, at the Cheltenham Festival, in Ireland and in France. She was set to go chasing after that.
Dawn Run had managed only a single chasing start in 1984/85, but the following season she was at her best and began in December. She won Punchestown Chase by eight lengths and then beat Buck House by four at Leopardstown in a great start to what was hoped to be a Gold Cup campaign.
Her unbeaten run in chases came to an end in January when she tackled the fences at Cheltenham in what is now the Cotswold Chase.
That didn’t put trainer Mullins off and she was due to go to Punchestown for a prep. That meeting was abandoned, leaving only schooling gallops available to prep her for the big one having not jumped very well in January.
Her ability was not underestimated and she was sent off the 15/8 favourite for the 1986 Gold Cup. She battled for the lead with Run And Skip and her jumping was good in the early part of the race.
On the second circuit however, she made mistakes and between the final two fences she was outpaced by Forgive N’ Forget and Wayward Lad. Looking beaten, she got over the last two lengths down before showing her usual guts to keep fighting up the hill.
Dawn Run got to and got by her rivals, landing a very famous Cheltenham Gold Cup victory, writing herself into racing’s history books.
Dawn Run’s biggest wins:
|1983||Ascot Hurdle, Ascot|
|1983||Christmas Hurdle, Kempton|
|1984||Irish Champion Hurdle, Leopardstown|
|1984||Champion Hurdle, Cheltenham|
|1984||French Champion Hurdle, Auteuil|
|1985||Durkan Brothers Chase, Punchestown|
|1986||Cheltenham Gold Cup, Cheltenham|
Dawn Run was bred by John Riordan and was owned during her racing career by Charmian Hill. Mrs Hill also rode the mare early in her career in bumpers.
She was trained by Paddy Mullins who did the job for an amazing 52 years. He is also the father of the great Willie Mullins, as well as Tom and Tony Mullins.
A number of jockeys rode Dawn Run in her career, but Jonjo O’Neill had been on board for her Champion Hurdle win in 1984 and was reunited with her for the very first time on the track when winning the 1986 Gold Cup.