Tribute to Dick Francis including footage of the 1956 Grand National
(Footage : ITN)
Tribute to best selling author and Champion Jockey, Dick Francis,
who passed away at the age of 89 on Sunday night.
To many, the name Dick Francis is synonymous with powerful crime fiction, to many others he was one of Britain’s most successful post war national hunt jockeys, whose talents earned him Championship honours in the field of steeplechasing from 1953 to 1954.
Dick Francis started life as the son of a stable manager and left school at the age of 15. He went on to ride over 2000 races, winning 345, in a career that saw more than his fair share of injuries including a fractured skull, 6 broken collar bones, 5 broken noses and numerous broken ribs.
Francis competed in eight Grand Nationals, the most famous of which is perhaps when partnering the Queen Mother’s horse Devon Loch, who inexplicably “belly flopped” close to the finish line in 1956. Well known eccentric, John McCririck said last night, “Dick was the kind of man everybody in racing liked, and they all knew he was a gentleman, but I think he will forever be remembered for that moment of defeat in the Grand National, and the dignity that he showed”.
Dick Francis was an “uncle” to many latter day champions, including Lester Piggott, who as his biography reveals was scolded and drawn aside for fatherly advice during his early career as a jump jockey, prior to making his name on the flat.
A serious fall ended Francis’ riding career in 1957 and started another equally successful career as an author of thrillers involving the racing world, packed with mystery and intrigue; he had the ability to captivate everyone through his talent as both a jockey and writer.
From one champion to another, we bid you farewell.