Nobody would have thought that when bought for a bargain 5,800 guineas as an unbroken three-year-old that she would go on to become the most successful mare that National Hunt racing has ever witnessed.
She won the 1984 Champion Hurdle and went on to land the Gold Cup two years later - the only horse ever to complete the double.
DAWN RUN, amazingly, is also the only horse to win the English, Irish and French Champion Hurdles all in the same season - a historic feat!
DAWN RUN, the daughter of DEEP RUN, started out her career being ridden by her 62-year-old owner Charmian Hill but thankfully she soon stood down to let the professionals take over. The outstanding mare, as versatile as she was talented, was trained by Paddy Mullins, the 10-times Irish champion jumps handler, at his Doninga training yard, in Kilkenny. The yard's main facility was a two-furlong circular all-weather gallop. She was campaigned hard and not wrapped up in cotton wool like many of today's stars.
DAWN RUN's first season over hurdles in 1982/1983 proved a remarkable success, as she ended her campaign as Champion Novice. The following year, she won eight of her nine races, including when completing that unique English, Irish and French treble.
The season after Jonjo O'Neill rode her to victory in the 1984 Champion Hurdle was largely spent injured and she only raced once. It meant she went into her Gold Cup season relatively inexperienced.
DAWN RUN's victory in the 1986 Cheltenham Gold Cup that really captured the racing public's imagination. Her trainer, Paddy Mullins, was far from confident that she could win such a race, despite her exploits over hurdles. As jockey Jonjo O'Neill relates, "the major threat to her chances were the fences - her jumping could be dreadful. She was a big, long-striding mare, who was fantastic at flying a hurdle and could be brilliant if she met a fence right. However, she hadn't a clue how to adjust herself when she was wrong and just took a chance".
Two wins in 1986 made her the Cheltenham Gold Cup favorite but she had unseated jockey Tony Mullins, the trainer's son (who had won 15 races on DAWN RUN), at Cheltenham in January 1986 and he was replaced by O'Neill for the big race.
In the 1986 Gold cup, DAWN RUN adopted her usual flamboyant front-running style but made several serious jumping errors. She led with two fences to go but was overtaken by 1985 Gold Cup winner FORGIVE N'FORGET and three-time King George VI Chase winner WAYWARD LAD. But as WAYWARD LAD's stamina gave way in the final climb, DAWN RUN swept back into the lead to win by three-quarters of a length in a record time.
Conventional wisdom these days indicates a Gold Cup winner doesn't run again the same season. The logic is simple: The Gold Cup is the ultimate test of endurance, a fact proven by the fact so few win it more than once.
But this was not the case with Charmian Hill; DAWN RUN would not be allowed rest on her laurels. A trip to Aintree ended at the very first fence before, reunited with Tony Mullins, she came out on top in a match with BUCK HOUSE at Punchestown.
Then her owner, against the deep misgivings and wishes of Paddy Mullins, insisted on sending DAWN RUN back to France to attempt to repeat her 1984 win in the Grande Course de Haies d'Auteuil (French Champion Hurdle). It would prove a fateful decision. Ridden by French jockey Michel Chirol, DAWN RUN broke her neck after taking a crashing fall at the fifth last. It was a tragic end to a remarkable story; DAWN RUN dies at the height of her fame.
DAWN RUN was only an eight-year-old when she perished. Her death caused endless debate about whether she had been raced too much in a long season. The fascinating, if unanswerable, question is how much more might she have achieved?
Winner of 21 of her 35 career starts, DAWN RUN had won a record national hunt total of Â£269,083; success with DAWN RUN was bittersweet for Paddy Mullins. Inevitably pressed for comment, Paddy Mullins silenced his tormentors with five words: "that mare was my life".
Maureen Mullins, whose husband Paddy trained the mare, believes there will never be another DAWN RUN. "There will never be another like her, never. She had strength, speed and determination. She was always on song. Never had an off day and had that unique desire to win. Maureen Mullins, 30 years after DAWN RUN's tragic fall on June 26, 1986; stated that her husband Paddy, who died in 2010, was heartbroken by the much-loved horse's fatal fall at the Auteuil in the French Champion Hurdle. She said: "None of us could be consoled that day. I walked a little bit across and then I saw Paddy making the sign of the cross and I thought â€˜that's the end of it' and I turned back. "Paddy was very depressed for a long time when he came back and saw her empty stable. He never put another horse in it."
Such was her popularity that her death was reported on the front page of the following day's Irish Times. A bronze statue of her and Jonjo adorns the parade ring at Cheltenham, opposite the statue of ARKLE.
This is the story of DAWN RUN - the spirited wonder mare; winner of the Champion Hurdle in 1984 and the Gold Cup in 1986 and still the only horse to have completed this incredible double. May her memory live on!
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|Category:||National Hunt / Jumps / Steeplechase|