Bob Champion was a successful national hunt jockey; winning the Grand National on Aldaniti 1981, after recovering from cancer. His extraordinary story was made into a film ‘Champion’ with John Hurt taking Bob’s part; Hurt going on to win a BAFTA award for his role.
Bob Champion was born on 4th June 1948 in Tonbridge, Kent. Being a natural horseman, it was inevitable that he should ride as an amateur. He rode his first winner at Plumpton on 17th January 1968 and turned professional in May of that year. Bob’s racing career took him to America, where he rode several winners. In 1979 he was diagnosed with cancer and was given six months to live. After several months of chemotherapy, he returned to race riding; coming back with several winners both in England and America.
Against the odds, in 1981 Bob won the Grand National on Aldaniti, trained by Josh Gifford; and finally retired from racing in 1983, having won some 500 races. In 1983 Bob received the MBE and also formed the Bob Champion Cancer Trust; which to date has raised over six and a half million pounds, towards cancer research. Bob had his life story portrayed in the book ‘Champion’s Story’, which was made into a feature film starring John Hurt.
In August 1996 Bob undertook ‘Ride for Life’, which was a ride on several horses, from Hollyrood Palace in Edinburgh to Buckingham Palace, London; where he was greeted by Her Majesty The Queen. This was to raise a million pounds towards a new research unit, at the Royal Marsden Hospital. This sum has now been achieved and The Institute of Cancer have also donated a further million pounds, towards this project. The new Research Unit opened in September 2000.
Bob Champion retired from training racehorses in 1999, having achieved many winners. In April 2000 Bob commenced a pilot scheme with the Northern Racing College, to encourage school leavers to have a career as stable staff and apprentice jockeys. The same year he had the honour of speaking at the Oxford Union.
In 2011 Bob was named winner of the Helen Rollason Trophy, for outstanding achievement in the face of adversity; during the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year show.
Memorable Racing Wins
- Winner of Grand National on Aldaniti 1981
- Winner of Hennessey Gold Cup – William Hill
- Christmas Hurdle – S.G.B. Chase
- Hurdle – Black and White Hurdle
- Third Place National Hunt Jockey – 1977/78
- Season with 56 winners.
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Matthew Willetts MA is the Director of Comicus who has over 35 years experience in television, film, theatre, and comedy club/cabaret entertainment, working as a performer, screenwriter, producer and agent. He lectured at Southampton Solent University in Comedy, Screenwriting, Television, Theatre & Radio. Matthew can sometimes be seen and heard on TV & Radio and often quoted in the national press and media publications. As well as speaking regularly at festivals and industry conferences, he has been a judge at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Montreux Television Festival.
Some reviews of Bob Champion
Just a short note to thank you so much for coming to our dinner last night. It really made a difference … There is a downside – you were so good I will have to invite you to the next such event.
Just a quick note to thank you for a great speech at our sporting dinner last week. All our guests enjoyed the evening and found your life story very interesting.
I wish to confirm in writing our grateful thanks… Your speech was warm and conveyed the appropriate message for the evening, and I am certain that many people were delighted by your presence.