It looked as though nothing could come between him and his fi st Grand National win on a horse owned by the Queen Mother to boot. But then his mount did something that has mystified racing fans ever since: he suddenly jumped into the air and landed on his stomach, allowing E S B — the second placed horse — to overtake and win. It was a crushing disappointment but it turned out to have a rather large silver lining, according to his son Felix. Dick Francis certainly prospered after he hung up his saddle one year later and embarked on a writing career. Dick published a thriller called Dead Cert and it proved to be such a success that he went on to write 40 more bestsellers before his death in It is a gripping tale involving the death of a man found unconscious at Cheltenham and features the first female lead in the Francis canon.
BBC News - Obituary: Dick Francis
DICK FRANCIS, the jockey who turned to writing bestselling thrillers set in the world of horse racing — and produced one annually for more than 30 years — has died at his Caribbean home on Grand Cayman at the age of 89, his sons said yesterday. The thrillers were hugely successful, with a copy of his latest novel always sent to the queen mother, who had also been his patron on the track. Buckingham Palace said the queen, who does not usually comment on the deaths of thriller writers, would be saddened to hear the news. Before he was a writer, Francis had been a distinguished jump jockey, riding winners in a nine-year career, though his most famous ride ended in disaster when, in , his horse Devon Loch collapsed on the verge of winning the Grand National.
Obituary: Dick Francis
Fifty years ago, as Devon Loch inexplicably crashed to the ground 10 strides from victory to provide the most mysterious and sensational of all the stories produced by the Grand National, a teenage boy was living his own fairy tale. As Dick Francis and the Queen Mother's horse slithered on his belly into legend, the horse who should have finished seventh, Martinique, was just coming to the elbow to realise a dream for his year-old jockey, who was completing the course on his first ride in the race. When I went past I didn't dwell on it or look, as far as I was concerned it was just another faller.
The only Francis novel I had read at that point had been enjoyable. The main character was a world-weary jockey coming to the end of his career, being pressured to fix races, and, despite threats, unwilling to do so. The hero was beaten up at least once, and his pain was described in a way that made me wince. He wrote about jockeys and wine merchants and breeders and the great variety of people connected to racing.