William Richard "Dick" Hern, CVO, also known as ‘The Major’ (January 20, 1921 – May 22, 2002) was an English Thoroughbred racehorse trainer, winner of sixteen British Classic Races between 1962 and 1995, and was Champion Trainer four times. He trained some of the most outstanding racehorses, namely, Nashwan, Brigadier Gerard, Henbit and Troy. Other major winners include Sun Princess, Dayjur, Hethersett, Bireme, Bustino, Longboat, Little Wolf , Petoski, Highclere, Provoke, Prince of Dance, Minster Son, Unfuwain, Dunfermline and Cut Above.
He was born on January 20th 1921, in Halford, Somerset in the UK and was educated at Millfield School, Street, Somerset. Dick served as a tank commander in World War II and reached the rank of major. After the war, he rode in point to point races, then became a successful riding instructor and in 1952 was appointed as coach to the British equestrian team, which won a gold medal for show jumping in the Helsinski Summer Olympics. After such a great Olympics, he then turned to training and worked first as assistant to Major Michael Pope, whom he served with during the war.
When he started training in his own right in 1957, his first job was as private trainer to the late Lionel Holliday at La Grange Stables in Newmarket, Suffolk. Dick Hern went on to win 17 Classic races, including the Oaks and St. Leger with Queen Elizabeth’s Dunfermiline in 1977, the year of the Silver Jubilee. He was England’s champion trainer in 1962, 1972, 1980, and 1983, with his best seasons being in 1977 and 1978 when he trained the amazing sum of 74 winners each year.
One of his most wonderful successes was when Brigadier Gerard, who won 17 out of 18 races, defeated the great horse Mill Reef in the 1971 Two Thousand Guineas. Eight years elapsed before Dick won the Epsom Derby for the first time, with a horse called Troy that ran a fantastic race and won in the most spectacular fashion. Dick won the Derby the very next year with Henbit and again in 1989 with Nashwan. In December 1984, Dick broke his neck and so was seriously disabled, in a hunting accident, after which time he had to use a wheelchair.
In 1990, whilst recovering from heart surgery, he was controversially sacked after twenty-four years, from his position as trainer for Queen Elizabeth II at West Ilsley Stables in Berkshire, by her racing manager 7th Earl of Carnarvon. Later they reached a compromise and Dick Hern shared the stable with the new position holder – William Hasting-Bass, for a year, before moving to Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum’s Kingwood House Stables in Lambourn in 1991.
Dick Hern died on May 22nd 2002 in Oxford, England at the age of 81, outliving his wife Sheilah, who died in 1998.