He hit the ground running, though, saddling his first winner, Lynton Lad, in a small conditions stakes race at Yarmouth, within a month of taking over the training licence. He finished his first full season, 1995, with a respectable 17 winners and just under £183,000 in total prize money.
However, by the end of the following season, he’d saddled not just one Group 1 winner, but two. His first success at the highest level came with Ta Rib, owned by Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum, in the Dubai Poule D’essai Des Pouliches at Longchamp in May, 1996, and the second with Iktamal, owned by Sheikh Maktoum al Maktoum, in the Haydock Park Sprint Cup the following September.
Dunlop progressed through the training ranks until, in 2001, he enjoyed his most successful season ever, numerically, thanks to a string of high-profile victories. His flag-bearer that season was Lailani, who won the Kildangan Stud Irish Oaks at the Curragh, Vodafone Nassau Stakes at Goodwood and the Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park, New York.
However, the horse that really made his name was Ouija Board, who won 10 of her 22 races between 2003 and 2006, including seven Group 1 wins. Her winning tally included the Vodafone Oaks, the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (twice) and the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin. During her career, Dunlop said of her, “Having her outweighs everything. She’s changed my career, changed my life, changed [owner] Lord Derby’s life.”
Having moved to La Grange Stables on Fordham Road, Newmarket at the end of 2008, Dunlop enjoyed further success at the highest level with Snow Fairy. Between 2010 and 2012, the Intikhab filly won six Group 1 races, including the Investec Oaks, the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup at Kyoto, Japan (twice), the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin and the Red Mills Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.