David Elsworth: more than a one horse trainer
Gary McKenzie looks at the training career of David Elsworth and the great horses with which he’ll forever be associated
David Elsworth has retired from training racehorses. He is 82 years old so I think he is allowed.
Any mention of Elsworth will always bring Desert Orchid to mind.
He trained the great grey to win four King Georges, a Whitbread, an Irish Grand National, a Racing Post Chase, and that memorable Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The horse also won the Tingle Creek and Victor Chandler (giving lumps of weight) over two miles. Most trainers would be happy enough to have a horse like that in their stable.
But the man known as “Elsie” was no one trick pony. Barnbrook Again won a pair of Champion Chases and was good enough to finish second to Dessie in the 1989 King George to give his trainer a 1-2 in the race.
Rhyme N Reason was an awful result for the bookies after winning the Grand National in 1988 (I didn’t get to the pub until gone seven that night) and I was a big fan of Cavvies Clown who he sent out to finish runner up in a Gold Cup.
Not content with hoovering up trophies during the winter he also trained some top Flat horses. None more so than Persian Punch who won 13 Pattern races during his career.
This equalled the then record held by Ardross, Acatenango, and the legend that was Brigadier Gerard. So he was keeping good company.
He never managed to land a Group 1 but he was a top stayer. He was second in two Ascot Gold Cups and also placed in two Melbourne Cups. He did win a Doncaster Cup, two Goodwood Cups and three Jockey Club Cups.
He was such a popular boy. And although the horse had a fantastic constitution and attitude his trainer has to take some credit for bringing him out year after year.
Elsworth’s best horse on the level was surely In The Groove. She won the Musidora and the Irish 1000 Guineas in the space of eleven days. She beat the boys in both the Juddmonte and the Champion Stakes and won the Coronation Cup the following season. She was some weapon.
My favourite Elsworth trained horse (apart from Dessie of course) was Norse Dancer. Like Persian Punch he was owned by Jeff Smith who was a major supporter of Elsworth.
Another horse who just couldn’t get his head in front in the top races he rarely ran a bad race. He earned over £700,000 but only 10% of that was for winning.
He was a 100/1 chance when finishing third in the 2000 Guineas before finishing fourth in the Derby. The following season he was third in the Lockinge and a close second in both the Juddmonte and Irish Champion Stakes.
He also finished second in the 2005 King George at 50/1. Elsie was never one to worry about a horses odds.
David Elsworth was born out of wedlock at a time when that would have been scandalous. Elsworth himself says “people do call me a bastard and I suppose they’re right.”
He describes himself as a grumpy old sod but he is always good for a quote or anecdote. He tells of his “drinking races” with Richard Hannon senior. Elsworth says he could never beat his pal but he had a go.
I can’t imagine the master trainer will be sitting in his rocking chair doing nothing. He is too active. And surely younger trainers will call on him for advice.
I’ll let the great man have the last word
“I never looked upon racing as a chore or a job. It has been great fun but now I’m retiring. I really don’t think it’s a big deal and I’m not sad about it. You have to call time at some point. It’s like a party – eventually you have to go home.”
Here’s hoping for a long and happy retirement.