Horse Talk with Simon Jackson:
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DESERT Orchid won the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park four times for veteran trainer David Elsworth who announced his retirement this week.
Desert Orchid became the people’s favourite during a glittering career where the dashing grey won a host of big prizes that included a Cheltenham Gold Cup, Whitbread Gold Cup and Irish Grand National alongside the quartet of King George victories and a statue in his honour overlooks the parade ring at Kempton Park.
The 82-year-old Elsworth – who won a national hunt trainer’s championship, the 1988 Grand National with Rhyme ‘N’ Reason and two Queen Mother Champion Chases with Barnbrook Again – was widely regarded as the UK’s greatest dual-purpose trainer.
Elsworth prepared many top flat horses, notably Irish 1000 Guineas winner In The Groove and Persian Punch, winner of a host of staying races including three Henry II Stakes, two Goodwood Cups, two Lonsdale Stakes and was twice third in the Melbourne Cup.
“This isn’t a sudden decision and I think everybody has been anticipating it,” Elsworth told the Racing Post. “I don’t want to make a fuss. I really just want to exit quietly. I don’t think it’s a big deal but I no longer have any horses and I won’t be renewing my licence, so you can now definitely say I’m retiring.”
“I had decided I wasn’t going to train next season but I wanted to tie up the loose ends and finish with the horses I had before saying anything.
“What I didn’t want was for people to be always asking if a certain horse was going to be my last runner. I wanted that to happen before I told everybody that I’m no longer training.
“I’ll see how the wind blows before deciding what to do next. My home is in Newmarket and I’m not planning to up sticks and move anywhere – I just won’t be operating as a trainer.”
Elsworth started his racing career in 1955. He added: “I don’t want to over-dramatise things but mine were humble beginnings and I certainly wasn’t an overnight success.
“I rode for a few years but as a trainer I’ve always been fortunate to have a team around me that has been filled with people who have been as enthusiastic as I was. We all worked together, we all enjoyed it and we had our fair share of success, so it has been very rewarding.
“I’m very lucky and I’ve had some great days. In anyone’s life there are things you’re particularly pleased about – and when you’re a racehorse trainer those things are usually the races you’ve won.
“We obviously had Persian Punch and Desert Orchid but there were so many other good horses. We’ve had horses like Heighlin, Cavvies Clown, Norse Dancer, Rhyme ‘N’ Reason, Ghofar, In The Groove, Mighty Fly and Arabian Queen. You have to be lucky to get horses like that. I’ve lived a charmed existence.”
“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.”
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