David Elsworth calls time on his brilliant coaching career
David Elsworth, trainer of the great Desert Orchid, has announced his retirement after a long and illustrious career.
‘Dessie’, as the dashing gray was affectionately nicknamed by his adoring audience, has won the 1989 Cheltenham Gold Cup as well as the four-time King George VI Chase and the 1990 Irish Grand National – among many other great races.
Elsworth has won numerous major jump races including the 1988 Grand National with Rhyme ‘N’ Reason and the Queen Mother Champion Chase with Barnbrook Again in 1989 and 1990.
The 82-year-old has been a leading all-round trainer for many years with the legendary stayer Persian Punch, one of his most popular flat horses.
But on Wednesday afternoon, Elsworth confirmed he had decided to quit.
He said, “If you’re going to a party, there’s a time to come home.
“I am not upset or discouraged by anything. It’s just time to move on. I had a good time.
Other prominent Elsworth artists included In The Groove, winner of the Irish 1,000 Guineas, Juddmonte International and Champion Stakes in 1990, and Arabian Queen – who won the Juddmonte International in 2015, beating the winner of the Derby Golden Horn. He celebrated Group 2 success in 2019, with Sir Dancealot clinching the Lennox Stakes at Goodwood.
Elsworth, based in Newmarket after many years in Whitsbury, Hampshire, has largely focused on Flat in recent years.
“I feel like I’ve been a very, very lucky man to have done a job all my life – and it hasn’t been a job. It really is a sport and I have participated in it in various ways, ”he said.
“I’ve improved over the years and we’ve had some success, for which I feel very lucky and we’ve been paired with some great horses, and it’s been a great time.
“It excites you. You just do your job and do what you love and when you win it’s good. I was very grateful and lucky. I feel very lucky to have been doing this for a long time.
“I started 67 years ago. I started at the start and finished at the finish – I went through different stages of success and frustration like anyone else in any field.
“I had a lot of fun and it made me feel good.”
Elsworth obtained his full training license in the 1978-79 jumping season after a career as a professional jumping jockey from 1957 to 1972 and a stint as an assistant to Ricky Vallance.
After successfully applying for a license in June 1978, Elsworth started out with three horses – Raffia Set, Skyline Drive and Cumberland Reel. All three made sure he hit the ground running by scoring eight wins between them in 1979.
A first example of his skill at the highest level under both codes came from Heighlin.
Bought to win the Triumph Hurdle, he duly did so to provide Elsworth with his first Cheltenham Festival winner in 1980, but he was also the coach’s first Royal Ascot winner that same year in the Ascot Stakes. He won the Goodwood Cup in 1982.
His move to Whitsbury Manor in 1981 marked a real step forward and in 1983 Mighty Fly became the first horse to win the Lincoln and the Royal Hunt Cup in the same season.
Elsworth’s eye for a bargain has never left him and the 22,000 Irish punts he paid for Indian Ridge, which won the Jersey Stakes in 1988 and the King’s Stand the following year, before d being a big success at stud was one of his shrewd purchases.
It was around this time that Elsworth experienced his golden spell on jumps, and in Desert Orchid, Barnbrook Again, Rhyme ‘N’ Reason, Coombs Ditch, Floyd and Cavvies Clown were all prominent performers for a number of years.
If Elsworth’s skills ever needed publicity, however, a six-week period in 1990 should be remembered. Desert Orchid won the Irish Grand National while In The Groove traveled to win the Irish 1,000 Guineas.
Watch: Desert Orchid – Her Story of King George
Over the past two decades Elsworth has trained almost exclusively on the Flat and moved to Newmarket in 2006 – but his exploits with Barshiba, his first Arabian Queen foal and Sir Dancealot have proven he can still mix it with the better.
Elsworth said: “If you are a footballer you have to be on a good team and running is a team effort too.
“I was surrounded by a lot of people who were with me and they shared the ambitions and the hopes, and the success that we had, maybe I was at the helm, but you can’t be a coach of racehorses unless you are surrounded by good horses and good people.
“I have had plenty of them over the year and have been very lucky. “
His most beautiful horses
Elsworth’s most famous horse in his illustrious career, this gallant gray transcended racing to become a household name. It appeared his first run could be his last when he fell heavily on his debut at Kempton. However, Desert Orchid eventually stood up and a legend was born, with his offensive racing style and range versatility making him an excellent National Hunt. Four-time winner of the King George VI Chase, he eventually clinched the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1989, but while he was not lacking in class, he also carried enormous weights – most notably in the Irish Grand National victory in 1990, conceding two full stones to all but one of his rivals. Desert Orchid helped raise large sums for charity after his retirement and her popularity barely waned until her death in 2006, when Elsworth said Dessie died “in the same individual way he earned his life”.
Another public favorite, Persian Punch has racked up an incredible 20 wins in 63 career starts – a stat that sums up his famous tenacity perfectly. A staple in long-distance Cup races between 1997 and 2003, Persian Punch never managed to gain the upper hand at the highest level. Although he could not secure a victory in Group 1, Persian Punch was denied the triple crown of the stayers of the Goodwood Cup, Ascot Gold Cup and Doncaster Cup when Mr. Dinos l ‘broke second in Ascot at the age of 10. He has won three Jockey Club Cups, one Doncaster Cup, two Goodwood Cups, three Henry II Stakes and two Lonsdale Cups, and has also had two memorable Melbourne Cup thirds to his name.
in the groove
An exceptional filly who graduated with victory at the renewal of the 1,000 Irish Guineas in 1990 to build up a middle distance force. Only fourth behind Salsabil in the Oaks at Epsom, In The Groove showed colts and older rivals a clean pair of heels in the Juddmonte International and while an Arc run gave little joy, In The Groove sparked again dropped to 10 stages for the Champions Stakes. Kept in training at the age of four, In The Groove proved their 12-stage pedigree with a Coronation Cup victory in a campaign that encompassed some of the biggest events on the calendar and resulted in a loss of the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Rhyme ‘N’ Reason
Not even a terrible blunder when jumping off Becher Creek for the first time could derail Rhyme ‘N’ Reason’s challenge. A former Irish Grand National winner, the runner from Elsworth had failed while still in contention for the Cheltenham Gold Cup the previous month and it looked like the same fate awaited him at Aintree before Brendan Powell made it through to maintain the partnership. He got back into contention and while for everyone the Durham Edition seemed to have its measure, Rhyme ‘N’ Reason dug deep to give Elsworth the victory in the world’s biggest steeplechase.
A two-mile dynamo, Barnbrook Again won back-to-back Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in 1989 and 1990. Although he enjoyed his greatest moments at a minimum, Elsworth was pretty clear that he was not a one-off lap. . pony, stating that he could very well have won a King George without his stable mate Desert Orchid. Winning 17 of his 31 jump starts, Barnbrook Again was part of a golden age for the Elsworth jump chain.
Oh so risky
This dual-purpose artist was another to strut about with great effect in the early 1990s. Triumph Hurdle winner in 1991, Oh So Risky has not had his head ahead so many times in his long career, but his honest demeanor and his near misses, especially when he finished second in two hurdles champions, gathered a legion of Fans. Good enough on the flat to win a French group in their prime, Oh So Risky recorded the last of his nine career fencing wins at Ascot in 1996, enduring a miserable final year.
Lear Spear went from winning in Cambridgeshire 1998 to a shock 20-1 success in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes the following year. He had a returning second-place superstar that day in Fantastic Light, a six-time Group One winner. He was then an international contender for Elsworth, finishing third in the Hong Kong Cup before traveling to Dubai, where he faced Dubai Millennium twice. Beaten in second in the opening match, Lear Spear failed to prove a match in the second time at the Dubai World Cup.