The Giant Bolster heads to his favourite track on Saturday in search of a second consecutive win in the BetBright Cup Chase commonly known as The Cotswold Steeplechase.
Trained by David Bridgwater in the heart of the Cotswolds, his stable star has finished second, fourth and third in the last three Gold Cup’s. Three times a winner at the course he showed his liking for the ‘home of jump racing’ when sixth in the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle in 2010. It’s fair to say that it took him a little time to take to fences. As a novice chaser he failed to finish on three of his five outings, which included unseating his rider in the RSA chase.
The following season began in a similar fashion when he despatched his jockey at the first in the Paddy Power Gold Cup. An encouraging run in the Hennessy at Newbury followed, and although his prep in the Denman Chase behind Long Run looked sub-standard he saved his best for Prestbury Park. Only Synchronised could get the better of him up the famous hill in that Gold Cup of 2012. At a massive price of 50/1 he had run the race of his life, and proved that he was a serious force in the staying chase division.
For his trainer the performance was a dream come true. The son of Ken Bridgwater himself a highly regarded trainer, he left home to be apprentice for Lester Piggott at the age of just 14. Soon too big for the flat he became a conditional jockey, first for David Nicholson and then with greater success for Nigel Twiston-Davies. His record soon attracted one of the top jobs and a switch to the Martin Pipe stable. Sadly a successful career as a jockey was cut short due to injury.
Bridgwater started training in 1998 and is based at Wyck Hill Farm, a short distance from the charming Stow-on-the-Wold. The yard is set in 120 acres of stunning Cotswold countryside. With Jonjo O’Neill and Nigel Twiston-Davies as close neighbours, it’s an area of high calibre jump racing operations. With around 30 horses in training he currently has 20 winners from 132 runners for the season, with prize money of £167,000.
Of his stable star’s prospects this weekend, Bridgwater talks with his usual honesty: “The Giant Bolster's preparation has been grand and we are looking forward to it. His first run at Wetherby was rubbish but his second run at Haydock was brilliant (fifth in the Betfair Chase) and Tom gave him a lovely ride. He is a very promising young jockey and it is the plan for him to ride on Saturday. Oliver Sherwood's horse won the Hennessy and looks the one to beat.”
Wyck Hill is the yard’s other superstar and is close to his seasonal return. His win in the Eider Chase at Newcastle last February was another high point for the yard and he is being aimed at this year’s Grand National.
But for now it’s all about The Giant Bolster and a date at his favourite racecourse. Just a short ride in the horsebox could lead to another wonderful day for David Bridgwater and his team. As the trainer recently said: "If he runs well, or does something silly like win, he won't be 33-1 (for the Gold Cup), so if you are thinking of backing him, now is the time."