Desert Orchid top of Elsworth’s all-star cast

David Elsworth trained some of the greats of the game, under both codes:

Desert Orchid

Desert Orchid remains a National Hunt legend
Desert Orchid remains a National Hunt legend (Barry Batchelor/PA)

The most famous horse handled by Elsworth during his illustrious career, this gallant grey transcended racing to become a household name. It appeared his first race could be his last when he fell heavily on debut at Kempton. However, Desert Orchid eventually got to his feet and a legend was born, with his attacking style of racing and versatility in terms of distance making him a National Hunt great. A four-times King George VI Chase winner, he finally landed the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1989, but while he did not lack for class, he also shouldered some huge weights – not least when winning the 1990 Irish Grand National, conceding a full two stone to all but one of his rivals. Desert Orchid helped to raise significant sums for charity following his retirement and his popularity barely waned until his death in 2006 when Elsworth said Dessie had died “in the same individual way that he did his living”.

Persian Punch

Persian Punch was a staying star for Elsworth
Persian Punch was a staying star for Elsworth (Andrew Parsons/PA)

Another crowd favourite, Persian Punch racked up an amazing 20 wins from his 63 career starts – a statistic that perfectly encapsulates his famed tenacity. A fixture in the long-distance Cup races between 1997 and 2003, Persian Punch never managed to get his head in front at the highest level. While he could not secure a Group One victory, Persian Punch was just denied the stayers’ triple crown of Goodwood Cup, Ascot Gold Cup, and Doncaster Cup when Mr Dinos beat him into second at Ascot at the ripe old age of 10. He won three Jockey Club Cups, a Doncaster Cup, two Goodwood Cups, three Henry II Stakes, and two Lonsdale Cups, and also counted two memorable thirds in the Melbourne Cup on his record.

In The Groove

In The Groove counted the Juddmonte International at York among her Group One wins
In The Groove counted the Juddmonte International at York among her Group One wins (John Giles/PA)

An exceptional filly who graduated from victory in the 1990 renewal of the Irish 1,000 Guineas to establish herself a middle-distance force. Only fourth to Salsabil in the Oaks at Epsom, In The Groove showed the colts and her older rivals a clean pair of heels in the Juddmonte International and while an Arc run yielded little joy, In The Groove sparkled again dropped back to 10 furlongs for the Champion Stakes. Kept in training as a four-year-old, In The Groove proved her 12 furlong pedigree with a Coronation Cup win in a campaign that encompassed some of the calendar’s biggest events and culminated in a Breeders’ Cup Turf defeat.

Rhyme ‘N’ Reason

Rhyme ‘N’ Reason recovered from a terrible blunder to win the 1988 Grand National
Rhyme ‘N’ Reason recovered from a terrible blunder to win the 1988 Grand National (PA)

Not even a terrible blunder jumping Becher’s Brook for the first time could derail Rhyme ‘N’ Reason’s challenge. A previous winner of the Irish Grand National, Elsworth’s runner had come to grief when still in contention for the Cheltenham Gold Cup the previous month and it looked as though the same fate awaited at Aintree before Brendan Powell somehow managed to maintain the partnership. He got himself back into contention and while for all the world Durham Edition seemed he had his measure, Rhyme ‘N’ Reason dug deep to give Elsworth victory in the world’s greatest steeplechase.

Barnbrook Again

Barnbrook Again won two Champion Chases at Cheltenham
Barnbrook Again won two Champion Chases at Cheltenham (Barry Batchelor/PA)

A two-mile dynamo, Barnbrook Again was a back-to-back winner the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in 1989 and 1990. While he enjoyed his biggest moments at the minimum trip, Elsworth was quite clear he was not a one-trick pony, stating he could well have won a King George were it not for his stablemate Desert Orchid. Winner of 17 of his 31 starts over jumps, Barnbrook Again was part of a golden era for Elsworth’s jumps string.

Oh So Risky

Oh So Risky was a crowd favourite during his racing days
Oh So Risky was a crowd favourite during his racing days (Fiona Hanson/PA)

This dual-purpose performer was another to be strutting his stuff to great effect in the early ’90s. Winner of the Triumph Hurdle in 1991, Oh So Risky did not get his head in front that many times during his lengthy career, but his honest attitude and near-misses, not least when runner-up in two Champion Hurdles, garnered a legion of fans. Good enough on the Flat to win a French Group Three at his peak, Oh So Risky recorded the last of his nine career wins over fences at Ascot in 1996, enduring a luckless final year.

Lear Spear

Lear Spear was a shock 20-1 winner of the Prince of Wales's Stakes
Lear Spear was a shock 20-1 winner of the Prince of Wales’s Stakes (Sean Dempsey/PA)

Lear Spear graduated from victory in the 1998 Cambridgeshire to a shock 20-1 success in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at the following year. He had a superstar back in second that day in six-times Group One winner Fantastic Light. He went on to be an international contender for Elsworth, finishing third in the Hong Kong Cup before heading to Dubai, where he twice clashed with Dubai Millennium. Beaten into second on the initial match up, Lear Spear proved no match on the second occasion in the Dubai World Cup.

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