‘He was a perfectionist’ – Dunwoody tribute to retiring David Elsworth

Three times champion jump jockey described David Elsworth as a “perfectionist” as he paid tribute to the highly-successful dual-purpose handler, who announced his retirement on Wednesday after five decades in the training ranks.

Dunwoody rode plenty of big-race winners for Elsworth before his retirement through injury in 2000, but is best remembered for partnering Desert Orchid to victory in two of his four King George VI Chase victories, an Irish Grand National, and an incredible weight-carrying performance in the Racing Post Chase.

“This will be a huge loss to the training ranks. Elsie was always very, very astute,” said Dunwoody, a dual Grand National-winning rider.

“It was great riding for him. I really enjoyed riding for him and we had some good winners together.

“Luckily for me, owner Richard Burridge was the main driving force to get me the ride on Desert Orchid and the ‘Duke’ (David Nicholson) helped, letting me become available. I will always be grateful to them for that.

“Riding for Elsie was always very straightforward. He used to say, ‘You know him now, get on with it’.

“Astute is the word. He was a perfectionist, but he had a gift of knowing a horse inside out.”

While Desert Orchid landed a Cheltenham Gold Cup and fans were guaranteed a glorious white Christmas as he was a standing dish at Kempton on Boxing Day, Dunwoody has long felt that the grey’s best effort came on February 24, 1990, at the Sunbury track, when an 11-year-old.

“I still think that the top performance Desert Orchid put in was the then-Listed Racing Post Chase, with all that weight. Almost as soon as I got off, Elsie said, ‘I wish today would have been Gold Cup day’.

“He had him absolutely on song that day. It was some performance. He carried 12st 6lb with a penalty, and he was giving two stone and upwards to the likes of class horses like Delius, Ballyhane, who was a decent horse, Solidasarock, who ran some great races, Twin Oaks and Seagram, and he produced an absolutely unbelievable performance. It was a quick-run three miles on good ground as well.

“Elsie has always called a spade a spade, but I really enjoyed going down to Whitsbury Manor Stables and riding for him – although every time I went to ride work Desert Orchid always p***** off with me, but we were all ready for that.

“Elsie was always to the point. There were a couple of times I had to get off Desert Orchid because the Duke was going to run something else or go somewhere else, and Elsie was very good about it. He said, ‘Don’t worry, he is only going there for a run. You’re fine’.

“He knew his horses so well. He is a proper, proper horseman and I had nothing but respect for the way he handled his horses.

“It shows with those horses like Barnbrook Again, In The Groove, Persian Punch and plenty more what a great exponent of this craft he was.”

“His overall management of Desert Orchid was second to none. He loved the old horse as well. I’ve nothing but good words to say about David Elsworth, he is a true legend and I wish him a happy retirement.”

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