Bridgwater chasing more Silver Cup success with The Conditional

David Bridgwater lifted the Silver Cup with Wyck Hill in 2012 and saddles Ultima Chase hero The Conditional on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Racing.

  • Thursday 17 December
  • Blog
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By Graham Dench

David Bridgwater says he knew THE CONDITIONAL was something special almost the moment he arrived from Ireland. At Ascot on Saturday the eight-year-old has another opportunity to underline the point.

A winner for the stable twice already at Cheltenham, including in the Ultima Chase, and placed in the last two runnings of the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury, The Conditional heads to Berkshire with a major chance in the Good Luck Hollie In SPOTY Silver Cup Handicap Chase. The stable won the same race back in 2012 with Wyck Hill, and Bridgwater is entitled to be optimistic.

Watch the December Racing Weekend at Ascot live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Friday 18th and Saturday 19th December.

He said: “He travels, jumps and stays, and you can put him anywhere. He can handle horrendous ground too - he just wouldn’t want to be in front too soon.

“He’s a lot better than Wyck Hill, and unlike him he is a Grand National horse, although I’m not sure his owner Peter Cave is a Grand National owner, and I’m not sure I’m a Grand National trainer either.”

Recalling how The Conditional came to the yard as a point-to-point and maiden hurdle winner, though still a novice over fences, he said: “Peter had run out of home breds and asked me to find him a Saturday horse. Niall McLoughlin buys nearly all of my horses and he found The Conditional in Ireland. It’s vulgar to talk about figures, but he wasn’t silly money.”

He added: “My wife Lucy is a very good judge, and after his first canter she said: ‘This is a tool’. If she’s happy then I’m happy, but I don’t rush horses and he looked a bit lean and mean, so I put him in a field to let him grow and mature.”

First time out The Conditional delighted everyone with a promising third at Worcester, and with that run under his belt he went on to Cheltenham’s October meeting and beat a strong field of experienced handicappers. He was on his way, and Newbury was his next stop.

Taking up the story of The Conditional’s fine second in the Ladbrokes Trophy, Bridgwater said: “I thought we’d win it, and he nearly did. De Rasher Counter was phenomenal that day and I wouldn’t want to take anything away from him, but we were still learning how to ride The Conditional and if we’d been wiser, we’d have gone close.”

Jockey Brendan Powell, whose father Brendan senior is one of Bridgwater’s oldest friends, admitted he rode The Conditional wrong in the Warwick’s Classic Chase on his next start, but he more than made up for it in the Ultima, where Bridgwater described his ride as “awesome”.

Looking back on an emotional day at a meeting where he had won a County Hurdle for his father Ken while a 7lb claimer on Winnie The Witch in 1991, and a Stayers Hurdle on Cyborgo five years later during a brief spell as stable jockey to Martin Pipe.

Bridgwater said: “He was on his nose at the second last, but that did us a favour. If he’d been a straightforward horse and winged it he’d have been four clear at the last and won comfortably, but that mistake did us a favour as it put us on the back foot. He’d definitely have stopped if he’d gone to the front two out, as he only won a neck, with ears pricked and dossing.”

It was always the plan for The Conditional to go straight to Newbury this time, and while Bridgwater insists that he “wasn’t unfit” there, he is happy to accept that he “wasn’t race sharp”.

“I thought he’d improved from last year, and he definitely has,” he said, “but I look after my horses so that they last. If I’d had him then as I have him now, he’d definitely have been second, but for a small yard like ours to be placed for a second time in a ‘Hennessy’ was absolutely incredible and felt like winning.”

Bridgwater had only the Becher Chase and the Silver Cup to choose between as a next step, and it was a simple choice as if The Conditional is ever going to run at Aintree he will go there for the Grand National without previous experience of the fences.

Wyck Hill, who went on to win an Eider Chase after being sold to JP McManus, faced only five rivals when he beat Katenko from out of the proper handicap in the 2012 Silver Cup, but The Conditional is set to face a much bigger field, albeit one that lacks a stand-out.

Getting dropped a pound after the Ladbrokes Trophy has been an unexpected bonus and Bridgwater is struggling to see a negative, but he’s been around too long to be counting on anything.

If he wins then bookmaker reps will inevitably be talking The Conditional up as a Grand National horse, and if he wins well there might even be speculation about the Gold Cup, a race in which Bridgwater saddled people’s favourite The Giant Bolster to finish in the frame three years in a row.

Bridgwater is as competitive as ever and would love to have another Gold Cup horse, but he is also very grounded. His honesty and his reluctance to “play the game” as he puts it would have finished the careers of lesser trainers before they even got started, and for the moment he is looking no further than Saturday.

“He’s favourite, and he deserves to be,” he said with typical candour. “He’s got it all really, and he’s still going forward. We could just do with a bit of luck after a year as s**t as this one’s been.”

Watch the December Racing Weekend at Ascot live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Friday 18th and Saturday 19th December.

Bridgwater chasing more Silver Cup success with The Conditional
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