Elsworth treasures memories of his Ascot heroes

From Heighlin to Lear Spear – master of both codes racked up winners at Royal meeting

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David Elsworth has seen just about everything this great game has to offer under both codes.

Best known for his handling of the hugely popular four-time King George VI Chase winner and Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Desert Orchid, Elsworth has enjoyed a glittering training career.

The back-to-back Queen Mother Champion Chase triumphs of Barnbrook Again in 1989 and 1990 and the 1998 Grand National success of Rhyme ‘N’ Reason are also high on the list of the 79-year-old’s many big-race victories over jumps.

His record on the Flat is not too shabby either, with victories in the Irish 1,000 Guineas, the Juddmonte International, the Coronation Cup and the Champion Stakes all on his CV – as well as a more than respectable tally of 16 winners at Royal Ascot.

It was in 1980 that Elsworth first struck Royal Ascot gold with Heighlin – a horse who is a testament to his trainer’s versatility.

“Heighlin was a very good horse for us at the time as he won the Triumph Hurdle before going on to win the Ascot Stakes in the same year. To win at the Cheltenham Festival and Royal Ascot was great, and he also went on to win a Goodwood Cup a year or two later,” said Elsworth.

Three years later Elsworth enjoyed a Royal Ascot double through Mighty Fly (Royal Hunt Cup) and Melindra (Wokingham).

The only Elsworth inmate to win twice at the summer showpiece meeting was Indian Ridge, who landed the 1988 Jersey Stakes before returning two years later to win the King’s Stand.

Following his retirement, Indian Ridge went on to sire a whole host of top-class horses – including the brilliant mare Ridgewood Pearl and a subsequent Royal Ascot heroine in Indian Ink.

Elsworth said: “Indian Ridge was a very good horse, but ended up being an even better stallion. He won the Jersey over seven furlongs as a two-year-old and came back two years later to win the King’s Stand over five furlongs, which was a Group Two in those days.

“I think he could have got a mile, but he was always in a hurry. He could have won the Guineas at home, and I would work him with anything over a mile without a problem because he’d settle fine, but when he got to the racecourse he wanted to get on with it too much.”

Another memorable Royal Ascot winner for the veteran trainer was Lear Spear, who got the better of Fantastic Light by a head in the 1999 Prince of Wales’s Stakes in the hands of Mick Kinane.

“Lear Spear’s win was a great day. He’d won the Cambridgeshire the year before – and the Prince of Wales’s Stakes is a big race, obviously, so it was great to win it,” he added.

Elsworth bridged an 11-year wait for a Royal Ascot winner 12 months ago when Dash Of Spice and Silvestre de Sousa delighted favourite backers in the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes.

He does not expect to have any runners in Berkshire next week, however.

He said: “We don’t have anything to go this year – we’re small fry these days, I’m afraid.

“We’ve had some great days over the years at Ascot and Cheltenham, and I would say the two are very similar. They’re different codes, obviously, but Cheltenham is where you want to win over jumps and Ascot is where you want to win on the Flat.”

Elsworth treasures memories of his Ascot heroes
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