David Bridgwater is eying a return to action in familiar surroundings at Newbury next season for his Cheltenham Festival winner The Conditional.
Bridgwater had already decided – before coronavirus brought an early end to the 2019/20 National Hunt season – that last week’s Ultima Handicap Chase winner had achieved enough in a five-race campaign and would take a break, having earned almost £150,000 in prize money since joining his new stable.
The Conditional is likely to reappear in Newbury’s Ladbrokes Trophy, having finished second to De Rasher Counter in this season’s renewal in November.
Bridgwater said: “I’d say out of any winner last week he possibly had the easiest race.
“He was given a brilliant ride, but he also had the right horse to do it on. Brendan (Powell) got him in a bubble and just floated around. He travelled and jumped, just like in the Ladbrokes Trophy.
“He’s run five times and been brilliant, so we’ll put him away for the summer – he’s still only a baby really.”
Bridgwater senses The Conditional can stay on an upward curve when he returns – and it may lead to next year’s Grand National.
“Hopefully he’ll mature a little bit more, and there’s even more to come,” he said.
“I think the logical place to start him would be the Ladbrokes Trophy again, and plan the season after that.
“He’ll definitely have an entry in the National next year – I didn’t put him in this year just in case we got tempted. I’m not a massive fan on what goes on with being in the National – but I’d love to win it!
“To me, he looks the ideal type in that he travels well, jumps great – he’s got it all.”
The Conditional has won twice for Bridgwater and been placed in all his other three attempts – beaten more than eight lengths just once, when he was fourth in Warwick’s Classic Chase in January.
His Cotswolds trainer added: “The only race he possibly didn’t run to form was Warwick – when Brendan blamed himself.
“But I don’t criticise jockeys. If he’d have won at Warwick he probably would have run in the RSA or Gold Cup.
“It probably still hasn’t sunk in yet, what we’ve achieved. We have 18 horses and we’ve had 19 winners this season. To some that might not seem much – but for us to have a Cheltenham winner it means a hell of a lot.”
It is a breakthrough which has put the stable on a new footing, and attracted the attention of a wider world.
Bridgwater said: “My daughter Poppy is an apprentice at David Simcock’s in Newmarket and she rang me on Wednesday to say she was at the bottom of Warren Hill waiting to go up the gallop when someone in a trilby stopped in his car to speak to her.
“It was John Gosden – he congratulated her and told her to pass it on to me. That just shows what a Cheltenham winner means.”