To some, David Elsworth is known as a one horse man after training the great Desert Orchid. However, that certainly doesn’t give him credit for what he achieved as a trainer.
In particular, with the Grand National. Elsworth didn’t have too many runners over the years in the race, just nine in total, but he did manage to win it once, and that came in 1988 with the horse Rhyme n Reason, who has a remarkable story behind him.
Elsewhere, of course, Elsworth was aided by Desert Orchid, but he had plenty of other strong horses too. Not only that, but the yard had horses for both national hunt and flat racing, with Persian Punch leading the way on the flat.
At the end of 2021, Elsworth announced he would retire from racing after a glittering career that saw him win many top races under both codes, including the Grand National.
David Raymond Cecil Elsworth Grand National Wins
- 1988 - Rhyme n Reason ridden by Brendan Powell
|1995||Cool Ground||11||-||Paul Holley|
|1994||Mighty Falcon||Fence 13 - Brought Down||-||Paul Holley|
|1993||Givus A Buck||5||-||Paul Holley|
|1992||Mighty Falcon||18||-||Paul Holley|
|1988||Rhyme n Reason||1||£68,741||Brendan Powell|
|1984||Canford Ginger||23||-||Colin Brown|
|1983||Canford Ginger||Fence 17 - Pulled Up||-||James Davies|
Sole Grand National Winner In 1988 With Rhyme n Reason
For many trainers, winning the Grand National is arguably the biggest point of their career, for Elsworth, given his success, in particular with Desert Orchid, it may not be the case, but of course, it is still certainly a highlight.
Rhyme n Reason won the 1988 Grand National in dramatic fashion, a race that few people will forget. Unfortunately, the horse was injured during the race, more than likely as early as the sixth fence in, but still managed to come out on top with a gutsy win. However, the injury was enough to prevent him from racing again, so we never saw Elsworth go back with him a year later to defend the crown.
At the sixth fence, Becher’s Brook, Rhyme n Reason almost fell and left the race, but jockey Brendan Powell was able to keep their partnership together, somehow. What the fall did do, though, was move the horse from a prominent position to the back of the field. Going into the National, Rhyme n Reason had fallen in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, this horse needed plenty of care and attention to get him round, and Powell gave him exactly that.
Fast forward a circuit, the horse was up near the front again and jumped Becher’s Brook in great style to enter second place. From nowhere, the horse once again appeared to have a strong chance of winning. Five fences out, a fall for Little Polveir left him in the lead. With two to go, Durham Edition came up alongside and past the horse, seemingly ending his chance of winning, which was to be expected given the amount of energy used to get back into the race.
But the horse, and Powell, didn’t give up.
After jumping the last, they went to work, not giving in and showing great character and guts to reel in Durham Edition. They got alongside and then went ahead, remarkably landing the Grand National with a four-length success.
It is an incredible shame that we never got to see the horse defend his crown. At nine, he had plenty left to give and went into the National with a fantastic record that season, winning some nice prizes along the way.
The runner was a third in the race for David Elsworth and the only one he had that placed in the contest over the years. In total, he had nine runners in the Grand National, seven of those finished the race, which is an impressive number, but just one other, Givus A Buck in 1993, was able to finish inside the top 10.
The Trainer Of Desert Orchid
Desert Orchid is, without a doubt, one of the most famous horses to have ever run, and when you think of David Elsworth, his name is the first that will pop into your head. Dessie, as he was affectionately known as, was a racehorse of the highest order, both in looks and ability, with a striking grey colour that made him stand out from the field.
With 34 career race wins over a span of 10 years, the horse was a regular in the winner’s enclosure, but what made him special was the fact he did it at the top level. A Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, four-time King George VI Chase winner, and even a horse that could carry a huge weight in a handicap, as he showed when winning the Irish Grand National with 12 stone on his back in 1990 after his Gold Cup success.
He won more than half a million in prize money, a record at the time, and was handed a rating of 187 at the end of the 89/90 season, the highest since the days of Arkle, Flyingbolt and Mill House during the 1960s.
A special animal and one that spent his career under the care of David Elsworth, firing his trainer into the spotlight.
Dual Purpose Trainer Of The Highest Order
It’s not just national hunt racing that we need to talk about when discussing the career of Elsworth, he also hit the top of the game on the flat too. We see many trainers operating dual-purpose yards, but these usually have one big preference, or they perform at a lower level across both, that wasn’t the case here.
Persian Punch flew the flag for him in the 90s, a winner of 20 races from 63 starts, an incredible strike rate, and those included the Jockey Club Cup and Henry II Stakes, three times each, while he also landed the Goodwood Cup and Lonsdale Stakes twice.
In The Groove was another flag bearer for the yard, winning the Irish 1000 Guineas, Juddmonte International and Champion Stakes as a three-year-old, then adding the Coronation Cup as a four-year-old to that list.
The flat also showcased how versatile Elsworth was. He trained Desert Orchid to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, a slog over three miles and two furlongs in March. Then in June, just three months later, he trained Indian Ridge to win the King’s Stand Stakes, a five furlong sprint all about speed.
The ability to train these horses and win races over a variety of different distances is not easy. To do it at the highest level is another huge step forward, but that is precisely what we saw from David Elsworth during his prime in racing, a man who was talented enough to train all kinds of horses to victory.
Famous Horses Trained Dy David Elsworth
Here are some of the bigger names trained by David Elsworth during his career.
Rhyme n Reason
In The Groove