Although he may not thank us for pointing it out, David Elsworth turns 79 in a few weeks’ time! With a racing career spanning 60 years both as a jockey and a trainer and with many high profile winners there’s not much David doesn’t know about the sport. With David still fully training and still full of ambition we thought we’d catch up with him to find out about some of his most famous horses and the secrets to his success. But before we get on with the questions, here’s a snap shot of some of his career highlights;


David riding Captain Blarney at Wincanton in February 1969


  1. Desert Orchid: Won four King George's, The Gold Cup at Cheltenham and The Irish Grand National. Unbelievably he won 50% of his races making him one of racings greatest!
  2. Rhyme 'n' Reason: Won The Grand National.
  3. In the Groove: Won four Group 1 races, The 1000 Irish Guinness, The Coronation Cup, Juddmonte international and The Champion Stakes.
  4. Persian Punch: Won 16 Group races! Placed twice in The Melbourne Cup with a top weight.
  5. Dead Certain: Won The Queen Mary Stakes at Ascot and The Cheveley Park Stakes.
  6. Barnbrook Again: Won The Ladbrook Hurdle and came 3rd in The Champion Hurdle.
  7. Indian Ridge: Won twice at Royal Ascot.


The 1989 Cheltenham Gold Cup won by Desert Orchid sitting pride of place in David’s home.


What is it about racing that has kept you hungry to train for 40+ years?

I have always had an affinity with animals, in particular a strong love of horses which has driven my passion for racing. Having eight winners from my first ten runners also gave me an early taste of success which got me hooked! Before I had my own training license I used to pre train as a spelling yard for Toby Balding and Richard Hannon, due to gaining winners from this I decided to take out my own dual purpose license.

Who has been your horse of a lifetime?

‘Dessie’ Desert Orchid!

Desert Orchid became the people’s horse, what made him so special and why do you think people fell in love with him?

He had a captive audience, he was a beautiful, flamboyant grey who ran with a big heart. He was a high profile horse running at big races often on a Saturday for all to watch…he was a star!


Desert Orchid during training.


What happened to Desert Orchid, Grand National winner Rhyme ‘n’ Reason, Barnbrook Again and In The Groove after they retired?

After finishing his racing career, Dessie went on to do lots of guest appearances at different venues. He fully retired to Edgerton Stables, where at 27 years old, he died peacefully in his stable with everyone around him, he left in style like the horse he was. Rhyme ‘n’ Reason retired to his owner’s stud after his Grand National win. Barnbrook Again also retired at his owner’s stud and In the Groove was sold to Sheikh Mohammed as a brood mare.


‘Dessie’ enjoying his well-earned retirement.


How were these fantastic horses to train?

Dessie was very hard to get race fit, I’d have to train him like a flat horse. Indian Ridge was one of the best to train at home, he was an amazing work horse with tonnes of ability.

What is the secret to spotting a superstar?

It’s all down to having both style and substance! I have to like the pedigree page but the horse needs good looks as well. Persian Punch, Indian Ridge and In the Groove were all purchased by yours truly as yearlings!

Who are your current stable super stars?

I’ve got a few! Sir Dancealot, Desert Skyline, Ripp Orf, Master of the World, Dash of Spice and Dandu. Master of the World in fact has just won the Churchill Stakes at Lingfield this weekend for the second year in a row!


‘Dessie’ and David enjoy a last ride before his retirement to Edgerton Stables.


Why did you start feeding SPILLERS?

A few reasons. In 1956 I was apprentice to Mr Kilpatrick who used to use SPILLERS. Then in 1971 when I was in Wiltshire, I needed some racehorse feed so I borrowed some bags off of a friend and it was SPILLERS Racehorse Cubes, after that I always used SPILLERS. My assistant trainer back then was Genie Brown, she looked into SPILLERS and knew how good it was and agreed that we should keep feeding SPILLERS and we have done so ever since…does that make us your longest customer?


How have you seen the racing industry change over the years that you’ve been involved?

Well feeding has changed a lot! When I was young, I would make up a bran mash twice a week in a huge copper tub, boil the linseed, add whole oats to the linseed then serve with the mash to all the horses – it used to take me ages. Now this all comes in a Racehorse or Power Cube, it’s amazing and certainly a lot easier!


‘Dessie’ enjoying a roll at Edgerton Stables.


What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into training?

You must be prepared for hard work, you’ll have good and bad days and you need to be very patient! Oh and also, 100% feed SPILLERS!


David with Persian Punch.


If you had to name one, what would be the highlight of your career to date?

Winning the Grand National of course! But also one of my most thrilling days was with my good friends, the Oaksey family when their horse Coneygree, trained by Mark Bradstock won The Gold Cup, it was a fairy tale.

What ambitions do you still want to achieve in your racing career?

To win the Ascot Gold Cup!


…and with David’s experience, determination and big heart we’ve got a feeling that the Ascot Gold Cup is his for the taking! A big thank you to David for answering our questions and letting us in to his home and sharing his personal collection of photos from over the years. We also wish David a happy birthday for the 12th December and hope he will be celebrating with a win from Sir Dancelot who travels out to Hong Kong at the end of the month! Good luck from all at SPILLERS.

The legendary Desert Orchid.