Tuesday, 3 August 2021

David Bridgwater


David Bridgwater, 50, was formerly a successful National Hunt jockey with over 450 winners to his name, including five at the Cheltenham. Indeed, he was, for just over a season, stable jockey to Martin Pipe, but resigned that position in September, 1996 to ride freelance.

'Bridgy', as he is popularly known, joined the training ranks in 1998 and from his intial base, at Hill House Stables in Lambourn, saddled three winners with his first three runners. He subsequently moved to Slade Barn Stables in Ford, Gloucester en route to his current base, at Wyck Hill Farm in nearby Stow-on-the-Wold. However, despite a flying start to his training career, it was not until the 2011/12 that Bridgwater reached double-figures for a National Hunt season; despite holding a combined training licence, he has still yet to do so in a Flat season. He enjoyed his most successful so far, numerically, in 2014/15 with 33 National Hunt winners.

Bridgwater achieved his first major success as a trainer in January, 2012, when The Giant Bolster won the Murphy Group Chase at Cheltenham. Less than two months later, the same horse belied odds of 50/1 to finish second, beaten 2¼ lengths, behind Synchronised in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

It would be fair to say that big race winners for the yard have been few and far between, but Bridgwater did saddle The Giant Bolster to win the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham and Wyck Hill to win the Eider Chase at Newcastle in early 2014. More recently, he achieved his first Cheltenham Festival winner as a trainer with the ill-fated The Conditional in the Ultima Handicap Chase in 2020; a leading fancy for the 2021 Grand National, The Conditional was fatally injured in the Denman Chase at Newbury in February that year.

Monday, 7 June 2021

Joint Racehorse Trainers’ Licences Embraced in British Isles

 One of the quirks of training racehorses is, until very recently in the UK and Ireland, one person alone has held the licence to do it at a set of stables. Officially, those individuals are responsible for their equine charges but of course there is a whole team at the bigger yards supporting them.

The fact that both British and Irish horse racing authorities have now allowed joint training licences, like those elsewhere in other countries including Australia, reflects a changing attitude within the industry. It is also wider recognition of what goes into getting thoroughbreds ready for the track.

Just because a trainer can share the burden and responsibility doesn’t automatically mean that they should or will. However, handlers are beginning to see the benefits of joint licences and embrace the concept particularly on the Flat in Britain.

When a high-profile stable such as the John Gosden yard in Newmarket does this, that makes people sit up and take notice. This is one of the high-profile training facilities in a real equine hub, but the licence now reads John and Thady Gosden as father and son team up.

 In principle, this can be seen as the beginning of the process that sees the torch passed from one generation to the next. However, in practice, there remains a number of top class thoroughbred racehorses in the yard including the likes of Lord North, Mishriff and Stradivarius.

Checking the free horse racing tips for tomorrow and seeing a famous trainer name next to a fancied runner can make or break your decision whether to take a punt or not. In the case of Team Gosden, the joint venture between them ensures some continuity.

Their approach contrasts sharply with the O’Brien family in Ireland. Father Aidan remains master of all he surveys at Ballydoyle and focuses on the Flat thanks to the continuing support of owner-breeders Coolmore. Eldest son Joseph, meanwhile, has horses that run both on the level and over jumps.


Younger O’Brien sibling Donnacha saddled a Classic winner in France inside his first year as a trainer. The family has decided to divide its resources and conquer horse racing in the Emerald Isle rather than concentrate all the power in Ballydoyle. 

There is uptake in Ireland, however, with Eddie Harty and son Patrick going for a joint licence and already training their first winner together at Punchestown. Other British stables doing likewise this year include another father-son duo Simon and Ed Crisford. 

Victorious horses at Group level in their Newmarket stables since they started sharing a licence include Goodwood Celebration Mile winner Century Dream and sprinter A’Ali. There is also a similar arrangement in a yard at Lambourn, another real UK equine hub. 

William Muir, put on the map by the exploits of Pyledriver at Royal Ascot last season, now jointly holds a licence with Chris Grassick. This sharing of the load may well become the norm in the years to come.