John Milton Bradley, known for most of his life as Milton, to avoid confusion with his father, John Senior, isn’t exactly what you’d call a household name. Nevertheless, Bradley, 82, hit the racing headlines as recently as December 12, 2017, when, after 153 days without a winner, he saddled Indian Affair, Compton Prince and Temple Road for a 1,121/1 treble at Lingfield. He was quoted at the time, saying, “You die when you retire. Don’t rest out, wear out.”
Bradley began his training career in unlicensed, unregulated horse racing, also known as “flapping”, in the years following World War II, travelling as far afield as the Scottish Borders to gain experience. When he was finally granted a training permit, followed by a training licence in 1969, he specialised in jumpers, notably training Grey Dolphin to win 10 steeplechases during the 1978/79 season.
His first winner on the Flat was Offa’s Mead, bought for £100, who graduated from a lowly selling stakes race at Beverley to win 15 more races, including the Bovis Stakes at Ascot. Improving supposedly poor quality horses, particularly sprinters, has since become a trademark of Mead Farm in Sedbury, Gloucestershire, where Bradley trains. Bradely is a self-confessed fan of sprinters, firstly because of their initial price tag and secondly because, in his own words, “once you have them up and ready you can run them again and again.”
Perhaps his most famous association was with The Tatling, who won 18 of his 176 races, including the King’s Stand Stakes at Ascot and the King George at Goodwood. In 2003, Milton Bradley famously obtained his first passport ever, at the age of 68, so that he could personally drive The Tatling to Longchamp to compete in the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp.The 6-year-old kept on to take third in the last strides, 1¼ lengths behind the winner, Patevellian, at odds of 40/1. The Tatling was retired after winning his last race at Wolverhampton on December 13, 2011, less than three weeks short of his 15th birthday. Bradley said of him, “He’s one of those horses that you drop on by mistake and spend the rest of your life looking for another half as good.”
Milton Bradley is not, in fact, the oldest trainer; that honour belongs to Michael “Spittin’ Mick” Easterby, 86, but jockey Franny Norton – no spring chicken himself – summed Bradley up, saying, “You think he’d say, ‘That’s it’, and put his feet up, but that’s not him.”