David Elsworth, who was born and raised in Salisbury, announced his retirement after a career in racing that has spanned seven decades. 

The legendary horse racer announced on Wednesday, December 15, that he would not be renewing his training licence next month.

Reflecting on his career, that began shortly after his 15th birthday, the 82-year-old felt he was ‘lucky’ to have ‘stumbled’ upon on an occupation that saw him hit the heights with success in both codes with great equine stars like Desert Orchid, Persian Punch, In The Groove, Rhyme ‘N’ Reason and Barnbrook Again.

“I know that in this business, why I have had this degree of success, is because I was fortunate enough to work with some great people and some great horses,” said Elsworth.

“I was surrounded by lots of people and they shared the ambitions, the hopes and the success we had."

David Elsworth was raised by his grandparents in Salisbury near Whitsbury where he ‘stumbled’ into the sport, firstly as a jockey and then as an assistant trainer.

He left school on December 15, 1954, at the age of 15 without 'any firm ambitions to be anything'.

 “I was fortunate that I stumbled across something in life, the racing business, by chance. I hadn’t any firm ambitions to be anything," he said.

“I just needed to earn a living and do something, and I felt that I’d like to work with horses, so I cycled over to a local yard and applied for a job – and once you got on the merry-go-round, you started going faster – and I’ve enjoyed it. It has been a way of life rather than a job – it is just something one does.”

His career began as an apprentice jockey on January 3, 1955 under Scottish Alec Stewart Kilpatrick at Richard Hannon racing.

“You watch and you learn, and they make mistakes – and I certainly made lots of mistakes, and you try to do the job as well as you can," he said.

“I didn’t think I was grooming myself to be a trainer – you just do what you have got to do. It has never been a chore – it was just a way of life. I’ve played around and it’s all a game – you are just trying to get one horse to run around faster than another."

David Elsworth has had many career highlights, including Desert Orchid’s four King George VI Chase wins and a Gold Cup, Rhyme ‘N’ Reason’s Grand National victory, Barnbook Again’s dual Champion Chase successes among nine total Cheltenham Festival wins for the trainer, and an Irish 1000 Guineas win with In The Groove.

But, he describes riding his first winner aged 17 in October 1957 at Cowley Novices’ Hurdle on Rathrowan as a 'big thrill'.

“If you asked me the next day what was the biggest moment, that was it. But then we have progressed and we have gone on," he said.

“When we started training, we won the Triumph Hurdle with (Heighlin) very early on when I was at Lucknam Park down in Wiltshire. That was a big deal to win the Triumph Hurdle – that was my first Cheltenham winner.

“I used the expression ‘peddle the bike as fast as you can’ and then you get other landmarks, for want of a better description."

In his retirement, Elsworth will not be lost to racing and he said he is not about to travel the world an an autobiography 'would be too much like hard work'.

He said: "At least I will get one of those badges that allow you to go on course as a retired trainer – as long as I don’t have to pay!”

Fellow Newmarket handler Sir Mark Prescott reminisced about 'Elsie', Elsworth's, 'god-given gift'. 

Prescott said: “It is absolutely no coincidence that the two most charismatic horses under both rules over the last 30 years, were trained by the same man – Desert Orchid and Persian Punch. That is all you need to know."

He has known David Elsworth since the 70s when he was training in Devizes.

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