Veteran trainer David Raymond Cecil Elsworth made his name as assistant trainer to Guy Richardson Aymer  “Ricky” Vallance, a retired Lieutenant-Colonel, at Bishops Cannings, near Devizes, Wiltshire. However, one of the horses in his care, Well Briefed, was referred to the Jockey Club over his marked improvement in form, delaying his application for a training licence in his own right. The authorities relented, in 1978, and Elsworth set up on his own at nearby Whitsbury Manor Stables, near Fordingbridge, where he was to enjoy his most successful years as a trainer.


Indeed, Elsworth was Champion National Hunt just once, in 1987/88, just denying Josh Gifford. Ironically, that was the only season between 1986/87 and 1990/91 that his most famous horse, Desert Orchid, failed to win the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day. Sent off at even-money favourite, the redoubtable grey helped to set a furious pace for the first mile and, having held a narrow lead turning into the straight for the final time, was quickly left behind by French challenger Nupsala, who went on to win by 15 lengths at odds of 25/1.


However, Desert Orchid returned to winning ways at end of the 1987/88 season, jumping well to beat Kildimo by 8 lengths in the Chivas Regal Cup Chase at Aintree and running on well to beat the same horse by 2½ lengths in the Whitbread Gold Cup at Sandown Park on the final day of the season. By then, of course, Elsworth had already saddled Rhyme ‘N’ Reason to win the newly rebranded Racing Post Chase and the Grand National at Aintree – in which the horse famously ‘did the splits’ at Becher’s Brook on the first circuit – and Cavvies Clown, who led until blundering at the second last fence, to finish second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup won by Charter Party.

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