David Bridgwater's infectious love for horses becomes apparent as soon as you step foot onto his idyllic Wyck Hill Farm base in Stow-on-the-Wold, and whilst an array of animals, all shapes and sizes, roam free around the stable, he and his top notch team are working their way through the morning as we discuss his plans for the season in a tour of his stable.
Bridgwater, who had a successful time as a jockey before injury saw him hang up his riding boots at the age of 27, has carved out a decent training career over the last 15 years and The Giant Bolster has certainly been his flag-bearer over the last couple of seasons. The former Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up is all set for another campaign which will hopefully see him in the vicinity again in the Blue Riband event in March.
Having finished second to the ill-fated Synchronised at 50/1 in the 2012 renewal, he was then a creditable fourth behind Bobs Worth in the 2013 race, before getting touched off by Lord Windermere and On His Own in last season's thrilling contest. Bridgwater is hoping that his star nine-year-old can finally bag that elusive win and he is set to start his campaign with a trip to Wetherby if the weather comes right for him.
Bridgwater said: "Hopefully he will run in the Charlie Hall Chase and then we will see where we will go from there. He won the Argento Chase last season and he seems to love that meeting (at Cheltenham), so he could take his chance there, but we're lucky if we can get him to the festival for a fourth time running."
The Giant Bolster relaxing at home ahead of the new season
A brace of placed efforts in three attempts for The Giant Bolster has seen him sparkle in the Gold Cup and some punters may enjoy snapping up the current 33/1 available about the son of Black Sam Bellamy striding up the famous Prestbury Park hill to victory, but Bridgwater is just looking for another clean bill of health for his top notch star and reminisced with a nod of appreciation for Henrietta Knight, who managed to train Best Mate to three successive wins in the race, saying, "What Henrietta Knight did to get Best Mate to win three Gold Cups is sensational and she doesn’t get enough credit for it."
Bridgie, as he is known within racing circles, prides himself on putting the horse's welfare at the top of his priorities and he will certainly not be unleashing them at the major races if he feels they are not up for it. He explained: "I won't run them for the sake of it and I’d rather have a winner at the likes of Plumpton, than be placed in a race at Cheltenham during the season."
Accommodating throughout, Bridgwater, who is a father of two with daughter Poppy having her first ride on the Flat last month, when piloting Engai to second place at Beverley, has an excellent bunch of owners that are welcomed into the yard with open arms and he has a sense of optimism for the winter months and has set himself a target. "The goal is to beat last year's amount of winners, which was 21 I think, so hopefully can top that this season," explained Bridgwater.
David Bridgwater keeps an eye on things at Wyck Hill Farm
A rider of five Cheltenham Festival winners as a jockey, Bridgwater is hoping that it will not only be The Giant Bolster that flies the flag for the Gloucestershire stable, but he could have another couple of runners that are good enough to line up in the four-day jamboree.
Russian Bolero was an impressive seven-length winner on his national hunt debut at Plumpton and if he can continue on an upward curve then he could be bound for the Triumph Hurdle, whilst Oscar Hill and No Buts are another potentially progressive duo in the yard that could shape up into smart horses and could both figure at the festival.
Bridgwater has a drive about him that sees him masterminding his next winner, but looking back at his career he picks out two special moments that saw him propel to the top of the tree. "The Giant Bolster’s win in the Argento has to be one of the highlights, whilst Wyck Hill's win in the Eider Chase (at Newcastle) is another, but I don't know what you'd class as the bigger victory."
Talking of the latter, who is named after his tranquil yard, Bridgwater is hoping that the JP McManus-owned raider can avoid the dreaded injury list and his whole season will be aimed at the Grand National in April. About Wyck Hill Bridgwater said: "He is set for the National and we are likely to run him over hurdles and then on to Aintree”, as he looks to try and etch his name alongside some of the greats in winning the world's greatest steeplechase.
Forthright with his views throughout, Bridgwater has a fervent attitude for the Sport of Kings and with the talent to eke every sinew out of his star equine performers then who's to say we won't be seeing him escorting a Cheltenham Festival winner come March amidst jubilant scenes in the amphitheatre of the winner's enclosure.
Main Talking Points From Stable Tour
The Giant Bolster - Set to start in Charlie Hall Chase, with ultimate goal the Cheltenham Gold Cup
Russian Bolero - A smart juvenile that could be Triumph Hurdle bound in March if progressiing
Wyck Hill - Season will revolve around a trip to Aintree for Grand National in April
Oscar Hill - A smart chaser that could progress this season and is an exciting handicapper
No Buts - Six-year-old that continues to improve and can build on last season