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Bradstock story is one for everyone to enjoy

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Racing is a small parish. In the world of horsecare, with less than 20,000 horses in training across the entire UK, it's not quite a trusim to say that everyone knows everyone, but it's not far off the truth. 

Even in the pyramid of excellence, there'll be connections between liverymen and breaking yards and licensed yeards, where the public profile is that much higher. And whilst much of the public visibility of the sport is inevitably soaked up by the top leaders of the game - both trainers and riders - the exploits of people further down the food chain are appreciated by all; witness the admiration of fellow riders toward James Best on winning his first Grade I chase in the Scilly Isles in mid-February.

So, despite the fact the yard contained little more than a dozen horses, the loss of the personable Mark Bradstock last week was keenly felt throughout. All along the Berkshire downs, and a great deal further afield, Mark had made his presence felt in the sport across a career spanning 40+ years. 

Mark first came to prominence as assistant to the remarkable Fulke Walwyn, who for many years held the record for the most winners at the Cheltenham Festival, before the growth of the sport inevitably allowed others to rise above him. Walwyn was a scion of the sport in the seventies and eighties, and still of the generation that made their way in the sport from the military and from hunting. His record of 40 Festival winners between 1946-86 remained unbeaten until only 2012, when Nicky Henderson finally reeled him in. 

Mark was no slouch in the saddle himself as an amateur, enjoying some 18 winners, notably as stable amateur for Walwyn, who trained for the Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth, a keen supporter of the Jumps game. 

Marriage to Sara inevitably kept him in the racing game, Sara being daughter of none other than John Oaksey, rider, columnist and immense enthusiast for the sport, also a trustee and driving force behind the Injured Jockeys Fund. It wouldn't have been a difficult decision to try his hand at training back in 1988. But if truth be told, the Bradstock empire was never going to be huge.

This was, from the off, what some might call a boutique operation. On no occasion over that 36 year period did the yard's runner count exceed 50, and the 8 winners enjoyed in the 2014-15 season were largely embellished by the exploits of one novice, Coneygree, whose apogee was to beat seasoned chasers in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. It was a classic case of the little man winning big, last seen when Syrrel Griffiths drove Norton's Coin from his Welsh sheep farm to win the same race in 1990. 

Coneygree was not the start of a massive influx of horses however, and it's doubtful whether Bradstock would have wanted to rise ti the challenge of a megastable. His was an altogether more intimate association with his horses. With small numbers, he enjoyed disproportionate success, including a first running of the Jewson Novices Handicap Chase (now superceded by the conditions Turners Chase) at the Festival in 1995, and a Hennessy (now Ladbrokes Trophy) with Carruthers in 2015.

The stresses of running even a small yard manifested themselves in a heavy smoking habit. The Bradstocks were well known for their bonhomie and open household.

Latterly, daughter Lily has been keeping the racing tradition alive, particularly with Southfield Theatre, winner of multiple open races these past few seasons between the flags. 

The racing world passes on quickly, but it is to be hoped that the popular Bradstock will leave a lasting legacy well beyond the exploits of one or two thoroughbreds.

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