Those who believe life begins at 40 are way off the pace. Try 68; Milton Bradley has. A new hip has made the veteran trainer a new man and his career has made commensurate sprightly strides. In the past couple of months the jumps handler turned sprint specialist has won his first Group race at his first attempt and finished second with his first runner in a Group 1 contest.
Saturday is likely to bring a two-pronged attack on the afternoon's feature sprint contests north and south of the border. Corridor Creeper, an excellent runner-up at Yarmouth on Tuesday under top-weight, may spearhead the Meads Farm challenge for the Ayr Gold Cup while The Tatling, the horse responsible for the above-mentioned breakthroughs with victory in the King George V Stakes at Goodwood and the runner-up spot in the Nunthorpe Stakes, will sidestep the trip to Scotland in favour of a run down the M4 for a tilt at a Group 3 prize at Newbury.
The six-furlong Scottish showpiece surely owes Bradley one. For the past two years his charges have gone down fighting in close finishes, The Tatling 12 months ago and Brevity in 2001, behind Funfair Wane and Continent respectively, the pair trained by Dandy Nicholls. Both men have showed the same sort of talent in revitalising horses who have lost their way and keeping them sweet, mentally and physically.
Bradley, based on 300 acres at Sedbury, near Chepstow, has shone with a succession of sprint handicappers; Fly More, Salviati and Whistler are other testaments. "Part of the secret is having good enough horses," said Bradley, "that gives you a start. But with these older ones we try to find out what the horse wants, rather than just impose a regime like prison: food, exercise, back to your room.
"We've got quite a lot of ground here and we can vary what they do. At this time of year, when the corn is cut, we take them out over the stubble. It keeps their interest and they hardly realise they're doing anything. We don't hammer the older horses, there's no way we apply the big stick. With an older horse who has got a bit wise to it all, we try to train their minds as much as their bodies so they are happy with life and want to do it. They last all the longer if you treat them kindly and gently, as individuals."
And Bradley, now, can appreciate more than anyone how discomfort can compromise performance. "If you've got pain you can't handle any job properly," he said. "If a horse isn't hurting he'll do it for you. The Tatling has plates in his leg and we have to take care; as time goes on he feels more of his old screws."
Bradley is quick to praise his staff; head girl Liz has been with him 20 years and eldest daughter Susan is an integral part of the team. As are teenage grand-children Hayley and Chris, who rode One Way Ticket at Yarmouth yesterday. "They've been riding racehorses since they were 10," said Bradley. "I don't often have jockeys down here to ride work, they tend to press the button a bit much, just to find out. We'd rather be doing our own thing."
Frankie Dettori will ride The Tatling, who was bought out of a Catterick claimer last year (ironically, out of Nicholls' yard) for just £15,000, at Newbury. "He's been very consistent all year, and seems as well as ever," said Bradley. "When he ran last time at Haydock the going was dead against him; it poured beforehand and then he got chopped off."
Six-year-old Corridor Creeper will be running for the fourth time in as many weeks on Saturday, having won at Epsom and then finished second in the Portland Handicap before Tuesday's good effort. "If he eats up he'll probably take his chance," said Bradley. "We leave it to the horses to tell us if they're feeling flat."Reuse content