This Friday’s meeting at Chepstow (June 11th) celebrates the achievements of 86-year-old local trainer Milton Bradley, who retired in January to bring a 53-year career in racing to an end. By then he had trained 1,037 winners from his base at Sedbury, opposite Chepstow on the English side of the River Wye. Though he usually only had modest horses to work with, several of those he bought were prolific winners. Friday’s race titles commemorate some of those horses.
Three quarters of his winners were on the flat. Perhaps Bradley’s most famous horse was The Tatling, who he claimed for £15,000. He’d shown ability, but a vet told his previous handler that he would never stand racing. Bradley thought otherwise, and the horse went on to win 15 more races and almost £700,000, including the 2004 King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot. He loved his racing so much that, despite advancing years, he carried on until the eve of his 15th birthday, winning his 176th and final race at Wolverhampton on December 13 2011.
Bradley initially made his name with National Hunt horses, especially those that relished the firm ground often found on the country tracks in the summer. He began training in 1969, after proving himself in the worlds of pony racing and point-to-pointing. He saddled the mare Octroi to win 22 points in six seasons.
His winningmost horse was Mighty Marine, who won 23 races in the 1970s. Seven of them were during his 1975/76 campaign. Next season he won seven in a row, in a purple patch spanning just 39 days. He had cost his lucky owner just £100.
Another £100 buy, another firm-ground lover, Grey Dolphin won 10 handicap chases during the 1983/84 season. Five in a row came in a 17-day spell in the early autumn. He was rested during the winter and emerged in the spring to win twice at Ludlow before jump racing’s then-traditional two-month summer break. He won 17 races in all.
Two years later Bradley pulled off a similar feat with Yangtse-Kiang, who scooped six races in five weeks. Another grey who relished hearing his hooves rattle, he too reappeared the following spring to score twice at Ludlow. In August 1986 he won another four in a row. The handicapper caught up with him eventually, but not before he had also accumulated 17 career wins.
Bradley turned increasingly to flat racing in the 1990s and continued to find cheap horses that could win multiple times. Sooty Tern won 19 races, at least one every year from 1991-97. Offa’s Mead, who cost £100, won 16.
Corridor Creeper and Englishman both joined the yard as five-year-olds. The former won eight times and the latter nine. Even more remarkable was Nineacres, who was successful in eleven races after he joined Bradley at the age of eight.
Brevity was another canny purchase. He earned the yard £135,000 after costing just 3,500 guineas in February 2001. To begin with he didn’t show much, but then he hit form with a vengeance; from May to July his form figures were 1111211011.
The Tatling’s exploits in the limelight in the 2000s – running at Royal Ascot, Longchamp and Hong Kong - Bradley’s string diminished, but his skill and his eye for a horse did not. Muraaqeb, who had cost his previous owner £190,000 guineas, was snapped up at the sales in 2017 by Bradley on behalf of his longstanding owner and friend Eddie Hayward for £12,000. He won seven races in the space of 12 months.
Phil Bell, Chepstow’s Executive Director, said: ”We wanted to do something to mark Milton’s incredible 53 years in the sport. So many of his horses have been household names over the decades and his contribution to horse racing has been significant. Friday is simply an opportunity from his local course to recognise his amazing career.”
All of Milton Bradley’s friends and supporters in racing wish him a long and happy retirement. Friday’s card has been sponsored by Chepstow Plant International, owned by Eddie Hayward. Mr Hayward is a close personal friend and long standing owner in the yard.