Track Talk - Paying Tribute To Dai Burchell


04 March 2024

Tributes have been paid to retired Welsh trainer Dai Burchell who has died at the age of 87 (he’s photographed with jockey Paddy Brennan).

The former steelworker, whose career dates back to the 1950s, was renowned for his ability to train winners from his Ebbw Vale yard with other peoples’ cast-offs. He famously said no horse was worth more than £10,000. He sent out more than 430 winners.

He was handed a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2018 Welsh Horse Racing Awards and a race was named after him when he retired in 2022. His best horses included Gay Ruffian who was runner-up in the Finale Hurdle at Chepstow in 1989 and also second in the Welsh Champion Hurdle at the same track in 1992. He was also responsible for giving a number of Jockeys' their chance in the sport, including former Champion Jockey, Oisin Murphy. 

He is survived by his wife Ruth and five children.

Shirenewton trainer Grace Harris booked the leading flat jockey Rossa Ryan for her two runners at Wolverhampton on Saturday, which was a promising sign. Sisters In The Sky lost second place by a short head in the first division of the 6f handicap but better was to come in the second. Savannah Smiles ran disappointingly last summer after being bought by Harris, but a three-month break freshened up the filly and this evening she won her second race in a row. Ryan managed to manoeuvre the filly through a small gap approaching the furlong pole, and from there she went on to win decisively. Her hat-trick bid should come soon. She was the stable’s third success in four weeks.

Sean Bowen had one winner and ten second places from 27 rides in the fortnight before Saturday, where he had three good opportunities for Olly Murphy. He began and ended with yet more second places, but in between he won the £50,000 Premier Chase over three miles on Thunder Rock. Bowen was quick to praise Murphy’s encouragement in the face of his spell of seconditis. The horse is likely to have a tilt at the Bowl at Aintree.

Sean’s brother James drove Spring Note to victory at Newbury, proving that not all of Nicky Henderson’s horses are under a cloud. The six-year-old mare shrugged off a thirteen-pound rise in the handicap, jumping well and leading all the way. She was the only winner for the Henderson team on a day that three of their six runners were pulled up.

James rode a double for his father Peter at Doncaster on Sunday. To begin with Peejaybee, having his second start for the stable, won the novice chase over three miles. At 15/2 he was the outsider of five runners but stayed on the best in tacky ground. Later the well supported Pilgrims King ran much the same sort of race in a 2m3f hurdle to outgun three opponents.

Though Ben Jones’s temporary role as first jockey to Ben Pauling has come to an end, the yard has plenty of ammunition and he rode another winner for them at Doncaster on Saturday. However, the form of Densworth’s sixteen-length victory must be treated with caution, as only four of the eight hurdles had to be jumped due to the low sun.

Father and son John and Rhys Flint had their first runner with their joint licence when Amateur ran in the veterans chase at Newbury. Though he was pulled up, he at least won the best turned out award, which is not uncommon with horses from that yard.

Chepstow’s next meeting is on St Patrick’s Day, Sunday 17 March, where the post-Cheltenham festivities will include plentiful Irish folk music and Guinness on tap. More than 4500 students are also attending the fixture from universities across the region including Bristol and Cardiff.

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