Racing in mourning as Gifford dies aged 70
JOSH GIFFORD, one of racing's best known and most loved figures in the sport, died yesterday at the age of 70. He had been treated in hospital for a severe case of septicaemia and had only recently returned home.
Gifford was intrinsically linked to the Grand National after the exploits of Aldaniti and Bob Champion in 1981.
Aldaniti was an incredibly hard horse to keep sound and Champion had only recently recovered from cancer, but the pair powered to victory and their exploits were immortalised in the film 'Champions'.
But Gifford (pictured below) was far more than just a one-horse man. Before he turned his hand to training he was one of the best jockeys of his era and was crowned champion on four occasions.
He had four Cheltenham Festival successes in the saddle and finished second in the 1967 Grand National on Honey End behind the legendary 100/1 winner Foinavon.
Gifford had his first ride as a 12-year-old and his first winner came two years later in 1956 on Trentham Boy on the Flat. His first winner over jumps was at Wincanton in 1959.
He retired from the saddle before he turned 30 to start a training career that saw him win most of the major races on the calendar, although his biggest regret was that he was never champion trainer.
It looked on the cards in 1988, before the victory of Desert Orchid in the Whitbread Gold Cup saw David Elsworth overtake him on the final day of the season.
Arguably Gifford's best horse was Kybo, which who won the 1978 Christmas Hurdle before injury prevented him from reaching its full potential.
Horses like Queen Mother winner Deep Sensation, Bradbury Star, which won the Mackeson Gold Cup two years running, and Katabatic were among the best he trained.
In all he trained 1,587 winners before he handed over his licence to his son in 2003.