11. Horse Racing & the Cheltenham Gold Cup

Tens of thousands of horse racing fans flock to the Cotswolds for the Cheltenham Festival each March. Four days of anticipation, atmosphere and action are played out on a beautiful sporting arena, climaxing with the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The Cotswold Hills form a stunning backdrop to Cheltenham Racecourse and within those hills is undoubtedly the greatest concentration of racehorse training establishments in the country.

The Cotswolds is home to well over 20 racehorse trainers, not least the Irishman Jonjo O’Neill, a two-time Champion Jockey who is now based at Jackdaws Castle, Temple Guiting.

As a jockey, O’Neill rode the mare Dawn Run to victory in the 1986 Cheltenham Gold Cup. Having trained Don’t Push It, ridden by Tony McCoy, to win the Grand National in 2010, he went on to achieve Cheltenham Gold Cup glory in 2012 when he trained Synchronised to win the coveted race. At the 2014 Cheltenham Festival, O’Neill celebrated three further wins.

Another top Cotswold trainer, Nigel Twiston-Davies, who is based at Grange Hill Farm, Naunton, has trained over 1,000 National Hunt winners, including two grand National winners – Earth Summit in 1998 and Bindaree in 2002 – and the winner of the 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup, Imperial Commander.

Twiston-Davies was National Hunt Trainer of the Year in 2010, but some of his proudest moments have been watching his two sons, Sam and Willy, in the saddle. Sam won the Christie’s Foxhunter Chase on Baby Run at the mere age of 17, while his brother, Willy, also on board Baby Run is the youngest jockey to have won the Foxhunter Chase at Aintree, aged just 16 at the time.

David Bridgwater’s journey in the horse racing world is a testament to his passion and resilience. His purpose-built training yard, nestled in 120 acres of picturesque Cotswold countryside at Wyck Hill Farm near Stow-on-the-Wold, is a testament to his dedication. As a jockey, Bridgwater rode 473 winners before an injury forced him to retire at the young age of 27. Undeterred, he transitioned to training horses in 1998, both for the flat and over jumps.

One of the most excellent racehorse trainers to have been based in the Cotswolds was the late jump racing legend David “The Duke” Nicholson, who trained hundreds of winners from the village of Condicote, near Stow-on-the-Wold, including Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Charter Party, before he moved his base to Jackdaw’s Castle, now occupied by Jonjo O’Neill.

Nicholson’s former stables at Condicote are now occupied by Martin Keighley, who was a vital part of The Duke’s team over many years and is proud to have some of the finest gallops in the country at his disposal.

Another fine training operation in the north Cotswolds can be found in Adlestrop. Richard Phillips, who knew from age five that he wanted to be a racehorse trainer, has been based in the lovely village near Moreton-in-Marsh since 2001.