Legendary racehorse trainer, Josh Gifford, dies

Josh Gifford
Josh Gifford

JOSH Gifford, the Findon racehorse trainer who sent out Aldaniti to win a memorable Grand National with Bob Champion on board, has died at the age of 70. He died of a heart attack on Thursday morning (February 9), after being taken into hospital overnight.

Son of a farmer and point-to-point enthusiast, he had his first race ride at the age of 11 and was 14 when he rode his first winner, Dorsol, at Birmingham in July 1956 - and by the end of that year he had won the Manchester November Handicap and also ridden a winner at York for the Queen.

Increasing weight made him turn to National Hunt racing and he rode for Captain Ryan Price at Findon, becoming champion jockey four times. He took over Downs Stables at Findon in 1970, when Ryan Price retired from training, Josh retired from the saddle at the age of 28 and took over a string of jump horses.

He sent out a succession of big-race winners, ranging from top-class hurdler Kybo, Champion Chase victor Deep Sensation, and dual Mackeson Gold Cup winner Bradbury Star, as well as Approaching, Henry Bishop, Shady Deal and Door Latch.

The icing on the cake came when he won the 1981 Grand National with Aldaniti ridden by Bob Champion, who had returned to the saddle following a well-documented battle against cancer. It was a fairytale win, and when the horse returned to Findon village, the day after the big race, he and connections were greeted by a massive crowd, which had come from far and wide to pay tribute.

His son, Nick, took over training at Downs Stables when Josh retired.

His widow, Althea, son Nick, and daughter Tina, said they were overwhelmed by the tributes which had been pouring in.

Details of the funeral are to be arranged.

For full story, see West Sussex Gazette this Wednesday, February 15.