Victor Dartnall Calls It A Day After 30 Years Training Horses

Early June brought news of another loss to the British training game, with the announcement that Devon-based Victor Dartnell would soon be calling time on his 30-year training career.

The rationale behind the decision seems to align with the most common reason people of any profession choose to retire, i.e. to relax away from the working environment.

When explaining his retirement, Dartnall stated, “After 25 years in farm management, racing was my second career, but it is now the time to take things a bit easier and spend time with my family. I have five children and 11 grandchildren and I need to get myself organised, really. I own my place here, and it’s my children’s inheritance, and my pension, so there are things I need to see to.”

However, Dartnall also hinted at the financial difficulties, which have forced several smaller yards out of business over the past couple of seasons when noting, “Racing has changed and it’s harder for the smaller yards, especially against the larger ones.”

With a football team worth of grandchildren running around, quite how relaxing Dartnall’s retirement turns out to be remains to be seen, but the popular handler will leave with the best wishes of all connected to the sport. Here, we look back at his extensive career and remember the star performers to have emerged from his Brayford base.

From Point to Points to Graded Success

Point to Point Race
Point to Point Race (Credit: Extraordinary at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Beginning in the Point to Point sphere in 1994, Dartnall obtained a full licence in 1998. Never breaking out of the small to medium-sized yard bracket, his best season came in 2007/08 with a career-high tally of 31 wins, whilst 2011/12 proved the most financially rewarding, with £307,347 in total prize money.

All told Dartnall picked up 354 British winners, plus a solitary success in Ireland. The bulk of those wins came at a lower level, but there were eight Graded victories in the mix, with the following quartet of runners doing more than most to put Dartnall’s name up in lights.

  • Lord Sam – The most talented performer to emerge from the Dartnall yard, Lord Sam won four times over both hurdles and fences – career highs coming in the shape of Novice Chase wins in a Grade 3 at the Punchestown Festival and a Grade 2 at Lingfield, in addition to an excellent third in the 2003 edition of the Royal & Sun Alliance Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
  • Giles Cross – Dartnall was most associated with his success with staying chasers. Included in that number was the admirable Giles Cross, who picked up at least one win every year between 2008 and 2012 – headlined by a verdict over subsequent Grand National winner Neptunes Collonges in the 2012 Haydock Grand National Trial.
  • Russian Trigger – Possibly the toughest of Dartnall’s stamina-laden performers, Russian Trigger enjoyed a golden year in 2009 with wins in the Kent National and Midlands Grand National.
  • Exmoor Ranger – Running 29 times between 2007 and 2012, Exmoor Ranger served the yard with distinction. Third in the 2012 Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival, the pick of his six career victories came in the 2011 edition of the race now known as the Sodexo Live! Gold Cup at Ascot.