Veteran trainer believes in Everest Legend

By: Mandy Cottell Friday 18 October 2019

Sir Dapper and Emancipation were great rivals on the track and more than 30 years after the pair's exploits, their respective trainers find themselves with a common Everest bond.

Les Bridge, the 81-year-old trainer of Sir Dapper, will saddle up Classique Legend who is owned by the Hong Kong-based Bon Ho but doted upon by Ho's racing and bloodstock manager Carmel Size.

Size is the daughter of Emancipation's trainer Neville Begg, a dear friend of Bridge dating back to an era when a $14 million prize money purse was the stuff of dreams.

"I've known Carmel since she was a kid, all the Beggs," Bridge said.

"Right back from the Sir Dapper and Emancipation clashes. They're a great family.

"Now we're all in the same camp."

Bridge has been training at Randwick for more than 50 years and describes himself as "an old dinosaur", but in reality he is a passionate and accomplished horseman.

He has seen more than most in racing and describes Saturday's Everest (1200m) at Randwick as one of the greatest fields of sprinters assembled.

"For a sprint race, I would say it is nearly the best I have seen collectively," Bridge said.

"You can make a case for every horse in the race really.

"There are 10 Group One winners. You go anywhere in the world and you're not going to get 10 Group One winners in a race.

"When I started there was no prize money. You had to have a bet to get any money so the concept of this is unbelievable. It is almost surreal to me."

While Bridge is the most experienced trainer with an Everest runner, he will saddle up the least experienced horse.

Classique Legend has raced just six times but proved he deserved his Everest slot when he split Pierata and dual Everest winner Redzel in The Shorts.

His lack of seasoning was more apparent in a tactically run Premiere Stakes when he finished third to Brutal, an effort Bridge originally thought was disappointing before revising his opinion once he saw the sectional times.

He concedes Classique Legend's inexperience is a risk but his own experience tells him it is a risk worth taking.

"It is a fear and I hope that he can overcome it," Bridge said.

"In a perfect world, I would have loved to give him another preparation.

"But I wouldn't run him if I didn't think he was up to it."

Bridge was 22 when he took out his trainer's licence and during an era that boasted legendary horseman Bart Cummings and TJ Smith, he held his own.

He won a Golden Slipper with Sir Dapper, Melbourne Cup with Kensei, a Doncaster with Row Of Waves and more recently enjoyed Group One success with bonny mare Hot Danish.

An Everest triumph would be something else again.

But the money and prestige is not what drives him and win, lose or draw, Bridge will be back working at his stables on Sunday.

"I love coming here every morning, that's why I do it," he said.

"I don't have to do it financially. I do it 'cause I love it."