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‘I never gave up hope’ – the emotional story of racehorse trainer Jeff Sadik who ended his EIGHT-YEAR wait for a winner

, ‘I never gave up hope’ – the emotional story of racehorse trainer Jeff Sadik who ended his EIGHT-YEAR wait for a winner

A LOT has happened over the last eight years.

Back in 2014, Brexit wasn’t even a thing, Roy Hodgson was England boss and if you said you had Corona-virus people would think you were actually hungover after a few too many beers.

Jeff Sadik with his Kempton winner Bawaader

Sadik ended an eight-year wait for a winner last weekend

But there had been one constant for the last 3,091 days – luckless racehorse trainer Jeff Sadik couldn’t saddle a winner for love nor money.

That was until last Saturday.

One of the longest losing streaks in racing history came to a dramatic and emotional end at Kempton Park on January 7 when Bawaader shot clear to win by seven lengths.

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It was only a Class 6 one-mile handicap, but to Sadik it might as well have been the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

For years he has had to deal with being the butt of the joke and faced the torment of flicking through the paper and seeing himself atop the trainer’s ‘cold list’.

“It wasn’t pleasant, opening the Racing Post and seeing 1500 days without a winner, 2000 days, 2500 days. But I never gave up hope,” he says.

But in truth, the 78-year-old’s greatest battles have come off the track.

For several years Sadik, who ran a string of nursing homes in the midlands before turning his hand to training, worked closely with his son, Cengiz. Or Gus to his pals. 

Gus was his right-hand man and they bonded over their love of horses. They were as close as a father and son could be.

In 2006, the family were left devastated after Gus was found dead at their stable having taken his own life at the age of 36.

Sadik very nearly quit training as he couldn’t face carrying on alone – but the horses became his therapy.

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So he carried on and in 2008 he won the race at Cartmel which was named in Gus’ honour, the Cengiz Sadik Memorial Handicap Chase.

Sadik said: “When I lost my son I very nearly packed it in, I couldn’t see myself doing it on my own because he was very hands on with the horses when he was alive. 

“But I thought, what is the alternative? Just before I lost him I had sold my last nursing home and I was thinking what do I have now? 

“My son is gone, my business is gone, so there was no way I could let the horses go. They are magical animals and acted as a sort of therapy for me.

“Cengiz loved Cartmel, it was his favourite track and we would go racing there as a family.

“We sponsored a race in his memory and a couple of years after he died we won it with a horse called Desert Tommy.

“We cried a lot that day. It was incredibly emotional. I have been trying to win his race every year since then and I will keep on trying.”

‘Keep On Trying’ would be a fitting motto for Sadik, who’s route into racing wasn’t exactly a typical one.

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He came to the UK from Cyprus in 1964 as an 18-year-old and started his career as a nurse in the NHS.

HOW TO GET FREE BETS ON HORSE RACING

He caught the racing bug when watching Arkle win the Gold Cup at Cheltenham, but he remained focussed on healthcare until he’d earned enough cash to start his own nursing home business.

At this point in his life he was still going by his actual name, Aytach.

Things changed shortly after he opened his first nursing home in Kidderminster, thanks to an elderly resident called Jessie Pinchin who was totally blind.

Every time she heard Sadik’s voice she asked if it was her son, Jeff, who had come to see her. It caught on with his colleagues and the name has stuck ever since.

After selling some of his businesses in the mid 1990’s he used the funds to build his Worcestershire yard from the ground up.

And while winners ticked over at a regular, if unspectacular, rate, he could never have seen a drought as brutal as the one he has just gone through coming.

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To make matters worse, he has had some serious health issues to cope with as well.

, ‘I never gave up hope’ – the emotional story of racehorse trainer Jeff Sadik who ended his EIGHT-YEAR wait for a winnerAndrea Quirk and Darren Jones have played an important role in Sadik’s life

Sadik said: “I sold up my last nursing home when I was 75 and I was planning on going travelling with my wife and enjoying myself.

“But I felt unwell a few years ago and had a CT scan and they told me I had cancer of the bladder, which was like a sledgehammer blow to the head. 

“I had to have surgery to remove the tumours, but because of Covid they had no idea when I would be able to have the operation.

“So I saw a private consultant and they operated on me within three days of seeing him, so it was touch and go and it might not have worked out so well if I’d had to wait.

“I have the all-clear at the moment, though I have to have check-ups every three months. 

“When I was starting to get back on my feet I got very sick with Covid, they told me my lungs were packing up and it didn’t look too good.

“I eventually started to recover but I still have damaged lungs because of it and it took me a long time to get over it. I would get out of breath putting my clothes on.

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“I’m lucky to have a wonderful family who supported me and some great people who work for me.

“When I was too ill to sort the horses, Darren Jones, who has worked for me for years, and a great friend of mine called Andrea Quirk kept things ticking over.

“They are wonderful people and I don’t know what I’d do without them.

“I don’t want to be a drama queen but it was a very difficult time.”

Combine all of that stress with an eight-year winless streak and Sadik has to be one of the toughest cookies in racing.

He admitted that it had reached the stage where he thought he would never win another race.

“I couldn’t win a sack race,” he joked.

Then along came Bawaader, the unlikeliest of heroes.

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He was a Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum reject – bought for £280,000 as a youngster but flogged on the cheap when it turned out he wasn’t a world beater with one win from 24 starts to his name.

Durham trainer David Thompson offered to sell the horse to Sadik last year – but his first impressions weren’t exactly glowing.

He said: “My friend David rang me one day and asked me if I wanted to buy this horse called Bawaader. 

“His owner had died and the horse was out in the field having a break at the time, and the owner’s relatives weren’t interested in having anything to do with horses. 

“By the time I drove up to see him with Andrea, he had been out in the field for 12 months and he was like a wild animal. 

“He was covered in mud and had long hair and he was lame on one leg. I thought ‘My God, I can’t touch this horse’. 

“David assured me he was fine and his lameness was because of an old abscess in his foot and he said he would win a race for me.

“I got him home and we trotted him up and he was lame, but my blacksmith took one look at him, took one nail out of his shoe which had gone through the old site of the abscess and he was sound straight away.

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“Touch wood, he has been sound ever since. He ran several times before for us and he was knocking on the door and he was a little unlucky at times. We knew he had one in him.”

And that one could quickly become two at Chelmsford today. This is taking the old saying about London buses to the extreme.

Bawaader runs in the 5.30 race at the Essex track under jockey Josephine Gordon, who urged Sadik to run and reckons he has a “right good chance”.

Sadik continued: “When you don’t train a winner for such a long time you think, ‘what am I doing wrong?’

“I hadn’t changed anything, I was giving the horses the same feed and training them the same way. 

“So when Bawaader won it was obviously very emotional and a great relief.

“He is only 7lb higher and still in a 0-50 race at Chelmsford. Josephine is confident that he has a right good chance to win again.

“To have a second winner again so quickly, it would be pretty special wouldn’t it?

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“I hope I can inspire people. The easy option is to give up, but I refused to give up. As long as I am standing, I will keep going.”

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