David Gandolfo is on the move.

Oxfordshire's longest-serving trainer - known throughout racing as Gandy - has sold his Wantage yard and is setting up at a new base in Somerset.

It marks the end of an era for the 69-year-old handler, who has sent out a string of big-race winners during his time at Downs Stables.

However, in recent years Gandolfo's string has dwindled along with his fortunes on the racecourse, and - with no thoughts of retirement - he has decided to start afresh.

"We have cut back a good bit recently and this is really why I am moving to Somerset," he says. "This place is too big for the number of horses I have got now."

With his yard sold to local property developers Ben Smith & Sons, Gandolfo - who believes he has trained around 1,500 winners - has purchased Footsteps stables at Charlton Adam from fellow trainer Ron Hodges.

"It is an area I have always liked," says the well-spoken Gandolfo. "There are very good gallops and when we sold this it looked a sensible buy."

Gandolfo started his training career at the age of 21 at Chiseldon, near Swindon, posting his first winner when Sunwood won a selling hurdle at the former Buckfastleigh track under amateur rider John Farrant.

After three years in Wiltshire, he moved to Signet, near Burford, and spent a similar time there before moving to the Downs Stables - site of the old workhouse - in 1967.

With the backing of owners such as Ron and Phyllis Amey, from Abingdon, he soon established himself among the country's top National Hunt trainers, regularly sending out 50-plus winners a season.

"I think in our best season we had 55 winners," he recalls. "We always used to average 20 to 30. I have been lucky in that through the Amey connection, I always had half a dozen owners who would have six horses apiece."

Grey Sombrero, owned by Frank Caudwell, from Drayton, near Abingdon, was one of the first horses to put him on the map, landing the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter and the 1972 Whitbread Gold Cup under Bill Shoemark at Sandown.

But a year later the gallant grey was at the centre of one of Gandolfo's darkest hours when he was killed in a fall at The Chair in the famous Grand National when Red Rum collared Crisp in the dying strides to record the first of his three Aintree wins.

Coral Cluster and Hopeful Lad were two other of Gandolfo's early stars as he racked up the winners.

Peter Scott, owned by the Ameys, took the 1979 Welsh National at Chepstow and the Mildmay Cazalet Memorial Chase at Sandown.

And Paul Barton was in the saddle again when Henry Kissinger landed the Mackeson Gold Cup at Cheltenham in 1981.

In more recent years, Gales Cavalier provided Gandolfo with two big scalps when beating Viking Flagship at Cheltenham, and Mr Mulligan in the Desert Orchid Chase at Wincanton.

The veteran trainer also rates Trying Again, winner of the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton, as one of the best he has trained.

But it's not just been the horses that have made life at Downs Stables memorable.

There have also been plenty of lighter moments such as when he failed to recognise one of the most famous people in the country.

"I was going round evening stables and someone came in and started talking to me," recalls Gandolfo, who gets his name from Swiss ancestors.

"I didn't know who he was, but he was after camping in the middle of the gallops. I said thank-you, but no thank-you, and afterwards one of the lads told me it was Paul McCartney!"

Looking to the future, Gandolfo is eager to add to his tally of winners with the likes of his smart two-mile handicap chaser Glengarra, and the promising bumper horses Galoshes, Alamkhan and Ringo Cody.

"I would like fewer horses - a maximum of 20 - but of a better class," he says.

"That is easier said than done, but we have a reasonable nucleus, so we will see what happens and keep our fingers crossed."