“Don’t cry, get up quick!”
Ryan and Harry review the jumps finale at Sandown alongside Will Biddick, who has recently become the winning most point to point rider of all time. We hear how he wanted to give up racing at the start of his career and wants to be champion many more times.
Click below to listen
“Don’t cry, get up quick!”
For my final blog of the season I am going to end it in the traditional way - the way I have ended all my blogs for the season and that is to give you my highlights of the campaign. What a year it was.
In planning this blog, I wrote down 22 separate days or occasions that I remember extremely fondly as this year truly has been one to remember. Luckily for you, in the interests of not wanting to bore my readers, I have narrowed that list down to five. Five days that I will remember for many years to come with great affection.
I had planned to do them in the order that they happened, but they are all very much highlights alongside one another and I’ll start back in November at Wincanton.
Paul has always enjoyed loads of success at his local track and, as we headed to the track on a rainy Badger Ales Chase day, we knew we had some massive chances. What followed was a quite brilliant day with five winners on the card.
Grand Sancy and If You Say Run ensured the day got off to a flyer ahead of victory for Capeland before Present Man produced the highlight of the day lifting the roof off the grandstand in winning the Badger Chase itself for his owners Mark and Tessa Woodhouse, to capture a race they love so, so dearly.
Flic Ou Voyou finished the day perfectly to complete the five-timer and cap a really special Saturday.
King Clan a Christmas cracker
The second of my seasonal highlights was Paul winning his 10th, yes that’s right, 10th King George with Clan Des Obeaux and Harry prevailing. Clan’s win was special on many levels as I said at the time, but the best part of that day was the fact the win came for two of Paul’s most loyal owners and biggest supporters.
Mr Barber and Ged Mason, who each own half of Clan, are two people that have supported Paul for a very long time and to win a race of that nature for those two men meant the world to Paul. That night in the Manor was extremely special and, although a few people will remember it slightly less than others, everyone had an amazing night.
To win just one King George is a remarkable thing but to win 10 of them is extraordinary and to be part of that victory was just amazing.
Great eight a day to savour
The third highlight came on the 16th February at Ascot, Haydock and Wincanton. That day Paul trained a staggering eight winners, but the numbers alone do not tell the whole story, it really was incredibly special. The horses ran their hearts out all day, jockeys rode brilliantly and huge number of people worked exceptionally hard to make sure that everything went smoothly with so many horses running on one afternoon.
I remember the wins vividly with Quel Destin starting the day off, Grand Sancy and Magic Saint scoring at Wincanton while Brio Conti, Clan Des Obeaux, Silver Forever and Worthy Farm all won at Ascot.
The one performance that stands out from that day though and, even when I watch it back now the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, was Cyrname, who in winning the Grade One Ascot Chase by an eased down 17 lengths earned the highest rating for any horse in the UK.
The way he won that race was incredible, his jumping was fast, efficient and accurate and, when he turned for home, he changed his legs and charged up the straight flying the last fence I could not believe my eyes.
Johnny de la Hey and his family are massive supporters of Paul’s and to win a Grade One for them at their local track was brilliant.
My fourth and penultimate highlight from the season was the Cheltenham festival and three horses in particular. To win two Grade One’s at the festival was fantastic and with Topofthegame and Frodon they represent very high-class chasers who we hope will be able to compete at the top table for years to come. The reception Frodon received coming back into the paddock will stay with me forever and never has a horse deserved it more.
Obviously the two winners at Cheltenham stood out, but I was equally as proud of Politologue who ran an absolute screamer to finish second in the Queen Mother Champion Chase when coming up against a true great in Altior. To be part of races like that on that stage is a privileged position and ‘Guey’ made us all extremely proud that day with the effort he put in to get so close to Altior.
Trainer’s Championship crown a magnificent campaign
My fifth and final highlight from this amazing season came on Saturday and that was of course watching Paul collect the Champion Trainer’s trophy for the 11th time. This was the first time he has won the championship since I have been assistant and to stand and watch him collect the trophy made me so happy. Paul’s continued success over two decades is a remarkable feat and to now be a part of that is something that makes me very proud.
The whole day was brilliant with two good winners and plenty of celebrations, we of course ended up in the Manor singing Sweet Caroline and enjoying the night.
Paul always says that you are only as good as your team and this year I believe that we have been lucky to have some really hardworking and accomplished members of staff who have enabled Paul to train all these winners. I know he is incredibly grateful to everyone and so am I.
I will just finish by saying a big well done to my mate Dan Skelton who trained over 200 winners this season; an amazing achievement and all of us at Ditcheat were delighted for him. Dan is a great, great man and I know Paul believes that in the years to come Dan is going to be a big threat to his title aspirations.
For now though, things will become a little quieter as we rest up rebuild and prepare for next season. I hope you have enjoyed reading my blogs this season and I will return in the autumn.
Go well my friends, go well.
We ended a memorable season with an impromptu party at the Manor Inn on Saturday to celebrate my eleventh trainers’ championship. As the evening wore on we had several lively renditions of Sweet Caroline and We Are The Champions.
There wasn’t much chance of a lie in on Sunday as Matt Chapman turned up early with cameras from Sky TV before we entertained around four hundred members of the Owners Group who were still on a high after the jaunty success of Getaway Trump and Harry Cobden on the final day of the season at Sandown on Saturday.
Results at Sandown mirrored a stunningly successful campaign for Team Ditcheat with Black Corton completing a double for yard in the Oaksey Chase. He was given a great ride by Bryony Frost on her comeback from a nasty collar bone injury.
Harry and Bryony have played a big part in our success. Both missed several months last summer through injury and have been making up for lost time ever since with Harry passing 100 winners for the season and Bryony crowned Champion Conditional.
It’s fair to say I didn’t give myself any chance of regaining the title and after a quiet summer we had only eight winners by the start of October. But the winners then began to flow, several of our best prospects took a significant step forward and suddenly we were in with a chance of topping the table.
Clan Des Obeaux, Cyrname, Topofthegame and Frodon led the way with a host of younger chasers and hurdlers progressing significantly together with a really exciting bunch of smart bumper horses.
A memorable season included eight winners in a day in February, a visit to the yard by the Queen after Cheltenham and recently reaching the landmark total of 3000 winners.
Our final tally for the season of 135 winners and over £3.3 million prize money is probably the finest achievement by Team Ditcheat given that we have been short of Grade 1 horses for the past three years while steadily rebuilding. So many people have contributed in one way or another to our success and I can’t thank them enough.
Most of our jumpers will be heading out to grass for a well earned holiday in the next week or two once the weather warms up. A handful will be going to the sales as we continue our policy of trying to upgrade the squad by recruiting for the future.
Things will soon be a little quiet for the next couple of months while we improve the facilities before we begin all over again once the horses come back into training early in July in readiness for what I think is the start of the proper jumps season in mid October at Chepstow.
You may think I am crazy, well those of you who know me already know that, but it is at this time of year I start to really look forward to next season.
The reason being for our owner’s day brochure held at the start of September, I do a write up on each of our horses for it. This requires an extensive amount of research of all our new arrivals comprising of hours of watching replays and reading form and that is the reason for my excitement. Getting to know our team of new horses, plenty of them already purchased, is extremely exciting.
From new point to pointers, French recruits or three-year-olds off the flat, there any many sources of new talent and I thoroughly enjoy getting to know them in person by watching their replays and reading their form. That is a process I start now with a long list of our horses in front of me; a job which will run all summer and hopefully, by the end of the summer, I will have a good knowledge of all our team new and old.
Just as an example, we have just received a good looking son of Kapgarde last week called Cap Du Mathan who has twice raced at Auteuil for Armand Chaille-Chaille, finsihing placed on both occasions. He is a lovely horse and is settling in nicely.
Another example is an individual called Kapital Du Mesnil, a three-year-old Kapgarde from the family of Politologue who is currently being broken in by Will Biddick, he is a beautiful horse who Paul will bring along really slowly with a view of creating a star of the future.
Latest training milestone a memorable achievement
Back to the present and last week was a really special one for us all in Ditcheat, in particular Paul, who brought up his 3000th British National Hunt winner in some style at Cheltenham courtesy of Kupatana, the front-running mare who has finally got her jumping together and, in receipt of an excellent ride from Harry, stayed on powerfully up the hill to record a memorable win for Paul.
Kupatana has not been the easiest project we have ever had join us, but David Rochester deserves enormous credit for the work he has done with her. He feeds her every day, rides her and does everything in between with her and David is the reason she has really got her act together and Paul believes this talented mare will keep getting better.
It was a bizarre weekend with no racing, so much so that Nutty (our beloved travelling head girl) and I were almost pleading with Paul to run something just so we could go racing. We worked out that it was the first weekend since October we had not had runners, but made up for it with a nice double yesterday courtesy of Friend Or Foe and the progressive Southfield Harvest who in winning his bumper delighted our head lad Clifford.
Harvest has been fairly backwards since he joined us in the summer but slowly but surely he has mentally understood what it is we are wanting from him and is really getting his act together. His schooling at the start of the season was interesting to say the least, but throughout the season his jumping skills have improved and we are now really looking forward to him going hurdling over a trip after his summer holidays.
Sandown finale promises to be spectacular
With the bank holiday Monday you will notice that the blog is a day late, but that is not bad news this week as it gives me chance to tell you all about our schooling this morning. We have lots of entries on Saturday at Sandown with some really nice horses potentially racing and we gave them all a jump this morning.
Cyrname, Give Me A Copper, Adrien Du Pont, Diego Du Charmil,Present Man, Christopher Wood, Old Guard along with plenty of others could be bound for Sandown and they all seem in good fettle for the time of year so we are hoping for a memorable day to cap off what has been a truly remarkable season.
I am genuinely finding it hard to believe there is only a matter of days left this season and, as Paul, Clifford and I watched last Saturday’s work I think we were all a bit gutted we won’t have those exciting mornings through the summer. Sure there is plenty to do all summer, but a nice work morning with good horses having their final preparations is absolutely magic.
I am going to do my final blog next Monday with some seasonal highlights and my account of this Saturday at Sandown, a day that I simply cannot wait for. I am going to be an exceptionally proud assistant trainer watching Paul collect the champion trainer’s trophy, a prize that he has won before but for me this year is as fine as an achievement as any of his previous wins.
He’s no Sheeran, but Ed’s acoustic set brings the house down
That just leaves my highlight for this week and it stands out as I have not laughed so much as I did on Wednesday night for a long time. A big group of us celebrated Paul’s birthday in a Cheltenham hotel and throughout the week it had been rumoured that one of our owners and great friends of the yard Ed Seyfried was in line to bring his guitar.
Little did we know we were about to be treated to some brilliant songs, tales and hilarious moments when he had to stop as the words he had written to his own tunes had escaped him. He told us that if slightly less wine consumption may have aided his memory and then maybe the lyrics might have remained with him but we were unsure and it did not really matter.
By the time Ed was singing it was fair to say the group was fairly well hydrated and the musical hour we had around that table was lots and lots of fun, well done Ed, you were great.
Chat next week. Go well.
We head to Sandown on Saturday in high spirits at the end of a brilliant season that has secured an eleventh championship for Team Ditcheat.
It has been a memorable campaign when you consider we had only eight winners by the end of September.
Our horses have earned in excess of £3 million for their owners and we have plenty of chances on the final day at Sandown.
Before going through my entries there I would like to pay tribute to my friend and long time assistant Dan Skelton for reaching the massive total of 200 winners for the season. It is a tremendous achievement by a man who has only been training for a few years. I thought it was on when he got to eighty by the first of October and have been teasing Dan that he has been taking his time to finally reach the landmark.
Our running plans on Saturday depend on how much rain they have at Sandown. The forecast is a bit uncertain but if they get something like 15ml then the ground could be on the easy side of good. So it makes sense to cover all options.
Cyrname is in the Celebration Chase and the Oaksey Chase and his appearance depends entirely on the going as he does need some cut in the ground. Black Corton and San Benedeto are also in the Oaksey Chase over two and three quarter miles. While Dolos, Diego Du Charmil and San Benedeto have also been entered in the Celebration Chase.
I have confirmed three for the bet365 Gold Cup….Present Man, Give Me A Copper, Adrien Du Pont and would expect at least two of them to run.
In the Select Hurdle I am relying on Old Guard. Saintemilion goes for the novice handicap chase while Dan McGrue and Magoo could both start in the closing handicap hurdle.
In the £100,000 novice handicap hurdle I’ve entered Birds of Prey, Getaway Trump and Christopher Wood.
With plans depending on ground conditions please be sure to turn to my Betfair column which goes live late on Friday afternoon.
It feels brilliant to have reached the landmark of 3,000 jumps winners in Great Britain with the success of Kupatana at Cheltenham today.
I’ve had the total in my sights all season and the expectation of getting there has meant quite a lot of pressure.
It has been an amazing journey since Paul Barber gave me the chance to start training at Ditcheat in October, 1991 and to achieve it at Cheltenham is perfect.
Reaching 3000 winners is quite a landmark and something to be proud of and I could not have managed it without everyone at home who are part of Team Ditcheat. They all work hard with enthusiasm and do their bit.Now I can take my foot off the pedal and enjoy it before looking ahead to the next challenge of 4000 winners.All we have to do is keep going and finding the nice horses for the future. If we do that I’d say 4000 is quite achievable.
I am just as driven as I have always been. It’s winners that count.
I ended last week’s blog with a big mention for one of our young jockeys so this week I am going to start the blog with a mention for a couple more of our team.
We have been lucky enough to enjoy another successful week with eight winners including two trebles at Fontwell and Wincanton, four of those winners being ridden by Lorcan Williams who had the biggest day of his career on Friday when riding his first treble winning on Captain Cattistock, Danse Idol and Romain De Senam.
The thing I enjoyed most about Lorcan’s treble was at that very meeting two years ago he rode his first winner for us aboard Southfield Vic in the novice chase he won on Captain.
Two years have gone by and in that time Lorcan’s riding has improved leaps and bounds. His confidence is currently sky high as he is riding some nice horses capable of winning and so long as he keeps his focus then he will continue to succeed.
Lorcan is a good friend of mine and it has been very satisfying to see him enjoying some luck.
The other jockey I am going to reference is Natalie Parker who rode Southfield Vic to success on Sunday at Wincanton and, although he was a short priced favourite, he did not win in that manner and Natalie had to work hard for the win.
Nat is one of two pupil assistants in Ditcheat and has done a great job since joining us last summer. She is an extremely capable horsewoman and would be the first to admit her track riding is getting better all the time.
I think what is great is that our stable jockey Harry, who has done quite brilliantly for us this season, is in regularly and if you are a young rider in an environment where Harry is riding out and Sam is coming in then you will only improve.
Both Natalie and Lorcan have done really well this year and I have thoroughly enjoyed their success.
Schooling sessions promise plenty
Without much racing until Friday, it gave us a chance to do plenty of schooling through the week with one morning in particular proving very interesting.
We are always bringing through the next batch of young horses and three we have recently purchased joined that list, they go by the name of Young Buck, Jeremy Pass and Bravemansgame, all bought at the Cheltenham festival sale.
I quite like this time of year as we are receiving new horses all the time and I know Paul has always thought this is a great time to get them and the reason is this. Buying a horse at this stage in the season gives you some time to really get to know the horse and let them get to know your routine before their summer holidays. It serves as a taster month or six weeks in our yard. The new recruits get used to the bigger strings, work out the new gallops, become accustomed to a new diet all without the pressure of a looming race.
The three horses that I mentioned have done just that, they joined our second yard, Highbridge, settled in perfectly and will do a few more weeks of training before we begin roughing them off. Paul always thinks that it gives them a great advantage for next season as they know all about our systems, gallops and way of life in Ditcheat.
The three of them took to our outdoor arena really nicely and look like being nice horses next year. They will all have a nice summers grass now and I’d imagine will all start in bumpers in the autumn.
Trump popular in Ayr for a change
While I spent the day at my favourite track Fontwell on Friday our annual trip up to Ayr was in full swing and made very much worthwhile with two winners in the shape of Getaway Trump and Secret Investor.
I’ll deal with Trump first as I think this could be a horse next year who is going to be quite something; he a is big strong powerful gelding who I simply cannot wait to watch tackle fences.
With some big races up at Ayr every year we always take the trip to the Scottish National meeting and, for us from down here, it is a very very long way indeed, so spare a thought for the team of guys that spend all the time in the lorry getting our horses up there.
I have said it before in my blog, but travelling with the horses is no holiday. With no walkers at the races, if you are not caring for the horses you are probably leading them out for their leg stretch or riding them out. Work away from home with the horses is not easy and, any time we go away, the people that travel with our runners are very much the stars of these trips.
From Kevin Parker, who drove the big lorry, to Michelle, Natalie and Frankie who went up to care for the horses and Kate Nutt our travelling head girl who, after a late night Saturday night, was up and on parade on Sunday morning for Wincanton.
Paul is always saying how important his team is and there is never a truer word said, you cannot teach or pay someone enough to have high levels of dedication they either have it or they do not and we are lucky enough at Ditcheat to have many members of staff who regularly go beyond any call of duty.
That to me is what makes a huge difference to Paul’s yard, good people who are very passionate about their work.
While on the subject of Ayr, the Scottish track played host to my undoubted highlight of the week and that was of course Secret Investor who put in a brave front-running display to win the Grade Two future stars novices chase under an inspired Harry Cobden.
Harry has really made a man of Seeky during his last two races and riding him positively from the front has seemed to bring about more improvement from him. It is yet another feather in Harry’s cap for getting these kinds of performances from him. I know I have professed my love for this horse before so I was very proud of him winning his second Grade Two of the season and he will now head for his holidays.
Before I go I just want to thank one more person in this week’s blog and that is my old man, aka big Geoff, and I’ll tell you the reason behind that. At many charity auctions and plenty of other events, Paul often donates a morning on the gallops and stable tour of our yard, so throughout the season from very early autumn right up until now it is Dad who shows all of these people around. Every Thursday morning he is in the yard bright and early awaiting his guests for the day and generally the general feedback is that he does not do too bad a job!
He would be the first to admit he would know more about Jurgen Klopp’s team than Paul’s squad and, having worked in insurance for the last couple of decades, he would never say he is an expert at the racing game, but he is a brilliant tour guide for the guests we have and I know Paul is grateful to him for doing it.
Owners’ day a success as I double my friends’ tally
I am aware this blog is a little like a bad song that just won’t end at this stage, but there is just one more thing before I promise I am done. Yesterday (Sunday) we welcomed 400 Owners’ Group visitors to our yard in a successful visit with a parade and burger van!
I know, what an idea by Ryan Bliss, but the point I wanted to make was, and you will all be shocked to hear, I found a genuine fan of my blog. I regret to inform you I cannot tell you my new friend’s name, I think in the shock of meeting my new pal I forgot to ask, anyway the point of this story is this.
At the end of every blog I say go well, a little saying used on a podcast I am a huge fan on, a saying that is always responded too by saying cheers. My new friend yesterday ended our conversation by saying ‘go well’, and I responded cheers,
What a moment, a racing fan, blog fan and fellow podcast fan, the day could quite literally not get better, hope you enjoyed the day my man and the Masters.
Talking of podcasts there is a small chance a friend of mine and I are going to start one if we can find the time and enough subjects to talk about . . . I will tell you more about that in due course.
In the meantime however, go well.