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About: Harry Derham

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Quiet January means more Questions than Answers!

With a typically quiet January in full flow I thought it would be a good time to try and do a Question and Answer type blog this week.

I tweeted on Sunday morning regarding my intentions and, with the exception one of my best mates Stan Sheppard, I received some fairly sensible questions. Shout out to Stan though for quoting a bit of Hot Fuzz at me, something that never ceases to make me laugh.

Before I head straight to the Q&A, I would feel bad if I did not mention Romain De Senam who got back to winning ways at Taunton on Wednesday enjoying the good ground, Secret Investor who ran a big race in defeat to Ok Corral at Warwick and Black Corton who I felt was right back to his tenacious best when finishing second to the equally tough Top Notch at Kempton.

Without further a do then let’s address some questions and start with this from Ashley Bird;

I am looking to get into racing, I can’t ride, have no experience, (bad start I know!). I run my own syndicate, love horses and listen to every trainer/jockey I see on course or on TV. I’ve run my own business and worked my balls off so do you have any advice on how to get a job in racing?

Well Ashley, that all rather depends on what type of job it is you are looking for in racing. There are so many great jobs in the industry that do not require expertise with horses and websites like ‘careers in racing’ would be a big help to you. If it was working in a yard that floated your boat and you wanted a week’s works experience getting a feel for what life in a yard is like then just shout up and I am sure we could help you out.

Number two is from Shaun Taylor who asks;

Hi Harry can I ask will Frodon be running on Trials day at Cheltenham? If yes will it be in the Grade 3 chase over 2m5f and would Black Corton also be considered for the Ryanair Chase?

Shaun, Frodon will be running on Trials day and I am 90% sure he will be lining up in the Cotswold Chase. He absolutely loves Cheltenham, but with a rating of 169 the handicap option would be tough. Three miles one furlong is a bit of an unknown, but he a tough classy horse who is worth a shot at it. As for Black Corton, on Saturday’s evidence I would not have thought so – he looked pretty flat out over two-and-a-half miles around Kempton and, for all that he ran a brilliant race, I would imagine he will step back up in trip once again.

Next up is a question from Felix who asks;

Two questions:
1. Will Danny Kirwan run in the Supreme or Ballymore?
2. How far does he win said race by?

First of all I absolutely love your optimism Felix! On his last run at Ascot I would imagine Danny Kirwan will step up in trip come the spring to two-and-a-half miles. That run was a really solid effort and he is a horse with a lot of ability, as for how far he wins by I think we should probably focus on getting his head in front before Cheltenham before worrying about funny stuff like that! In all seriousness I do believe that Danny is a really smart horse, but you will not see anywhere near how good he can be until he jumps larger obstacles. Paul is not training him hard this year and knowing how much more there is to come from him is very exciting indeed.

Dean has asked;

Any reason why you think Dynamite Dollars isn’t favourite for the Arkle? Is he an intended runner?

I have no idea at all really Dean, I guess there are horses which might boast better hurdles form in the field, but you cannot knock what he has done over fences. He is a quite brilliant jumper which should hopefully stand him in very good stead come March. At this moment in time he is very much an intended runner although I am sure he will be entered in the JLT as well. He has not been favourite for his last two races and they did not work out too badly so hopefully he can keep being the successful underdog. He is a lovely horse to have in the yard though whatever happens at Cheltenham.

Next up Lee Miller has asked;

Roughly when will Miranda be making her debut?

For those of you who haven’t heard of Miranda she is a good looking four-year-old filly by the hugely exciting Coolmore sire Camelot. A dual winner on the level in France, Miranda has taken to her jumping really nicely and is one of a number of juveniles not far away from running. We like what we have seen so far and so long as her schooling continues to please she will not be far away from making her debut.

Rob Day has asked;

The rise in popularity of low costs syndicates (such as the @ownersgroupuk which I’m involved with) has made ownership (and the benefits it brings at meetings) accessible to those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford it. Do you think this is a good thing?

Anything that gets more people involved in racing is a great thing. Ownership can be such an expensive thing to do by yourself but through syndicates like Owners Group I have met so many massive fans of racing who now have a way of being involved in the game at an affordable price. I, like many, work in the industry because we love the sport and meeting like minded people is always fun. I am lucky enough to know some of the guys from Owners Group in particular Ryan Bliss who is an absolute legend and always looks after the members brilliantly at the races, giving everyone a great day out. Go well Ryan.

Jordan has asked;

Which horse appeals as the Fred Winter horse this year?

Not certain as yet Jordan, but Friend Or Foe is a possible as he won nicely at Taunton on debut for us and could be progressive. We also like Dogon who has not yet run for us but could end up as that type of horse. Both are lovely horses for the future

John Rush has asked;

Have you any exciting prospects in your young crop of up and coming horses?

To be honest John I think we have some really quite smart bumper horses this year, types like Flic Ou Voyou, Mcfabulous, Enrilo and plenty more. Two that I really like are Ask for Glory who won nicely at Chepstow, he could be smart when he goes jumping and one who has not run for us yet called Grey Getaway, he looks a nice type for bumpers in the spring.

George Beekman asks;

Is Dan Mcgrue ok? Not seen him out this season.

He’s absolutely fine George and will be out in a couple of weeks or so.

Paul Milner asks;

I’m sure there’s a few dark horses in the yard, which is the one we haven’t seen yet that you’re most looking forward to seeing run?

There are plenty that have not run for us yet and lots of nice horses in and around the place, but one who could run next Sunday is a horse called Saint De Reve. He ran in the spring but was not ready for it mentally so has had loads of time to grow and I am looking forward to seeing him once again. He will probably end up a nice middle distance chasing horse in the future. Another horse you won’t of heard of yet is Pic D’Orhy, he will come out in the spring and we are looking forward to him.

The course specialist has asked;

Hi Harry, with Cheltenham and Aintree and the other big Festivals in mind, what would you do differently in training preparation, to get a horse to peak for these meetings; ie how does a horse arrive at its best for those meetings?

I suppose this is the million dollar question really and something that only Paul could really answer, from what I have seen, learnt and experienced it is really about timing. Training is not an exact science and Paul always tries to keep things very simple with his horses and that does not change all that much going into big races. Paul has always told me that you have to work a horse hard to get him fit and work him hard to keep him fit, one thing however that he rarely does is gallop them hard, they will generally do one piece of work a week and one half speed. Paul’s great strength is being able to give horses lots of work without stressing them out or pushing them too far. Paul, like most top trainers, will always have half an eye on the spring for the good horses and will bring them along steadily throughout the season fitness wise to be at their best in the spring. As I say, it’s not an exact science, very often it will come down to Paul’s experience and him trusting his gut to do the right thing with a certain horse.

Final one from Adrian Brown

who is actually an owner of ours so I won’t answer who is our best horse for the Triumph because you know full well who that is!! I will answer this one though;

What is the one thing that you admire most about Paul (from a training perspective)?

Without any doubt his longevity. Paul has been at the top of his game for a very long time now and you only have to take a glance at his stats to see he is an absolute master of his craft. Year after year he consistently runs his horses to a high level, regularly achieving more than some horses probably ever should. Paul is as focussed now as he has ever been an determined to not only continue what he has created but to better it. At this stage in his career that is remarkable.

That’s all I have time for today, but thank you to everyone who messaged in with a question. Until next week however, go well.


Harriet’s recovery celebrated by all of Ditcheat

It was late April when I received a call from Harriet Tucker. She was in floods of tears telling me that her shoulder was a good deal worse than she had imagined and things did not look good.

If you are not aware of Harriet’s story you will soon discover that the last 12 months of her life have been quite a tale. In the past year she has ridden her first winners in the pointing field, bagged the ride on Pacha Du Polder, won the Cheltenham Foxhunters’ Chase – in the process dislocating her shoulder before popping it back in to continue riding.

She then carried on riding until a fall a few weeks later left her in all kinds of trouble. The shoulder problem was not getting better and, courtesy of Paul and Pacha’s owner Mr Andy Stewart, Harriet was put in touch with the right doctors in an effort to get things sorted. Unfortunately, after our conversation on the phone, it soon became apparent that this issue was sadly not going to be solved overnight, quite the opposite in fact.

The reality of the situation revealed that if the proposed operation did not work then Harriet would not only have to face never being able to ride again, but her arm would be pretty well useless in years to come. As you can imagine Harriet was in pieces at this horrific news and upset at the prospect of not being able to ride again.

The Latarjet procedure (whatever that is) took place in mid June and what followed for H was an agonising six-month wait until she could get back in the saddle. There were times in those long six months when Harriet was driven mad by not being able to do what she loves more than anything but, with the help of the quite amazing Oaksey House, she has thankfully managed to make a full recovery.

Gibraltar proves to be Harriet’s rock

Sunday was the day Harriet had been waiting months for. It was the day she was able to get back and ride competitively once again and what a return it was. To ride a winner on Monsieur Gibraltar for the wonderful Rose Loxton in her first race since April was no mean feat and everyone in the whole team was so made up for her. Harriet rode brilliantly on her comeback and her smile on the way back in demonstrated that all her hard work was more than worth it.

I rarely go point to pointing, but Sunday was the absolute highlight of my week to see H back racing again.

Paul homing in on another historic milestone

Elsewhere, it has been an historic week for Paul who on Tuesday became the tenth most successful winning trainer in the UK of all time when Greaneteen marked his 2951st winner of his career.

For Paul’s name to be on a roll-call with some of the greats of the game made him extremely proud and rightly so. It is amazing to be under 50 winners away from Paul training his 3000th winner – an achievement that when it does arrive will be very special.

A lot of people can be successful for a short period of time, but what Paul is building is a remarkable record and it’s so cool to be part of him hitting those amazing milestones.

For big fans of the yard you will be aware that January is always our quietest month of the winter with all of our horses having their flu jabs and letting them have a quiet couple of weeks, before preparing them for what will hopefully be a big spring. It does mean that January is always a little dull for us, but it’s very important the horses have a slightly quieter time so they can get through the season at their best.

For now though that is just about it for this week, I’m going to watch Rory play his last round in Hawaii and then get some sleep.

Go well, Harry


Christmas crackers ensure a Manor from heaven

When I signed off for my mid-winter break from blogging I did so absolutely delighted with how the season was progressing, however little did I know that the two weeks which would follow would have been quite so incredible.

How on earth can I sum up the last two weeks in a blog? A fortnight which has included a King George winner, a Finale Hurdle winner, plenty of other successes, some memorable moments and of course Christmas, which was happily largely Mariah free!

Before I talk all about this past week of absolute madness, I briefly want to touch on Ascot pre-Christmas as I enjoyed two thoroughly enjoyable days there topped off by carol singing in the grandstand after racing on Saturday. I think events like that are brilliant as it makes racing a more complete day out and if I was trying to introduce someone to our sport I would more than likely take them to Ascot, not only is there always brilliant racing, but there is so much for everyone to do and the singing after racing was loads of fun. There are so many good people that go racing and it was cool for Paul to have lots of folks come up to him as we sung and wish him luck over the Christmas period.

Lorcan becomes the Darling of Ditcheat

Ascot provided us with two great days and on the first of those days it was Lorcan Williams who provided us with a massive highlight when giving Darling Maltaix what I thought was the best ride of his career to win really nicely. Lorcan rides this horse everyday at home and he is anything but easy but he does a super job with him, curbing his over-the-top enthusiasm and channelling it towards his job. Make no mistake, Darling Maltaix boasts a good deal of ability and, stepping up in trip, he displayed that perfectly.

It was also very satisfying to train winners at Ascot for Mr de la Hey and his family who have a box at their local track and love competing there.

Christmas Day came and went with a big shout out to Megan my cousin and Amy my sister who cooked what can only be described as a feast for us. A gorgeous feast it was too. High drama occurred on Christmas morning when trainer and host for the day, Mr Nicholls, made the alarming discovery his oven had decided to take the day off and did not work which lead to a late change to mothers’ house.

The change of location did not spoil the lunch and, with some of the worst cracker jokes in the history of crackers told, we tucked into our turkey. I must give credit to Amy and Megan who, three days on from the Lesters, were still nursing their sore heads so did extremely well to cook.

You will always be chuffed to hear that Grandad’s orange chords made an appearance although I must apologise as apparently they are “burnt oak” not orange – I have my own view on that however.

With a lovely Christmas taken care of it was the time to focus on the next couple of days of huge racing and, while our horses were in flying form going into Christmas, I am not sure anyone expected what then happened.

Seven winners in two days, two Grade 1s, one Grade 2 and a party that quite literally stopped Ditcheat!

By George, Clan steals the headlines

I am not going to go into the races too much as you all know what happened, but what I will say is to win the King George with Clan Des Obeaux for our sponsor Ged Mason, a wonderfully kind and generous man and Mr Barber, Paul’s landlord and a man we all have the greatest amount of respect for, was just about as good as this game gets.

Scott who looks after Clan and rides him deserves great credit in this tale as it is he who has taken care of him and, with the guidance of Paul, created at six years of age what is one of the best chasers in the land.

The evening that followed was epic, a drive home with Ged, Paul and co included a stop at McDonalds and some great tributes to Neil Diamond, Tom Jones and many, many others, but the party really started when we got to the Manor.

Everyone had their picture taken with the King George trophy when it was not being passed around with champagne in it, the songs were flowing just as freely and Harry Cobden was lifted into the pub aloft shoulders of very drunk men singing there’s only one Harry Cobden. All this celebrating was topped off by what can only be described as the greatest ever cover of Sweet Caroline ever heard. Epic stuff and genuinely a day I will never forget.

Quel enjoys his day of Destin-y

The following day brought more Grade 1 glory with the hard-as-nails Quel Destin who seems to be improving as each week goes by. He jumped brilliantly and it was particularly nice to give Sam a Grade 1 winner this season – he is a top friend and still very much part of the team in his new freelance life.

Meanwhile at Kempton, Harry was on fire once again winning on Adrien du Pont and Dynamite Dollars who is making up into a seriously smart novice chaser.

I could go on and on, but in the interest of not boring you all I just wanted to finish with a couple of things I took note of since we last spoke. Firstly I think the most exciting thing about these last few weeks has been the fact that Paul has been winning these big races with young horses, many yet to reach their peak and to me that is almost more exciting that what they are doing now.

Clan is just turning seven and he was the oldest of all our Graded winners over the last few days, the strength of our youngsters is so good for the future of Paul’s yard and, with bumper winners like Ask For Glory and Flic Ou Voyou, I am confident we could have some seriously smart horses for the next few years.

Team Ditcheat deliver again on every level

Secondly, I just thought you should all know how amazing our staff have been over Christmas. The work is still just as hard and the hours still just as unforgiving but the yard has been a hive of good atmosphere, excitement and good will over the last few weeks making me believe that we are lucky to have the group of people working for us that we do right now.

Collectively, everyone was so delighted with our results recently and I really hope that they all feel a huge part of that success.

My final point for the week is this. Clan Des Obeaux marked the 10th time Paul has won the King George, a truly remarkable achievement.

To me it is the second biggest of our entire calendar, behind only the Gold Cup and, to win a race of that magnitude 10 times is a massive feat. I know he has said it cannot be done without the team around him or having brilliant horses and, while I know that is true, I still think that winning that prestigious race 10 times is an achievement not to be underestimated.

Not once has he rested on his laurels or thought of himself too good to worry, he was back in the office the next morning well before sun rise with a smile on his face, pen in his hand plotting his way to the next race and then the next.

Are we lucky to have Clan Des Obeaux – maybe, but Clan is lucky to be trained by him and I in turn, like all my colleagues, are lucky to call him our boss.

Go well




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