Skip to Content

Category Archives: Harry Derham’s Blog

Stan’s brain scan surprises all at Ditcheat

“I look like I’m about to go out and rob a lawn mower,” quipped Stan (Sheppard) last Friday at Fontwell just as myself, Bryony and the ginger prince were about to walk the course.

We were dressed normally, but Stan sported a grey hoody; hood up I might add along with tracksuit bottoms as he was ready to go running after our walk. Never one to take life too seriously is Stan and I do not know why but that line really cracked me up. Ice creams in hand we set off for our walk, sweated freely for two laps of sweltering Fontwell, had a laugh, discussed plans for the day and our day progressed.
It continued in good fashion as well with Favorito Buck’s improving markedly for the step up to three miles plus and jumping on the whole very well with Bryony before our day came to a shuddering halt. Stan was having his first ride of the day on Rock On Oscar and having jumped four fences in a nice rhythm he faced up to the fifth misjudged it and Stan took a quite horrible fall. He slapped the ground and I immediately feared the worst as he received quite a kicking following the initial impact. I ran over to where he lay and as the doctors attended him it was clear Stan was not in a good way.

Relief all round as Stan given all clear

He was knocked out, but thank goodness everything else seemed fine and, when he gradually came round, the relief that ran through me when he could move everything and the doctors then relaxed was immense. It is a thoroughly unpleasant experience when one of your mates gets injured like that but, thank goodness he is ok and after a brain scan at Chichester Hospital, where much to our surprise they found one, he was allowed home.
Falls are of course part and parcel of a jockey’s job, but I will never like seeing them and every time our jocks walk away from one unscathed I am grateful. Stan has been incredibly sore these last few days but it could have been an awful lot worse and with rest he will be back in the saddle in no time.
It is a little weird really as my high and low light came in that day, the low being the fall and the high was picking Stan up from hospital later that day with a clean bill of health. Aside from Stan’s fall pretty much everything has been good this past week with lots of racing and most importantly some really good results.

Tommy masters Exeter foes

Eight winners was the end total, but you have to go right back to last Tuesday to find the most impressive equine performance from the week, a display that came from Master Tommytucker who despite over racing throughout the contest destroyed his rivals carrying a penalty in the rain softened Exeter ground. I have since watched the race back a number of times and still cannot believe just how hard he pulled and how well he kept going, throughout the day horses were simply not getting home, but he turned round the final bend and powered up the straight in the shape of a very smart horse.
Tommy is very much a chaser in the making and he is a wonderfully exciting horse to have in the yard for next season. Yes, he has a long way to go but it would surprise nobody here if he ended up being a chaser of the highest grade in time.
Away from the other equine highlights such as Brahms De Clermont racking up his fourth win of the season in gritty fashion, Secret Investor getting off the mark over hurdles and Diamond Guy putting in a speedy display at Wincanton the major satisfaction for me this past week has once again come from seeing the staff working so hard in the yard and being rewarded with the results.
Andrew went from Southwell to Bangor to Stratford, Scott took care of Fontwell while Kate Cheltenham to Ayr to Wincanton. These are all long days and, if everyone from the guys at home to the team at the races did not pull their weight, big weeks the like of which we have just enjoyed could not happen.

Valiant Vicente a hero again

Achieving things that have never been done before is incredibly difficult but with Vicente that is exactly what we tried to do in the Scottish National and, although coming up short, he finished a gallant fifth giving his all in a race he loves. He once again did Julie who rides and looks after him everyday proud and lost nothing in defeat.

Looking ahead to this week and I know it will be another busy one, but I cannot help but be a little gutted the season it is all coming to an end once more. Of course it has to and we will start again almost immediately, but I am so proud of the work we have done this week. It is sad when it all goes back to zero and we start again. For now though and during this week we will focus on trying to further Paul’s tally of 126 winners so far this season and hope we can finish another successful term in good fashion.
Have a good week.


Aintree glory caps an emotional week

Occasionally, with this racing game of ours when you look back on a week you cannot help but smile.

Last week was one of those amazing weeks with seven winners including two Grade One races for two of our biggest supporters; the Hales and de la Hey families and, sat here this Monday morning with under two weeks to the end of the season, it is mad to think it is nearly all over for another year.
This would of have to be for me and our team I am sure one of the very best weeks.

My week started with a soaking day at Wincanton last Monday and finished with a day baked in sunshine at Aintree with pretty much everything in between. I suppose the first thing to do is update you all on how the annual assistant trainer’s speech went up at Aintree at the local Chinese restaurant Sing Faye. In all truth I think it went ok, there was plenty of laughter which is always a good sign, although I’m not sure whether it was with me or at me, but I will not be worrying about that. I don’t think I upset anyone which is always a key to the speech and people clapped at the end, so it cannot have been too bad.

Aintree is always an enjoyable, but tiring week with loads to do from the actual racing to going out with all of our owners that stay up with us and everything else that goes with an important week of racing. But if I thought I was busy that was nothing compared to the work that was going on by Kate Nutt and her travelling team that stay up in Haydock for the week and most important of all the team headed up by Clifford back at the yard.
These big meetings are obviously great if you have the good fortune to be able to attend them, but we could not have had the two memorable Grade One successes if everyone who was back at home did not work extra hard to get everything done that needed to be done. Clifford has since told me just how hard everybody back at the yard worked, so well done to them for producing such a big effort and hopefully those wins were just reward for such work. With Aintree being so far away from home we travel our horses up early the day before their race so they have time to recover from their journeys and have only 20 minutes worth of travel time on the of their races. This is only possible with quite brilliant organisation from Clifford and Kate Nutt who make sure everything runs so smoothly. While up at Haydock the horses are in Kate’s care and what a marvellous job she did with them all. Of course it was not just Kate, there was a lot more of the team who went up there and worked tirelessly from walking the horses for an hour morning and evening to making sure they had everything they needed long before they worried about themselves. For me it is those things that make the difference, people willing to work that extra hour and put the horses first without a moment’s hesitation that make a successful stable.

G-stars deliver on the big stage

In terms of the racing at Liverpool aside from the excellent run from Clan Des Obeaux, who at only six years old looks set to make up into a high class Grade One chaser next season after a really solid display when third in the Betway Bowl, there were two very distinctive highlights. They are of course Politologue and Diego Du Charmil.
I will start with Diego who was quite brilliant on Saturday, where we thought the rain softened ground could well have hindered our chances but not a bit of it. For my money, you could call him the winner from miles out as he cruised through the race jumping effortlessly and quickening up well under a well-timed, ice cool Mr Cobden steer. Diego is only a young horse who has always promised to be absolutely top class and hopefully that display is very much a sign of things to come from him.

When Politologue ran at Cheltenham it was Paul’s feeling he just did not finish his race in the manner most of his horses do – he travelled well until two out until he faded badly ending up beaten a long way in the end by the quite brilliant winner Altior. Paul came up with two theories; one his breathing could well be catching him out when he comes under pressure and; two he could well have run his race long before the tapes went up with all his antics in the paddock and parade. Tongue tie fitted we bought him into the paddock as late as we could, did a couple of turns and with permission from the stewards he lead the parade. With Sam now on board he stayed relatively calm and got to the post in a much calmer state than ever before, what then followed much to our joy was the performance of his career. I think Politologue’s main asset has always been his jumping but every now and again he has looked a little weak at the finish so it was magic to see him after the second last put his head down and display an attitude that suggested he wanted to win so badly.
In my opinion, Politologue received a first-class ride from Sam who was careful not to commit for home too early and was then as strong as an ox late on after being headed just before the last. Sam told me it is rare when you are riding that you throw absolutely everything you have at a horse down to the last and they respond with everything they have, but that is exactly what happened and we all enjoyed it a great deal.
We also enjoyed the Chinese that night which John Hales treated us to, so thank you to John and Politologue for that!
However good the week was with the runners though and, as you have read it was pretty damn good, the moment which will stick with me is when family friends Bev and Ed Stephens came down to visit the yard on Tuesday.

Ed and Bev an inspiration to us all

I grew up skiing with Ed who was a huge talent and skied for Great Britain in his teenage years only to have a life-changing accident when a passenger in a car crash. Ed will spend the rest of his days in his wheelchair with round-the-clock care from either his mother Bev or his carers when he is at a place called Star College near Cheltenham. Ed’s progress since his accident has of course been slow and the only thing I am more in awe of than him is his mother’s strength in getting through what they have suffered.
Ed’s communication is now basic, but his laughter is infectious and, when he sees something that makes him smile, he beams with delight. It just so turns out that horses make him smile. He met Politologue just before he was fed so he was shaking his head up and down as he does which he found quite hilarious and then Secret Investor who was a star and stood gently in front of him for 15 minutes as Ed smiled and laughed as I talked about the horses.
He met my best mate Johnny Burke and I explained to Ed that Johnny, with a bit of luck, was going to ride in the National something that Bev has since told us he did not stop watching on the TV. To see Ed and how he is now makes you realise just how sweet life is and would sure stop me moaning about little things in my life. He has to put up with so much, but through it all I genuinely believe he is a happy soul. There are some people you meet in life who you cannot begin to imagine their strength of character and Ed’s mum Bev is one of those people, through all that she has been through she still chooses to smile, love and be happy, emotions which at times must have nearly been impossible to manage.
Her care for Ed is nothing short of remarkable and introducing them to the horses is something that will stick with me for a long time. Now, if I am ever tired or struggling for some inspiration I think of Ed and Bev, whatever I am facing is nothing compared to what they have been through, they are two quite incredible people who I am lucky to call my friends.


Augusta tames Rory

So, on reflection, staying up to watch all of the Masters in Augusta was not the best idea, but going into the final round I genuinely believed my favourite sportsman Rory McIlroy was going to do it.

Sadly, it was not to be and he finished up tied fifth. A late night for nothing then, but I am not too worried as looking ahead there are not many weeks as big or as exciting as this one in our calendar.
To be honest with you, the thing I am most excited about is actually having a good deal of runners this week as these last couple of weeks being starved of jump racing and stable runners has not been the most fun. I can hardly believe we are now into the last three weeks of the season down to the situation we are in – I will explain.
Usually at this time of the year there are plenty of horses finished for their season with an awful lot having given their all by this time and ready for a break, however this year compared to the norm we are in and around 100 runners down on normal due to the underfoot conditions and, as a result, we still have a multitude of horses still in full training and ready to run in the next couple of weeks.
I hope this fact means two things for us; firstly I am optimistic of a good end to this season but I am also confident we can hit the ground running coming May when the new season arrives. I think trainers are endeavouring to get a good start to their season these days and it would be great to do the same with some nice runners through May.

Valour the Fakenham Master

In terms of my week just past although there were no trips to the races to speak of I thoroughly enjoyed watching Act of Valour get back to winning ways under a confident Sam ride having put in an excellent display of jumping throughout before dispatching two good rivals in the process. Val was also a good result as it is nice to have another winner for the McNeill family who have joined us this season and are all thoroughly kind and warm people who it is a pleasure to train for.
Fakenham is not a journey that anyone really wants to make in all truth so shout out to Kate Nutt, Andrew Doyle and Charlotte Ward who spent most of the week in the lorry getting there and back, I am sure bringing home a nice winner helped somewhat.

Not going racing for a week is most certainly not all bad however as it meant I was able to spend most of my week in the saddle, and when you are riding nice horses like Modus (of course) Politologue, the legend that is San Benedeto and My Way (more on him another time) there is not many better ways to pass the time.
We have also had various visits to the yard this week including an Axom visit to see their unraced Lucarno filly Ellarna, who is exceedingly beautiful and one day will hopefully be a smart horse. The Jockey Club racing group were also present to see the dual winner The Last But One and Owners Group to see their horses which is now quite a large number of horses, including yard favourites like Alcala, Bagad Bihoue and Moabit.
Syndicates are becoming more and more of a big part of racing and in my opinion that can only be a good thing, it gives a wide variety of racing fans access to racehorse ownership while not breaking the bank and if things like that can attract people to our sport or affirm a love for someone then that is something I am all for.

Hectic Aintree promises fun and excitement

So looking ahead to this week, well it is pretty non-stop, with entries everyday and the small matter of Aintree to deal with come the end of the week. We will travel up Wednesday afternoon to where we stay and of course like everyone else hope for some luck through the week with some nice chances along the way. Our Aintree week includes many traditions, from the Italian food, the big trip to the Chinese restaurant and the stay in the hotel, evenings can quite often result in a good amount of table dancing depending on the company.
Aintree also plays host to a tradition that Dan Skelton started and that is the assistant trainer’s speech, something that when I was younger I always enjoyed Dan doing his, but now that responsibility falls to me I am not so sure enjoyment is the word. Hopefully I can throw something together that will get a laugh or two.
As with this time on a Monday morning every week Clifford has just come in from feeding and that marks my start time so I must head on. As I said earlier in the blog this is a busy and important week for us so hopefully in seven days time I will be telling you all about it, a Warriors Tale if you will.