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Category Archives: Harry Derham’s Blog

Manic Monday lifts normal blues

I think it would be fair to say that for even the most die-hard of job lovers Monday morning wouldn’t be their most loved time of the week.

Of course it’s like every other day, but something in the brain of ours tells us Mondays will be more gruelling than the rest of the week. However, I genuinely believe I have struck gold with my new slot of writing my blog first thing on a Monday. Instead of waking up a little tired or in danger of grumbling at the 5:15am alarm call, I wake up looking forward to reporting on the week just past and it’s been a busy one to say the least so without any delay I’ll get straight to it.

It is exactly a week ago now that we headed to Kempton optimistic of a good day with some nice youngsters ready to run, and happily that is how it played out. Brio Conti ensured the day started in the right manner winning his chase debut at Carlisle under a cool Sean Bowen ride, putting in a polished round of jumping and he will without doubt head onto better things.

Sean’s other or better half, depending on which way you look at it, deserves a mention here, Harriet, who in this world only loves one thing more than talking and Sean, and that is Brio Conti. She regularly reminds me what a machine he is and does a great job looking after him every day as he’s not the most robust of animals. In saying that though neither is Brio.

Sir Alex team-talk a time to treasure

With one novice chaser already winning on the day it was the turn of Give Me A Copper at Kempton who, after his slight mishap at Kelso, had a little bit of making up to do. To be fair to him though he didn’t miss a beat last Monday and jumped his sole rival silly winning not remotely extended. At the races on a normal day the equine stars provide the most entertainment and if you listen to them and watch they often provide you with something to learn from however last Monday they had to play second fiddle to a conversation I had with one of Give Me A Copper’s co-owners Sir Alex Ferguson.

After the last race we all headed to where the owners had been lunching for the day and, luckily for me, the only space around the table was next to the great man. What followed was what I can only describe as a twenty minute master-class in all things sporting, where subjects covered ranged from his management style to how to get the best out of a young player, something I questioned him about in great depth hoping that knowledge would enhance the Ditcheat Jockeys Academy. It was only twenty minutes, but it meant the world to me and I will not forget his wise words for an awfully long time.

Remember the ‘name’

Tuesday arrived and happily it was the day that Cyrname finally arrived at the party after being nothing short of disappointing since he made the voyage across the English Channel. Sean has always had a huge amount of belief in this horse though and was adamant that making the running would indeed be the making of him, and how right he was. For all that in every success many people contribute to one horse winning, there are always some that need more help than others and Cyrname is unquestionably one who needs plenty of attention and that attention is provided by Scott Marshall who not only looks after him every day but has the tricky job of riding him.

Scott isn’t one for fanfare or attention, but I really couldn’t reiterate enough just how good a job he has done with this horse. Cyrname is not for the faint hearted at home and riding him does not only require almighty strength, it requires skill, touch, and a bucket load of patience. He jumped superbly at Huntingdon and I was made up for Mr and Mrs de la Hey who have been so patient with him. Cyrname looked a smart horse on Tuesday and everyone in team Ditcheat is incredibly grateful for Scott’s brilliant work with a difficult horse.

In another busy week there have been more excellent performances on the track with our runners continuing their good run of form.
From Ridgeway Flyer making it two out of two over fences at Taunton to Some Man, Secret Investor and Clan Des Obeaux all making excellent seasonal debuts, the latter running a mighty race in defeat to a high class Whisper.

Throw in a brilliant run from Vicente, Movewiththetimes, Le Prezien and Old Guard at Cheltenham over the weekend at Cheltenham and you can see that the yard is in great order, and most satisfying of all thanks to the hard-working team in the yard every day the horses look fantastic when they go racing something I know Paul is incredibly proud of.

Ditcheat double-act dazzle at Cheltenham

In the car on the way racing on Saturday it would be fair to say my mood darkened in symphony with the gathering clouds as we moved closer to Cheltenham. I simply felt that the more rain we had the less chance Ditcheat had of success and I wasn’t overly pleased by that prospect. However, the great thing about this racing game is that every time you think you have got to know a horse they surprise you by doing something you never imagined they could.

In seven blogs this season I have written glowing about Black Corton and remarkably he stepped up again posting without doubt his finest round of jumping to date, while battling through the mud to see off two high class rivals. He barely stands at 16 hands but is all heart and quite simply runs until he has nothing left to give, making him the most wonderful little horse. Bryony and Blackie are now five from five together make a splendid team.

I didn’t expect that victory I must admit, however what I did expect was Posh Trish to put in the performance she did in the last under an intelligent Cobden ride. Rarely have I seen a mare possess the power Trishy does, she is a awesome to watch gallop and the way she rumbled up the hill at Cheltenham in the mud has us all very excited about what the future holds for her. Whatever the future does hold for her we will be sure to look after as she continues to progress.

Loss of Sam tough to take

As you can see then this week has been great, and would have been one of the best if it wasn’t for the news that came out on Monday about our number one rider Sam. I have been lucky enough to become really good friends with Sam over the past few years and a kinder, more generous person you could not meet. He is a really fantastic jockey and I was gutted for him to have to sit out some of the most important part of the season, knowing him like I do however, I am certain whatever he has to do to get back to full fitness he will do, he is a hard worker the like of which is not often matched and I know I speak for everyone in team Ditcheat in wishing him a speedy recovery, and offering him all our full support.

Get well soon my friend.

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Politologue and Dynamite form an explosive team

It is rare now in my days at the races out of the saddle that I become nervous about the races we are involved in.

Of course, I am eagerly anticipating horses running on lots of occasions, but nerves now aren’t something I feel that much as I have total faith in Sam or whoever is riding for us and can simply just look forward to the race in question. However, during the week just past I found myself nervous twice. As you know we headed to Exeter on Tuesday with hopes high we would have a good day but what followed was absolute magic with Dynamite Dollars once again confirming his status as a smart novice hurdler and Politologue helped by San Benedeto producing a memorable one-two in the Haldon Gold Cup. We were so proud of San Ben who, despite the ground being not to his liking, got on great with his new partner Bryony (more on her later) and tried his heart out to keep on incredibly well for second, filling his wonderful owners Mr and Mrs Vogt with pride.

The reason for my nerves at Exeter was pretty simple, as everyone is aware we are slightly short of top class horses at the moment, but there is a feeling Politologue could just be a genuine Grade One contender so without beating around the bush if he was that level of horse then he should have been winning, and win he did. Sam gave him a typically high-class ride always having him in the right place and, bar getting a little lonely up the run-in, they didn’t put a foot wrong. It was fantastic to win a big race like that for the Hales Family and the whole team so well done to everyone, from Lucy who rides him every day to Sophie who looks after him.

Chilled Harry ready to take his Cue

With a manic week of racing around the country, and I mean that in terms of going racing all over the place not speeding (don’t worry Mum) this week has given me chance to spend a lot of time in the car with a certain Mr Cobden who received some pretty exciting news this week involving a horse called Cue Card. We went to Ludlow and Warwick together this week and although we have known each other for some time now, I always enjoy having a chance at one-to-one conversations with these guys to see how they are getting on, what is on their mind and any other business.

It’s clear that Harry is right in the public eye at the moment and the racing world requires that little bit more from him and in the next two weeks pressure will of course build. However, spending those two days with him I couldn’t help but be impressed with his level-headed approach to the steady stream of telephone interviews and phone calls from anyone and everyone that only wanted to talk about one thing. He appreciates greatly the chance he has been given and I have no doubt he will ride Cue Card with the same skill he does all his other rides.

Magnificent Modus a muddy marvel

After putting on every single item of waterproof clothing I owned on Saturday, Paul and I headed to Wincanton hoping at some stage the rain would stop. It did at times but frankly it wouldn’t have mattered if there was a monsoon because days like Saturday don’t come around too often. It started with disappointment when Mont Des Avaloirs made a novicey mistake at the last before falling victim to gravity. Sam believed he had the race in safe keeping but luckily our day just got better and better and it wasn’t a bad omen.

Although I bang on about Modus all the time in this blog I’m going to again, because I absolutely love him. He has the most wonderful character in and around the yard that makes him a total joy to have about and I was completely thrilled to see him win his second chase in the fashion he did. Modus seems to have taken to fences with ease and his potent turn off foot is going to make him a formidable opponent in the coming months. Although when I complimented our rider he just laughed at me and said it was a steering job, I genuinely thought Sam did seriously well, having not ridden him on the track before, he put Modus to sleep and was ice cool over the last three fences. The best part about the Modus story for me was Aodhagan, his regular rider, who was at a wedding in Ireland for the weekend. As normal after Modus races he was the first person I rang to congratulate him: “You having a good day man?” I asked, “Great thanks, they’re just in the church now so I best go,” was his reply. I got the feeling an Irish wedding isn’t ever an early night and with the added incentive to celebrate I should imagine Aodhagan had a decent weekend. I loved how he’d stepped out of the church to check how his main man had got on, priorities unquestionably in the right place.

Bryony Present and correct with her new Man

Saturday though was all about the Badger Ales trophy despite Modus making it two Grade Two’s inside a week for the team. It was about 18 months ago when Paul rang Mark and Tessa Woodhouse telling them he had the perfect horse for them and that if they gave Paul chance to nurture him a little further then he would win them the Badger Ales Trophy. Their good friends Steve and Caroline got onboard as well excited at the long term ambition and the story began.

Mark Woodhouse’s company is called Hall and Woodhouse and along with making what I’m told is excellent beer they also own some of the finest pubs in the land so the Badger Beer Chase, for obvious reasons, is their pride and joy or their Gold Cup if you like. You can imagine the cheers that were going up when Present Man turned for home in front.

Present Man’s performance was special for so many people but perhaps most importantly he was special because of one person. The person on his back who guided him round a tricky course in ground softer than he wanted eking out every last ounce of energy at exactly the right time in order to win the race. Of course that person was Bryony who I’m sure hasn’t stopped smiling and rightly so as, in a competitive race with one of the finest horsemen around chasing her up the run-in, she kept her cool and executed her plan to the letter.

Present Man winning meant so much to so many people and it was summed up perfectly in the paddock with Harriet, who looks after him, in floods of tears such was her joy. When things like that happen it wouldn’t matter how much rain there was falling or how cold it was, Saturday was a magical day and I won’t forget it for a very long time.

The clock has just ticked past six thirty and Paul has arrived at the office, another week is beginning and it has a hard act to follow but as this cold day dawns I look forward to seeing what another week has in store.

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Time to take stock and draw breath

Sitting in front of my computer on this Sunday morning pretty well represents the first opportunity I have had to pay some attention to my blog in the last ten days or so.

Since then a lot of water has passed under the bridge, some nice horses have won, we’ve been drenched in sun and rain in equal measure at home on the gallops and every single jockey in England I know from my brief weighing room days has told me with delight how good it was to see Amy beat me in the charity race at Wincanton.

My well-rehearsed answer now being: “Well, she’s always been the most talented Derham!”

I’ll briefly touch on our fun day at Wincanton which included an excellent win for Mr Mix under a truly fantastic Harry Cobden ride, where he waited and waited until delivering the killer blow onboard, in my opinion, a quietly improving companion. Congratulations to Lorraine then who rides him every day and the whole team who have played their part.

Amy the star turn as valuable funds raised

Last Sunday was for us a culmination of three months of trying to raise money for Key4life and in the end Amy and I were delighted to have raised £3300 for a charity that really did change my perspective on how lucky I am to lead the life I do.

Most importantly I must say well done to Amy for winning on Volpone Jelois, a horse which is now her firm favourite and will be for some time. I’m not sure I’ve ever quite experienced someone so nervous, but she did well during the race and held off the challenge from a couple of her rivals, at least I think that’s what happened, I wasn’t sure as I was so far behind!

At this stage of the season horses are making their reappearances on a regular basis and being involved with Paul we are lucky enough to have some really nice types to unleash, none more so than Modus, who made a blemish free start to his chasing career at Bangor on Tuesday, in the process setting up an exciting novice season for him. I spoke last season in the blog about our love for Modus and his abundant talent, but that has gone hand in hand this season with some excellent everyday riding from Aodhagan Conlon, who I’m pretty sure loves Modus more than most and harnesses his enthusiasm for his job with skill and touch.

Another to contribute to an excellent 10 days on the track has been Malaya, who notched up her first Listed victory on English soil (second of her career) when making all of the running at Wetherby.

Posh Trish, who battled oh so hard at Aintree, As De Mee who stayed three miles well at Kelso to win under the guidance of our resident Welsh wizard Mr Bowen and the quite wonderful Black Corton who scored at Cheltenham all contributed to a terrific spell of form for Ditcheat.

The last named is a horse that if you saddled him with the weight of the world on your shoulders he would jump off and gallop until he dropped to cheer you up such is his genuine nature.

Finally, Challico got off the mark in gritty fashion at Taunton putting in a much more polished round of jumping than his previous run.

Busy Ditcheat continues to challenge and reward

Back at base camp, things are as busy as ever with the yard now in the full swing of the winter routine and the rhythm to the yard beats steadily. Fifty winners is the current total and with the yard in good health we are optimistic a steady stream will continue to flow.

It is such a relentless game this with new focus’ and goals emerging almost on a daily basis; a new race to study, a new schooling session to co-ordinate, a young horse to look at, more entries to trawl through it is non-stop, but that surely is why we all love it.

For every horse that disappoints you there is one who steps up a level and fills you with pride. That is our game and in Ditcheat we are always keen to be positive, look forward and work hard to ensure no matter what success we might have enjoyed, there is plenty ahead of us god willing.

I hope that is true of this week with some nice entries dotted around the country, including two in the Haldon Gold Cup on Tuesday. That is a big day for the West Country and I am hopeful we will play a big part in the Exeter show piece.

I’ll leave you with something that nearly a week on still has me chuckling, a line that came from Seamus Mullins at a National Trainers Federation meeting on Monday.

I was obviously representing Paul, something I actually really enjoy doing at those meetings as it is a great opportunity to hear what is going on within the sport, changes good and bad as well as hearing the views of other trainers on the racing world.

As we came to the end of our meeting, Rupert Arnold, chair of the meeting, took the chance to welcome Jack Barber to the fray and Seamus asked him how things were going.

“All good thank you, enjoying it and I’ve had a good week” Jack replied, “Yeah you’ll have one of those every now and again,” was Seamus’ swift reply followed by knowing laughter from his fellow trainers, a sharp response that still has me chuckling now.

Until next time, good luck.

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