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Category Archives: Harry Derham’s Blog

Fabulous Frodon leaves us on Top of the world

When contemplating the last seven days, I am not too sure where to start. Cheltenham, always the biggest week of our year, comes with so much pressure and expectation that to come away with two Grade 1 winners made it really very special.

Cheltenham week is exhilarating and exhausting in equal measure with the two-hour drive there and back punishing enough every day as well as everything that goes with the week. For all that the weather was not perfect spring-time sunshine, the crowds were huge and I hope that all of you that attended thoroughly enjoyed your days there.

It’s funny, I have been lucky enough to be at the Festival for a number of years now and every time, prior to the first race on each day, I have a beaming smile across my face knowing how lucky I am to be a part of it all.

I will start with the two winners of the week with Topofthegame and Frodon, winning the RSA Chase and the Ryanair respectively.

Topper is a huge horse has always been high-class so, since his run at Christmas, this race has been the only plan. It has not always been plain sailing with Topper and his training schedule has not been without mishap so to get him there in peak conditions was a remarkable training performance. The man who deserves a big mention for his part in this victory is Matt Hampton who rides Topper everyday and has done a brilliant job. You would not think it because of his size, but Topofthegame is a nervous horse and not particularly trusting, but Matt and him have a great relationship and they get on well which keeps Topper relaxed in his work from day to day.

Harry’s game works perfectly

I personally felt it was one of the rides of the Festival from Harry who executed his patient waiting tactics brilliantly and produced him to lead at the last before asking him with his whip just three times. It was a ride of supreme confidence and maturity advertising the fact Harry is right at the top of his game too.

A day later, I witnessed one of the bravest and most amazing wins I think I have seen at Cheltenham with Frodon making just about every yard to win the Ryanair Chase. By this stage if you are a regular reader of the blog you will know all about Frodon, his character, his nature and his bravery. He really is a special horse and it took all of his guts and determination to get the job done. His jumping was simply incredible and, although being hassled the whole way, he never once took his eye off the job.

After the race though it was madness, absolute madness. The noise was deafening for the whole walk back down into the winners’ enclosure with Bryony and Frodon lapping up all the attention. It really was a special moment as he came into the paddock to face a hero’s welcome for a true Cheltenham warrior.

For the Vogts, his quite wonderful owners, Michelle – who I am not sure has stopped crying yet given she looks after him – and Holley who rides him every day, Thursday was a day that will not be forgotten by all of us at team Ditcheat. Frodon really is a lion heart and I love him dearly.

Clan and Guey give their all in defeat

I was immensely proud of Clan in a tough Gold Cup who ran his heart out to be fifth after jumping brilliantly throughout. The Gold Cup is obviously the race that everyone dreams of winning and, while this year that didn’t happen for us, we were still pleased with Clan who gave everything as he kept on bravely even when he was beaten.

Of the other beaten horses there were plenty who did very well. Brio Conti travelled beautifully in the Coral Cup for a long way to finish fourth, Brelan D’as ran a mighty race to be third in the Grand Annual, but the one who made me most proud and was the highlight of my week was Politologue who ran a huge career best when finishing second behind Altior in the Champion Chase.

Altior is obviously a supreme champion and all credit to him, but Guey really made him fight for it up the hill and gave everything in trying to beat him. Although he did not succeed he fought like a champion and deserved his big round of applause he received when he came back to the winners’ enclosure.

The wonderful thing about the Cheltenham crowd is that they appreciate top-class horses and all of them receive a generous welcome be it a winner or placed horse and rightly so as the competition there is so, so tough.

One thing I could not do in this blog was forget to mention our little Malaya who won the Imperial Cup at Sandown a couple of days before Cheltenham and in the process pulling off a good little plan put together by the boss. Malaya, who sometimes can be her own worst enemy, such is her competitive nature, battled hard to win and could head to something like a Scottish Champion Hurdle before go novice chasing next season.

Staff efforts ensure Cheltenham week runs smoothly

While for most, Cheltenham week is an absolute ball, filled with drink, socialising and fun, the week for our team at home and at the races is long and tough. Everyone feels remarkably lucky to be part of it of course, but I must pass on a huge well done to all our staff who made the week run like clockwork.

The horses left every morning at 7am sharp and were not home before 9pm before kit then had to be packed and prepared for the next day. All that hard work needs doing to a high level for Paul to achieve the big results he did.

We of course enjoyed a few beers and a fine rendition of Sweet Caroline, a track which is fast becoming a Ditcheat sound track following our big wins.

In this season, a season where Paul’s horses are running better than ever, it felt almost fitting that Paul roared back to Grade 1 success at the festival; after all he prides himself on his improving young chasers and in the case of his two winners that is exactly what he has.

The yard continues in good form and although we face a fairly quiet week ahead, we are now regrouping and preparing the string for what will hopefully be a successful six weeks until the end of the season.

Go well



Cheltenham countdown continues apace

I am just walking home from a rather soggy morning stables, but in good spirits as the morning has gone well and, one by one, the days tick by on the countdown to Cheltenham.

The last week has been another good one with the horses continuing to hold their form and run very well. From San Benedeto to Christopher Wood, Macfabulous and Rhythm Is A Dancer there have been plenty of excellent winners.

Without any doubt though, my highlight was Tommy Silver who suffered desperate luck on his previous start when looking like the winner only to be carried out late on. However, this time though in his first attempt at three miles, Tommy and Harry were quite brilliant. I have honestly never seen him jump in such a brilliant rhythm and there was never a moment’s doubt.

This win was great not just because it saw a slightly frustrating horse finally put in the sort of performance we hoped he was capable of, but it was also Paul’s 100th success of the season, another milestone that further confirms the consistency of the man at the helm.

The victory at Ludlow presented the perfect scenario as Tommy is owned by yard sponsor Ged Mason, ridden by stable jockey Harry and showcased a horse putting in a career best so the culmination of all three factors made my Ludlow Wednesday the real high point of the week.

Young guns promise plenty for the future

There are two more performances I would like to touch on briefly as regular readers of the blog will know how much I enjoy seeing nice young horses run from the yard. The horses that really caught the eye this week were the juvenile Christopher Wood – now unbeaten in two starts – who created an excellent impression at Newbury, hurdling slickly before powering away late on to book his place to Aintree in April.

The second classy performance of the week from the young guns came courtesy of Mcfabulous, who is a really exceptional athlete and advertised that opinion by making all to win the closing bumper on Saturday. Paul has always held this lad in really high regard and we cannot wait to see him hurdling next year. He may run again this season but Paul will make that decision in the next few weeks when he knows how he came out of that effort.

Back at the yard, a lot of eyes are starting to look quite firmly towards Cheltenham and, in terms of the horse’s preparations, this week ahead of us is as crucial as any. Their final half-speed and piece of work will take place over the next six days as will their final schooling sessions so, while the excitement mounts, it is so important everyone remains extremely focused on the job in hand.

With the big four days almost in touching distance, it is important to remember there is a huge amount of work to be done between now and then, while there is also some big races beforehand with Malaya poised to head up the charge in the Imperial Cup this weekend.

My week, although not nearly as busy as next, has plenty going on with my final Cheltenham preview to go to, while Exeter, Wincanton and Sandown play host to our runners this week.

Cheltenham quiz provides more questions than answers

Of course the biggest task that lay before me ahead of Cheltenham is our annual pre-Cheltenham quiz that takes place in the Manor on the eve of Cheltenham, a night always enjoyed by many and much to my frustration normally won by Paul’s team – not that he’s remotely competitive.

I always enjoyed the quiz when I competed in it and continue to enjoy it now playing the part of the quiz master. I must briefly say a massive thank you to a good mate of mine Rhys Williams who I would not be able to do it without. He writes all the questions, comes up with ideas for the rounds so I just have to read it all out. Rhys is more reliable than Google when it comes to racing knowledge and it is a huge help to me trying to do the quiz.

With that in mind and about 100 other things to do over the next two weeks, my next blog will be posted the Monday after Cheltenham.

I am hoping that I will still have a hangover and we have enjoyed some memorable moments at a week that means so much to all of us. Until we do speak next however I hope that you all enjoy Cheltenham whether you are going or just watching it on television. It is a fabulous week that I feel so, so lucky to play a tiny part in and I try my best every day I am there to appreciate how lucky I am. Oh and before I go, don’t miss a double figure price about Posh Trish.

Go well, Harry


Stable landmark ensures another great week

Thankfully, it was a very sunny start to the week in Ditcheat, Iʼve just got off my second lot and am now heading to the gallop with Clifford and Grandad so this is very much a blog on the fly.

A late night home from racing followed by watching Rory play the back nine in Mexico scuppered all chances of the blog being written last night. I am however delighted to say it has been another productive week for our horses with lots of winners and excellent runs.

My week was also pretty unusual where a rare trip to London included an appearance on the Luck On Sunday show, thanks to Nick himself who wanted me on there. It was a good but nervy experience and one that in the end I enjoyed after my apprehension at first.

Heading back to the beginning of the week it started off in really quite perfect style with Capitaine winning well and Taunton bringing up Paulʼs overall winners tally to 3000, a truly remarkable achievement.

That winner was always going to be a big deal for Paul, but it was made all the more special being at one of his local tracks in Taunton and having Mr Barber in attendance for the win, a man who has been Paulʼs biggest supporter throughout his career. Capitaine is not the easiest of horses to deal with at home as he has had his fair share of problems so I must say well done to Megan who rides him every day and has done a good job in keeping a lid on him.

Captain earns his stripes at Exeter

She must really love Capitaine as he even lured her to Taunton to lead him up and having Megan there for the picture after the victory made it a great day for Paul and, in all truth, winning that race was a lovely one to get to 3000. My personal highlight of the week arrived on Friday courtesy of Captain Cattistock who, after having had a slightly frustrating stop start-season up until now, showed what a promising young chaser he is winning in determined fashion at Exeter.

The thing about the Captain is he will never be all that impressive as he is slightly lazy when he gets to the front, but he has plenty of ability to go with an excellent technique and in my opinion he will quietly progress in staying novice chases.

Kate, who rides him every day, has done a brilliant job with him as he was not in a great way after his Haydock fall, but along with Paul and Clifford, she has brought him back to winning ways and was rightly very proud of him at Exeter.

We were lucky enough to have four winners over the weekend and the one that stuck out for all the right reasons was Southfield Stone who I felt was given a really excellent ride by Harry to win the Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle. He may not have been on the best horse, but made a decisive race-winning move around the final bend and, with the help of a willing partner, held on late on. Harry is growing in confidence all the time and ahead of Cheltenham that is obviously very good news for us.

Bumper crop continue to excel

While the more experienced, open company horses of the yard continue to run well this year, it was once again hugely satisfying to see all three of our bumper horses run so well this weekend; two of them winning and Golden Gift finding only one too good for him at Chepstow.

Enrilo who won well at Kempton is a beautiful young horse who already jumps very well and looks a great prospect for next season. Big shout outs must go to Natalie, Jana and Lorraine who ride the three bumper horses that ran this weekend and, without patient and accomplished riders, young horses cannot flourish the way you want them to. Hopefully, all three will make up into nice novice hurdlers with a summer behind them.

After racing on Saturday I resembled some sort of lost tourist as I headed into London in the hope I would locate my appointed hotel before my Luck On Sunday debut. Well, I found the hotel without any trouble at all, that however was not the big issue as the nearest car park was more of a mystery and, after half an hour of driving round in a state of countryside confusion, I stumbled across the nearest car park.

The London adventure was not yet over however as a trip on the tube was next in order to get to my destination for dinner. I had been given extensive instructions in order to navigate my way down the central line, but I was not oozing confidence as I headed into Ealing Broadway.

Lucky to spend Sunday watching another master

Luckily I found my way there and back without any drama and was ready for Sunday morning’s fun. After the initial nerves and sweaty palms I enjoyed my time on the show and bagged a croissant afterwards. One thing which is great to witness is watching Nick Luck himself in action.

He is so normal in front of the camera and, having been out of the country for the past two weeks on other work duties, the sheer amount of coffee a man could drink during one show was also impressive.

Having Nick host the show immediately puts you at ease and lets you feel like you are just having a chat which makes things a little more comfortable. The week was then concluded by a trip to Fontwell which was drenched in sunshine and it was lovely to witness Ostuni win nicely for Barry and Anne Fulton having been a bit of a nightmare earlier in the year.

Bryony has done a brilliant job with him as he has been anything but straightforward in his first couple of races, trying to do anything but race sensibly. He is growing up now though and will hopefully start to progress into a nice horse.

Cheltenham is now not a million miles away and, with that in mind, I have my first festival preview this week; they are evenings that always amuse me so I am looking forward to that. Aside from that though I think Monday is the only day I will not be racing so it is looking like another busy one. I very much hope you all have a good week.

Go well, Harry.