Skip to Content

Category Archives: Harry Derham’s Blog

New arrivals promise plenty for next year

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.

READ MORE

Young guns continue to fire

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.

READ MORE

Time flying by as Aintree comes and goes

I find it hard to believe yet another week has passed by and it is once again blog time, it seems that time is flying at the moment and, as we are under a month away from the end of the season, things in Ditcheat are slowly changing.

Of course there is a lot of horses still in full training and working hard with some big spring targets to focus on, but now April is upon us some of the horses have finished their racing season and will begin the process of winding down before their summer holidays.

You may think that as soon as our horses have finished racing we just finish them and they head out to the field, but in Ditcheat this is a timely process that Clifford and Paul do not rush.

For an example, a lot of our young bumper horses that have now finished for the year will continue to canter probably for another three weeks. We do this for several reasons, one being that before they go for their summer holidays they will all have another schooling session so their jumping is fresh in their minds.

The second reason being that Paul believes it is important to have your horses looking really well before they head to grass as if they look poor when they go out in the fields they will not do well while they are out.

They get fed lots of haylage and plenty of feed with an ever-decreasing amount of rugs so that by the time they are heading out to grass they will have been without a rug in their stable for around two weeks. As I said this is a process that can’t be rushed, but Paul likes to ensure he is happy with their physical condition before turning them out to grass. This patience also makes certain that there is lots of good grass for them to eat when they do eventually head to the paddocks.

Two maestros share a morning at Ditcheat

For the horses still in full work, it has been business as usual and we had a couple of cool visitors on Monday with Nicky and Sophie Henderson watching first lot with Paul, before they headed to Seven Barrows to watch third lot at Nicky’s.

Watching Paul and Nicky chat for an hour as first lot played out in front of them was absolutely fascinating. They obviously train their respective strings in very different ways, but both speak the same language in terms of their horses and what they need in order get the best out of them.

I loved just standing by, watching them chat about racing, what they do with their horses, running plans, jockeys, schooling, the weather and just about everything in between. In terms of the National Hunt game there would not be many brains as good as those two when it comes to training racehorses.

Obviously we are all just once again gathering our thoughts after a manic few days away up at Liverpool where Mcfabulous shone through as a top-class young prospect winning the Grade 2 bumper in determined fashion while a raft of other horses ran well in defeat.

Clan Des Obeaux stayed on gamely to finish second in the Bowl as did Topofthegame and Politologue who put in an especially brave performance having bled during the Melling chase.

Christopher Wood travelled really nicely in the Grade 1 juvenile hurdle and I’m sure he will have lots more good days over hurdles in his career. Christopher made his first mistake hurdling on Thursday which put him on the back foot, but he will have learnt a lot from that experience and I can see him winning a lovely two-mile handicap at some stage during his life with us.

Away from Aintree, it was great to see the talented little thinker that is Birds of Prey win again at Taunton under what I thought was a really good ride from Lorcan Williams, who produced him at just the right time to win.

My highlight of the week in terms of our horses though is a little bit of a left field one and that came at Chepstow in the shape of Is A Real Champ for the McNeil family. This huge son of Flemensfirth is a million miles from the finished article and I thought he showed plenty to like in his bumper.

He is already a scopey jumper and, for a horse as weak as him, I thought he ran really very nicely indeed. He will go hurdling next season and, although my feeling is that he is not going to be anywhere near the top of his capabilities for a couple of seasons, this will certainly be a horse to follow over the next few seasons as he develops. I like him a lot.

Looking ahead to this week we will be fairly quiet until Friday where we have some nice entries up at Ayr and again on Saturday with some really lovely horses targeted to venture north. Ayr in the spring is a location where Paul has always done well and I am hoping for more of the same this season with types like Ibis Du Rheu, Secret Investor, Getaway Trump and Magic Saint.

The one I would be really looking forward too however at this stage is Imperial Cup winner Malaya, who has been targeted at this race for some time now. Bence, her regular rider, does an excellent job with her and he is delighted with how she is going. She looks in super condition with a great shine on her coat and is in peak physical condition. We have kept her fresh and I hope she will repay us with a bold show on Saturday.

Bryan success just what the Dr ordered

Before I go this week I just want to take you back to last Monday when Dr Sanderson won his third race this season, this time at Ludlow where, having jumped well and travelled remarkably strongly through the race, he ran out a smooth winner. That success confirmed he is a smart young horse, but the reason I want to highlight the victory was because of the man in the saddle, a young guy called Bryan Carver.

Bryan joined us in the summer having spent a season with Will Biddick last year and has been a great asset to us since. A hugely popular guy in the yard, Bryan’s riding has got better and better this year so it was really special for us that he rode his first winner for us.

Bryan is doing really well in the pointing field this year riding plenty of winners and, having caught the eye on a number of occasions, it was nice to see his hard work rewarded.

I know Bryan’s eventual target is to join the professional ranks and with an attitude to match his excellent riding skills I would imagine you will hear a lot more from him. He also hits the golf ball a lot further than me which is annoying but everyone has to have a fault.

That is about all from me, so I hope you have a good week and until we chat again, go well.

READ MORE