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February 19, 2018

Prolific Black Corton delivered yet another master class in the Grade 2 Reynoldstown Chase at Ascot on Saturday.

With his coat gleaming with good health he looked amazing in the paddock before making all the running and beating two smart rivals in a style that fully advertised his claims in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham. The relentless rate of progress by Black Corton has astounded me all season. This was his eighth win over fences as a novice and his seventh with Bryony Frost who gets such a great tune out of him.

Early on in the summer and autumn we didn’t appreciate how good he was but we do now and we have every reason to believe in him. He took things to a new level on Saturday despite my concern before the race that he wasn’t spot on after a short mid winter break. Black Corton missed a couple of weeks after he trod on the bulb of his heel and pulled off a shoe when winning the Kauto Star Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. We think he did it when swerving to avoid the fallen Fountains Windfall four out. We then gave him a break before freshening him up for the Reynoldstown which looked the ideal prep race for Cheltenham. Black Corton is a fantastic horse who is all Class and he will definitely come on for the run at Ascot as he always does after a break. Further ahead I already see him as a suitable candidate for the King George V1 Chase at Kempton next December.

Frodon ran a cracker to be third in the Grade 1 Betfair Chase considering he was too keen in the early stages of the race. I’d say getting into a battle in the first mile cost him. But for that he would have been a fair bit closer at the finish. He is likely to head next to Cheltenham for the Ryanair Chase although it’s possible we could miss the Festival with him and wait for the Grade 1 JLT Melling Chase at Aintree.

Virak won nicely at Haydock and is now qualified for the Foxhunters at Cheltenham in which we also run Wonderful Charm, Unioniste and last year’s winner Pacha Du Polder who is out at Doncaster on Wednesday.
It was frustrating to see Silsol part company with Noel Fehily at the first fence in the Grand National Trial at Haydock. Conditions were ideal for him and he proceeded to jump round riderless. Silsol might make a quick re-appearance in the Eider Chase at Newcastle on Saturday.

Nor did the cards go our way in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton where Cliffs of Dover, on his comeback, shot off in front like a five furlong sprinter. He was never going to keep going at that pace and was eventually pulled up. Cliffs of Dover was fine on Sunday and I am tempted to find a race for him on the flat as he is only rated 64.

I’d like to end this bulletin with a heartfelt tribute to Zarkandar who was retired on Saturday after finishing fourth in the Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock. That was always going to be his last race, win, lose or draw. Zarkandar has been a superstar for the yard down the years, winning no less than ten Graded races including four Grade 1’s starting with the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham back in 2011.
In his prime he was an awesome hurdler with a great attitude and he won so many big races for us, including, most memorably the Grade 1 Grand Prix D’Automne at Auteuil. During his long career at Ditcheat he earned in excess of £900,000 for his proud owners. Although Zarkandar still retains his enthusiasm in his homework at the age of eleven, he has lost a bit of pace, and it would be wrong to keep racing him now that the fire is not burning quite so brightly. We will find him a good home, as we do with all our horses.

Next weekend I will have plenty of runners including Cyrname and Art Mauresque at Kempton and one or two at Fontwell including Old Guard.

For all the latest news of my runners please turn to my Betfair column early on Friday evening.

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February 12, 2018

The emphatic success of Modus at Kempton on Friday was the high spot of a frustrating weekend for Team Ditcheat when most of our runners were unsuited by racing in the extremely testing ground.

It’s been frustrating waiting for the ground to dry up but unfortunately there is no sign of it happening just yet. There’s no doubt that most of ours simply don’t operate as well in the mud which is so exasperating when they are in such good form at home at the moment.

I was thrilled with the way Modus jumped and travelled at Kempton where the going was fine just as it was at Musselburgh the previous weekend where we enjoyed four winners. The obvious race for Modus at the Festival is the JLT though I’ve yet to discuss plans for him with his owner JP McManus and his racing manager Frank Berry.

Politologue did best of ours at Newbury on Saturday but had no answer when Altior came past him after the last fence in the Betfair Exchange Chase. There is no point in making any excuses as we were beaten by a better horse on the day. While Politologue could have done with a lead he still ran very well but the winner was impressive. It is going to be hard to turn the form round at Cheltenham but we will give it a go.

Saphir Du Rheu ran a fair race to three out in the Betfair Denman Chase before tiring given that he was still heavy despite loads of work over the past few months. He came back in late after sustaining an injury in the Grand National and I warned everyone that he badly needed the run. He is a big horse who takes an age to get fit. He will definitely come forward for the outing and next time in the Gold Cup on better ground I’d expect him to improve massively.

With my remaining runners Newbury all at sea on ground that became softer by the minute I pulled Danny Kirwan out of the bumper. His is a name to remember for the future.

I thought Diego Du Charmil ran a cracker in finishing second to the smart novice Saint Calvados at Warwick on his first outing for four months. He is going the right way and will be one to note in handicaps once the ground dries up.

Next weekend the prolific Frodon will spearhead our team at Ascot in the £150,000 Betfair Ascot Chase. He is one of a handful of mine that can handle heavy ground. Black Corton is also under consideration for the Reynoldstown Chase.

For the latest news on my runners at Ascot and elsewhere on Saturday please be sure to turn to my Betfair column late on Friday afternoon.

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February 5, 2018

Two winners on Thursday, five winners over the weekend and plenty of placed horses confirmed that Team Ditcheat is firing on all cylinders again after our usual quiet January.

We enjoyed four winners at Musselburgh over the two days but the one that pleased me the most was the victory of the giant Topofthegame in the £100,000 Betfred Heroes Handicap Hurdle at Sandown. It was a massive pot for a seriously promising horse who has bounced back brilliantly from a fall at Newbury over fences in November which left him with sore knee. Having missed a few weeks with him we decided to switch him back to hurdles for the rest of the season to gain more experience of racing. He ran well at Kempton where he jumped slowly at times before taking a big step forward at Sandown, staying on strongly to seal the win despite again looking green. He is still a big baby who can only get better with practise. I’m not in a hurry to run Topofthegame again and haven’t any firm plans. I’d be disappointed if he doesn’t have a big future over fences.

Dolos and Cyrname both came close to adding to our score at Sandown. I was thrilled with the run of Dolos on his third start over fences in the two mile handicap chase against far experienced rivals. He jumped very well apart from stumbling on landing two out which cost him the race and was beaten only half a length by Gino Trail. A big strong horse Dolos is improving rapidly, is a novice until the end of the season, wants better ground and looks one for the Grand Annual at the Cheltenham Festival.

Cyrname has come on in leaps and bounds since he won a novice handicap chase at Huntingdon earlier in the season. He jumped superbly the whole way in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles and came tantalisingly close to catching Terrefort on the final. I couldn’t be prouder of Cyrname who was giving the winner 3 lbs. They are both talented horses.

I was ticked pink to see Marracudja back to winning ways at Musselburgh in the Scottish Champion Chase with the help of a fine ride by Bryony Frost. He used to be rapid but he’s more relaxed now and wanting a trip and was staying on stoutly at the finish.

Wonderful Charm won in style and goes straight to the Foxhunters’ at Cheltenham and Coup De Pinceau was also well on top at the finish and will go down the handicap route now.

In addition Peter The Mayo Man was travelling oh so well when he fell three out. There should be more races in him.
Act Of Valour ran very nicely in the Juvenile Hurdle yesterday and will run next in The Fred Winter at Cheltenham.

This weekend we have loads of horses to run at Newbury and a few at Warwick. Saphir Du Rheu is ready to go in the Denman Chase, Politologue is on course for the Betfair Exchange Chase, Ibis Du Rheu tackles the three mile novice handicap chase, and I run a nice prospect Danny Kirwin in the bumper and on Sunday a nice new addition to the team, Djingle, runs in the Listed Novice Hurdle. Diego Du Charmil is among those under consideration to run at Warwick if we have a dry week.

For all the latest news on my runners on Saturday please be sure to turn to my Betfair column late on Friday afternoon.

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