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New season gets underway

We ended a busy week entertaining almost 350 owners at Ditcheat on Sunday morning.

Thank goodness it stayed dry as we paraded the team owned by Middleham Park including Get The Appeal and Oleg who both won in their colours at Wincanton on Wednesday.

Then we moved on to the bottom yard near my house where 300 enthusiasts from the Owners Group were on hand to see their horses including Getaway Trump who proved such a star for them last winter.

It’s a relief that the core season is under way at last after a quiet summer as usual following such a successful campaign. We started the week on ten winners and that total is now up to 14 at a strike rate of 35 per cent. I’d be thrilled if we could maintain that sort of strike rate over the next seven months.

If You Say Run won nicely at Worcester and Silver Forever added to our tally with an impressive winning debut over hurdles at Chepstow on Friday. She jumps really well, has plenty of stamina and will follow the same route taken by Posh Trish last season. Flic Ou Voyou came tantalisingly close to victory in a decent novice hurdle the same day at Chepstow and was only just run out of it on the line. He has a nice attitude and is a winner without a penalty.

Some of ours were just found out at the two day Chepstow meeting on the unusually deep going for this time of year on their first runs of the campaign. I pulled a couple out on Saturday after further rain and maybe should have withdrawn more. Glenlivet just needed the run first time in the bumper but he showed plenty of promise before tiring late on. Posh Trish also ran a sound race and should do well in mares novice chases while Sir Psycho should come on plenty for his debut over hurdles.

We have plenty of entries this week over jumps and Quel Destin, such a prolific juvenile hurdler, returns on the flat at Bath on Wednesday in a staying handicap. I have to be hopeful of a big run from him off a mark of 66 and the race should put him right for the jumps season.

As always please check out the latest news on all my Saturday runners on my Betfair column which goes live around 5pm on Friday.


11th Trainers Championship

We ended a memorable season with an impromptu party at the Manor Inn on Saturday to celebrate my eleventh trainers’ championship. As the evening wore on we had several lively renditions of Sweet Caroline and We Are The Champions.

There wasn’t much chance of a lie in on Sunday as Matt Chapman turned up early with cameras from Sky TV before we entertained around four hundred members of the Owners Group who were still on a high after the jaunty success of Getaway Trump and Harry Cobden on the final day of the season at Sandown on Saturday.

Results at Sandown mirrored a stunningly successful campaign for Team Ditcheat with Black Corton completing a double for yard in the Oaksey Chase. He was given a great ride by Bryony Frost on her comeback from a nasty collar bone injury.

Harry and Bryony have played a big part in our success. Both missed several months last summer through injury and have been making up for lost time ever since with Harry passing 100 winners for the season and Bryony crowned Champion Conditional.

It’s fair to say I didn’t give myself any chance of regaining the title and after a quiet summer we had only eight winners by the start of October. But the winners then began to flow, several of our best prospects took a significant step forward and suddenly we were in with a chance of topping the table.

Clan Des Obeaux, Cyrname, Topofthegame and Frodon led the way with a host of younger chasers and hurdlers progressing significantly together with a really exciting bunch of smart bumper horses.

A memorable season included eight winners in a day in February, a visit to the yard by the Queen after Cheltenham and recently reaching the landmark total of 3000 winners.

Our final tally for the season of 135 winners and over £3.3 million prize money is probably the finest achievement by Team Ditcheat given that we have been short of Grade 1 horses for the past three years while steadily rebuilding. So many people have contributed in one way or another to our success and I can’t thank them enough.

Most of our jumpers will be heading out to grass for a well earned holiday in the next week or two once the weather warms up. A handful will be going to the sales as we continue our policy of trying to upgrade the squad by recruiting for the future.

Things will soon be a little quiet for the next couple of months while we improve the facilities before we begin all over again once the horses come back into training early in July in readiness for what I think is the start of the proper jumps season in mid October at Chepstow.


An eleventh championship for Team Ditcheat

We head to Sandown on Saturday in high spirits at the end of a brilliant season that has secured an eleventh championship for Team Ditcheat.

It has been a memorable campaign when you consider we had only eight winners by the end of September.
Our horses have earned in excess of £3 million for their owners and we have plenty of chances on the final day at Sandown.

Before going through my entries there I would like to pay tribute to my friend and long time assistant Dan Skelton for reaching the massive total of 200 winners for the season. It is a tremendous achievement by a man who has only been training for a few years. I thought it was on when he got to eighty by the first of October and have been teasing Dan that he has been taking his time to finally reach the landmark.

Our running plans on Saturday depend on how much rain they have at Sandown. The forecast is a bit uncertain but if they get something like 15ml then the ground could be on the easy side of good. So it makes sense to cover all options.

Cyrname is in the Celebration Chase and the Oaksey Chase and his appearance depends entirely on the going as he does need some cut in the ground.
Black Corton and San Benedeto are also in the Oaksey Chase over two and three quarter miles. While Dolos, Diego Du Charmil and San Benedeto have also been entered in the Celebration Chase.

I have confirmed three for the bet365 Gold Cup….Present Man, Give Me A Copper, Adrien Du Pont and would expect at least two of them to run.

In the Select Hurdle I am relying on Old Guard. Saintemilion goes for the novice handicap chase while Dan McGrue and Magoo could both start in the closing handicap hurdle.
In the £100,000 novice handicap hurdle I’ve entered Birds of Prey, Getaway Trump and Christopher Wood.

With plans depending on ground conditions please be sure to turn to my Betfair column which goes live late on Friday afternoon.