When I signed off for my mid-winter break from blogging I did so absolutely delighted with how the season was progressing, however little did I know that the two weeks which would follow would have been quite so incredible.
How on earth can I sum up the last two weeks in a blog? A fortnight which has included a King George winner, a Finale Hurdle winner, plenty of other successes, some memorable moments and of course Christmas, which was happily largely Mariah free!
Before I talk all about this past week of absolute madness, I briefly want to touch on Ascot pre-Christmas as I enjoyed two thoroughly enjoyable days there topped off by carol singing in the grandstand after racing on Saturday. I think events like that are brilliant as it makes racing a more complete day out and if I was trying to introduce someone to our sport I would more than likely take them to Ascot, not only is there always brilliant racing, but there is so much for everyone to do and the singing after racing was loads of fun. There are so many good people that go racing and it was cool for Paul to have lots of folks come up to him as we sung and wish him luck over the Christmas period.
Lorcan becomes the Darling of Ditcheat
Ascot provided us with two great days and on the first of those days it was Lorcan Williams who provided us with a massive highlight when giving Darling Maltaix what I thought was the best ride of his career to win really nicely. Lorcan rides this horse everyday at home and he is anything but easy but he does a super job with him, curbing his over-the-top enthusiasm and channelling it towards his job. Make no mistake, Darling Maltaix boasts a good deal of ability and, stepping up in trip, he displayed that perfectly.
It was also very satisfying to train winners at Ascot for Mr de la Hey and his family who have a box at their local track and love competing there.
Christmas Day came and went with a big shout out to Megan my cousin and Amy my sister who cooked what can only be described as a feast for us. A gorgeous feast it was too. High drama occurred on Christmas morning when trainer and host for the day, Mr Nicholls, made the alarming discovery his oven had decided to take the day off and did not work which lead to a late change to mothers’ house.
The change of location did not spoil the lunch and, with some of the worst cracker jokes in the history of crackers told, we tucked into our turkey. I must give credit to Amy and Megan who, three days on from the Lesters, were still nursing their sore heads so did extremely well to cook.
You will always be chuffed to hear that Grandad’s orange chords made an appearance although I must apologise as apparently they are “burnt oak” not orange – I have my own view on that however.
With a lovely Christmas taken care of it was the time to focus on the next couple of days of huge racing and, while our horses were in flying form going into Christmas, I am not sure anyone expected what then happened.
Seven winners in two days, two Grade 1s, one Grade 2 and a party that quite literally stopped Ditcheat!
By George, Clan steals the headlines
I am not going to go into the races too much as you all know what happened, but what I will say is to win the King George with Clan Des Obeaux for our sponsor Ged Mason, a wonderfully kind and generous man and Mr Barber, Paul’s landlord and a man we all have the greatest amount of respect for, was just about as good as this game gets.
Scott who looks after Clan and rides him deserves great credit in this tale as it is he who has taken care of him and, with the guidance of Paul, created at six years of age what is one of the best chasers in the land.
The evening that followed was epic, a drive home with Ged, Paul and co included a stop at McDonalds and some great tributes to Neil Diamond, Tom Jones and many, many others, but the party really started when we got to the Manor.
Everyone had their picture taken with the King George trophy when it was not being passed around with champagne in it, the songs were flowing just as freely and Harry Cobden was lifted into the pub aloft shoulders of very drunk men singing there’s only one Harry Cobden. All this celebrating was topped off by what can only be described as the greatest ever cover of Sweet Caroline ever heard. Epic stuff and genuinely a day I will never forget.
Quel enjoys his day of Destin-y
The following day brought more Grade 1 glory with the hard-as-nails Quel Destin who seems to be improving as each week goes by. He jumped brilliantly and it was particularly nice to give Sam a Grade 1 winner this season – he is a top friend and still very much part of the team in his new freelance life.
Meanwhile at Kempton, Harry was on fire once again winning on Adrien du Pont and Dynamite Dollars who is making up into a seriously smart novice chaser.
I could go on and on, but in the interest of not boring you all I just wanted to finish with a couple of things I took note of since we last spoke. Firstly I think the most exciting thing about these last few weeks has been the fact that Paul has been winning these big races with young horses, many yet to reach their peak and to me that is almost more exciting that what they are doing now.
Clan is just turning seven and he was the oldest of all our Graded winners over the last few days, the strength of our youngsters is so good for the future of Paul’s yard and, with bumper winners like Ask For Glory and Flic Ou Voyou, I am confident we could have some seriously smart horses for the next few years.
Team Ditcheat deliver again on every level
Secondly, I just thought you should all know how amazing our staff have been over Christmas. The work is still just as hard and the hours still just as unforgiving but the yard has been a hive of good atmosphere, excitement and good will over the last few weeks making me believe that we are lucky to have the group of people working for us that we do right now.
Collectively, everyone was so delighted with our results recently and I really hope that they all feel a huge part of that success.
My final point for the week is this. Clan Des Obeaux marked the 10th time Paul has won the King George, a truly remarkable achievement.
To me it is the second biggest of our entire calendar, behind only the Gold Cup and, to win a race of that magnitude 10 times is a massive feat. I know he has said it cannot be done without the team around him or having brilliant horses and, while I know that is true, I still think that winning that prestigious race 10 times is an achievement not to be underestimated.
Not once has he rested on his laurels or thought of himself too good to worry, he was back in the office the next morning well before sun rise with a smile on his face, pen in his hand plotting his way to the next race and then the next.
Are we lucky to have Clan Des Obeaux – maybe, but Clan is lucky to be trained by him and I in turn, like all my colleagues, are lucky to call him our boss.