Written out in front of me are my notes for this week’s blog, a review of my year just completed.
Good moments, funny moments, truly memorable moments and happily not a pile of bad memories from a fast-paced full-on year.
Personally, there has been an address change, mine and Kate’s new house in Ditcheat providing me with a solid base from which to work and, since June, moving, settling in and everything else that goes with setting up a new home has run alongside my busy life as assistant trainer to Paul.
My notes don’t all comprise races we have won, instead they detail results of a group of people working together every day to achieve the same goal which is getting the best out of the horses we are working with. I have the privilege as a member of senior staff in our yard of trying to get the best out of our staff as well as our horses and, although presenting different challenges, the results are just as satisfying as when a horse reaches their best.
It is a well known saying that time flies when you’re having fun and if that is the case the evidence would suggest I really enjoy my job as this year as passed nearly as fast as Cyrname went round Kempton the other day. So without further rambling I’m going to take you for a spin through some special, funny, satisfying and proud moments of my year.
Musselburgh in February is possibly an obscure place to start but it was a day where Frodon, San Benedeto and El Bandit all hit the back of the net making everyone’s journey home a lot shorter. For me though those three wins weren’t the special part. That treble came on the Sunday, a day which marked a really tough week for someone in Ditcheat and to give them something to smile about at the end of the week was a great tonic, I’ve said it before, but my pride in being part of a business that can give people reason to smile in times of grief is immense.
The other equine highlights of note?
Well I’m not sure I’ve been prouder than when Saphir Du Rheu ran the race of his career to finish fifth in the Gold Cup in March, or happier than when we managed to find a wonderful retirement home for Aerial, a horse who had given all his connections some wonderful days in his career.
Without doubt my most emotional on a racecourse this year was when the curtain was pulled down on dear old Dodging Bullets’ career at Cheltenham, a day when all the magical memories he had given us came flooding back and nearly escaped down my cheeks, happily I held it together – he’s retiring Harry not dying.
Satisfaction in this job comes at all levels and just tidying up the equine part there has been three particularly satisfying days for me.
Alcala winning the Summer Plate was about as satisfying a day as I enjoyed, and I’m sure you’ve all raised an eyebrow at that, but winning that race proved all along that the talent he demonstrated at home wasn’t just a flash in the pan and he really could achieve results at a good level. Thankfully, three years of belief hadn’t gone amiss.
Bill and Barn is a name that some may not have heard of at this stage, but he won at Chepstow three weeks ago and, after encouraging a very good friend to take the plunge and buy a half share in him, I got a huge kick out of that. Bill is a quite wonderful horse and hopefully he’ll keep giving Derek some good days.
Finally on the horse front there was Black Corton.
I don’t think I have ever seen a smaller, less impressive horse do what he does on course. Riding him at home is anything but inspiring, in fact he gives you no feel at all, but he has the heart of a lion and I genuinely believe he’d run at a brick wall if you asked him too. Black Corton essentially has one speed, jumps off and gallops at that pace, but what an admirable little horse and if ever there was one who deserved a Grade One win it was him.
Riding talent continues to impress
Away from the horses, 2017 was good in so many ways but perhaps my favourite part about it is the promise of what’s to come. In my opinion we have a team of jockeys headed up by Sam who not only are talented but are getting better, from Harry and Sean to Bryony and Stan to Lorcan in the pointing fields our riding team is young, fresh faced, driven, hard working and extremely talented, it makes me very proud to work alongside them all.
It was back in the summer when Hannah (Paul’s PA) and I came up with the employee of the month award, something that has given us chance to thank our team properly for all the tireless hard work that they put in.
I have also met countless new people, had more insightful, engaging, funny and helpful conversations than I can remember, something I’m going to hopefully combat this year with the start of a diary, somewhere I can keep track of all the cool things I get to do in this job of mine.
Gaffer’s choice of snack leaves us howling
I’ll leave you with a funny tale because a week on this still has me in stitches.
Picture the scene. Last Monday, Christmas dinner served up by mother Julie, sister Amy and cousin Meg was a feast, a delicious one too and, although we were all sat around the table contemplating desert, I can safely say I was full to the brim.
Paul, being ever the opportunist, spied a bag of half-open sweets across the room and, viewing them as a desert starter, proceeded to dig in.
Two minutes later our maestro concluded he wasn’t a big fan of the sweets, remarking at the odd flavour.
“Well of course you wouldn’t like them Paul, they are dog treats,” replied my dad.
Cue helpless laughter, happy New Year all.