After nearly two years as assistant to Paul one thing I have pretty well learnt is that it is important whatever type of day or run you are having to try and stay level, keep your head down and carry on working hard.
Taking the rough with the smooth is all part of the job and you have to try and carry on doing your work whatever the results.
Of course, throughout the year, there have been times writing my blog when my mindset wouldn’t have been the best or folk at Ditcheat wouldn’t have been particularly delighted with the week’s events, but that is the game so there is no point in getting stressed if the ground is too soft or the horses are not quite firing.
This weekend though, they fired and in some style. On Friday morning we sat on winner number 91, but by Sunday Unioniste had prevailed to provide winner 100 for the season, a feat we are all immensely proud of. However, numbers alone don’t do this weekend justice.
As I sat down late last night stuffed full of the most delicious homemade cottage pie to watch Sunday’s replays, and just for good measure Saturdays once more, I did so with emotions varying from being absolutely shattered to bursting with pride that our team had just achieved what they had achieved over the past three days.
As I watched them with my celebratory Estrella, I thought about all the people that had been involved in those nine horses that had won over the weekend and how hard everyone has to work to make achievements like that possible. In all truth, there probably isn’t a soul in the yard that hasn’t at one stage or another gone above and beyond the call of duty for one of those horses in order for them to perform to their best and just in case you thinking I am over egging it I will give you the following examples.
Staff commitment pays off handsomely
From Harriet who cuts her breakfast time short every other day to get Moabit out early so he can do three canters from his Highbridge base, to Greg who has cared and nurtured Danny Kirwan as if he was his own since he joined the yard, always providing Danny a calm and guiding hand to a young horse in a new environment. It could be David Rochester who has had to deal with Master Tommytucker’s immaturities throughout the season and ensure his problems of the past were kept at bay so he could make it to the racecourse or Hannah who has waited and waited with Copain before the better ground came, keeping a lid on what has been a fresh and race-fit horse for some time now.
There are more and more examples of this amazing work that goes on in the yard but you get my point that, without our team, weekends like this really couldn’t happen and being part of that makes me incredibly happy. For me, the past week has yet again been jam-packed full of action, work, riding out, racing, Ditcheat Jockey’s Academy and everything else that goes into my week including my first appearance on the Final Furlong podcast.
That was an experience I absolutely loved so big thanks to Emmet Kennedy and Kevin Blake for getting me on and having a chat with me. I was very nervous but hopefully it turned out well and people liked it. At work we had a productive week with plenty of the gallops getting work done on them with Rob in the tractor in particularly good form.
Snow joke for the Ice Busters
Sadly my no frost wishes didn’t transpire and, as I sit here writing, the temperature outside sits at minus two and pretty well has done for the last four nights which has bought joyful amounts of gritting to mine and David’s life – he is getting the hang of this gritting malarkey now though and sports more layers than your average Eskimo so you are only able to see his eyes in the mornings as we ensure the village is safe for first lot.
I think I have pretty well covered everything at this stage so I’m just going to leave you with my couple of highlights of the week and then David, Big Red and I must commence our daily tour of the village on salt patrol, the ‘Ice Busters’ you might call us.
Kirwan hits all the right notes
Highlight one and forgive me because they are about as obvious as you could get was Danny Kirwan, who made his debut for us at Kempton on Saturday and created quite the impression. Danny joined us after winning his only start in the Irish Pointing field with a lofty enough reputation and to be honest with you, all of us have just been hoping he would do on the track what he has looked capable of at home. Happily he did. We haven’t asked any questions of him at home, just got him fit quietly, kept him settled, but from day one he has always had the most wonderful way of going with a stride that covers a huge amount of ground. Danny clearly has a huge amount of ability and to have horses like him in the yard is what I dream about.
Saturday in particular was a massive day for Mr and Mrs de la Hey who completed a treble on the afternoon at Kempton, a magic day and one that delighted us all as they are huge supporters of Paul and all of us at Ditcheat and we are incredibly grateful to them and their family for that support.
My second highlight came yesterday courtesy of Old Guard, a horse the like of which doesn’t come around very often. Old Guard is only seven but it already seems like he has been around forever mainly because he’d have to ask someone to explain to him what running a bad race meant. He really is an absolute warrior and to see him win the National Spirit Hurdle under an excellent Harry Cobden ride put a huge smile on my face. For whatever reason this year he is in brilliant form with himself and was bouncing round the paddock before the race. I love horses like him for the simple fact you cannot make them want to win or try as hard as Old Guard does, they have to want to do it for them and he loves it. He is tough, genuine and an absolute delight to have in the yard, in fact we are lucky to have him.
So that is it really for me this week, I hope that you have enjoyed the read and have a good week yourselves. I know we have another manic one in store, but in a team like this that is no bad thing, hopefully this weekend just gone is a sign of what is in store this spring. Bring. It. On.