As I woke up on Sunday morning with news Huntingdon had fallen victim to the snow along with half of England, I opened my curtains to be greeted not by snow but by rain, horrendous amounts providing a glum start it would seem and my two minute drive to work also offered little encouragement for the day ahead.
I undertook a brief chat with Clifford who, as normal on a Sunday morning, I found in the hay barn before I then made my way to the barn, a barn that used to house cows years and years ago and has stood proud at Paul’s yard long before he set up base camp here. On a normally miserable day with the big doors pulled to at either end, the lights are required to go about normal duties, but not today there’s a new star in town that not only lit up Sandown on Saturday but is now lighting up my morning. I am of course talking about the magnificent grey which provided Tingle Creek number 10 for Paul; The Hales family’s Politologue.
Politologue’s win was brilliant for us on two levels. First and foremost purely for the performance he put in, the ease in which he travelled in open Grade One company for the first time, the pin-point accuracy of his jumping and his sheer will-to-win from the last fence to the line, ears back, white head down, his young jockey and him in perfect rhythm as raw and as talented as one another.
A star is born at Sandown
But secondly it was special because Politologue is what Paul has been trying to create and find since the stars of yester year, the stars this assistant trainer grew up watching, and in this six-year-old we have a genuine Grade One horse to go to war with which, for all of us involved in team Ditcheat, that is a mouth-watering prospect. Paul has now set about preparing him for the Clarence House Chase at Ascot in January, a well-trodden path for Champion Chase aspirants.
I have certainly been guilty over the years of taking for granted an involvement with a yard that has sent out big winners, but Saturday watching on from Chepstow I enjoyed every second and the satisfaction of a Grade One victory will not pass for a long time.
Of course like all the horses that emerge from the yard, Politologue has a team around him everyday working hard to ensure that he always has the best of care so from Lucy who rides him all the time to Sophie who looks after him and of course Harry who gave him a ride well beyond his 19 years, something we are becoming increasingly accustomed to, everyone deserves huge credit for Saturday’s win. The Tingle Creek was the last of three wins on the day for Paul who also crossed the million pound prize money barrier, a satisfying milestone in itself.
Sheppard times his run just right and glory shone around
It was great to see Mont Des Avaloirs make amends for his unfortunate last flight tumble at Wincanton when winning well at Aintree under a Bowen front-running ride. He battled hard in the mud to continue his progress as a smart young horse. As I mentioned earlier, Saturday took me to Chepstow where Bill and Barn took a massive step forward to dead heat in the three mile novice hurdle, under a delighted Stan Sheppard who conjured a prolonged run out of his mount.
Bill is a genuinely lovely character whose amicability in and around the yard makes him a joy to work with so to see him getting his head in front and show a really good level of form made Chepstow a hugely enjoyable day for Kate, Scott and Stan the team involved with Bill on Saturday.
Boyce and Williams provide the Christmas cheer
Generally in my blogs my highlight of the week arrives in equine form, but this week it comes in the form of a popular young man called Lorcan Williams who rode for us on Friday and Saturday at Sandown. With Paul at Exeter on Friday I found myself in the car with Harry Cobden and Lorcan for a journey jammed packed with jokes poking fun at one another, including some one liners from Lorc and the occasional attempt at a Welsh accent form Harry – thank goodness he can ride. Ten minutes away from Sandown I decided that a little musical inspiration was required and, what with Lorcan in the car, it was either going to be Katherine Jenkins, Bryn Tyrfel or Duffy, or so we thought.
But, after a sudden flashback to many journeys in the car with Sean, another proud Welshman, I suddenly remembered a singer called Max Boyce. I should imagine any readers of my grandfather’s vintage would know who I’m talking about but if you’re younger than that fire up YouTube and check him out. What followed was the finest version of Hymns and Arias from Lorcan I have ever heard, he literally never missed a beat or a word. “Great choice Har, I loves this one,” he enthused.
Our stylish amateur is multi-talented it would seem then as for all that his singing is good, his riding is excellent and he will without doubt make a big splash under rules as well as between the flags this season. A bright talent and there is nothing that makes me happier than one of our young team of riders getting some great chances to showcase that talent.
Having had my chat with Mr Barber about this week’s weather, something I find myself doing more and more now down to the fact he is more reliable than the Met Office, I have to go now as there is thermals that need digging out and heating that needs turning up. It does indeed look to be a cold week and, as we get deeper and darker into the winter, I could well find myself ending up in that old cow barn looking at our brightest light, a grey that now has the world at his feet. Yes winter is now well and truly in full swing, Politologue on the other hand has only just begun.