Twenty past nine Sunday evening, the shoes put away, replays watched and dinner eaten. The end to a weekend we have been planning for months has concluded just as I would have liked.
For as long as I can remember, Chepstow in the middle of October has marked the start of Paul’s assault on the forthcoming jump season so the pressure is always on to deliver during this weekend. So, with four winners on the board, I would be surprised if anyone in Ditcheat is disappointed this evening.
Like anything, there are things you wish could have gone better and the falls of Chameron and Master Tommytucker were the clear low points of the weekend.
Of course, novice-type mistakes occasionally happen, but it will be fantastic to get our young chasers jumping on the grass now the rains have come, a situation which has not been remotely possible up until now with the dry weather.
For me, the most interesting part of the weekend was the volume of people who said to me how good it was to see us back in good form, but in all truth I do not really buy into that.
In my view, we have not ever really been out of form. Yes it is true we have not had many winners, but we have not had that many runners either and, while the summer becomes more and more competitive, Paul’s ethos has always been to be primed and ready for Chepstow, so not once have I been worried about our form because I knew that come the time we wanted them, our horses would be more than ready to go.
Posh Trish, Grand Sancy, Secret Investor and McFabulous were the winners this weekend and what was so satisfying is the successful quartet are all young horses with loads more to give for the season ahead.
Each of them has a team behind them from Aodhagan who has done a marvellous job curbing Posh Trish’s enthusiasm each and every day, Trudie who has told anyone who would listen that Grand Sancy would oblige when he runs, Kate who has sweated more over Secret Investor than he did winning the Persian War and Charlie who for the three months she has ridden McFabulous has not once stopped telling us how brilliant he is.
Working with horses is of course rewarding, but at times they drive you mad, push you physically, challenge you mentally and make you wonder why you bother. I have no doubt all of those guys at times this summer and autumn have gone through trying and testing moments with their horses, but it is thanks to their determination and skill that we could enjoy such a successful time of things.
‘Hollywood’ Nicholls a master in the kitchen and on track
Let me briefly take you back to Saturday lunchtime. While I was rushing around the house getting ready after riding my three lots, I received a text from the boss asking would I like a sandwich. Now, we had been here before and, being the hungry bear I am, the answer to that was of course ‘yes’, safe in the knowledge that his housekeeper, Jacinta, would produce a mouthwatering offering and I would be royally fed.
Events however transpired this was not the case and in fact Paul made the sandwich, as he proudly reported just before I took my first bite. Now, he is a talented man, but I would not have sandwich making at the top of his skills set – not even in the top ten in fact until now, because the simple ham and cheese offering was a delight.
Equipped with kitchen roll and a drink, we departed for Chepstow with Paul having excelled on the lunch making front, who knew hey . . . Paul ‘Hollywood’ Nicholls. Just don’t ask him about his Indian on Saturday night.
Hannah’s team work means so much
For all our luck in having some wonderful horses to train, this weekend brought home to me what truly remarkable people we have within our team.
With the season starting, we obviously have to send a big team of people to look after the horses on the track which therefore takes people away from the day-to-day yard duties. The majority of our staff will have every other weekend off and, when news filtered to the office that this weekend was going to be tight for people, one of Paul’s PAs, Hannah, declared she would be in all weekend to help out.
Weekend yard work is tough, there is plenty to do and if you do not seriously keep moving the work will not get done, but as the rain pounded us on Sunday morning Hannah was there with a huge smile on her face mucking out and helping with all the normal weekend tasks with an enthusiasm that very few people can bring to a soaking wet cold morning.
Yes winners are wonderful and we are extremely lucky to have such good horses to train but, without people like Hannah, things simply would not be as good. I have leant on her countless times and not once has she ever let me down and we all know people like that are not two a penny.
So thank you Hannah for all your efforts this weekend, no doubt you will be humble and say it is all for the team, but a work ethic like yours is hugely appreciated and we are all lucky to have you.
It is now just after ten on Sunday evening and, with an early start in the morning, I will get to bed safe and happy in the knowledge that team Ditcheat are back among the winners and marching onto what will hopefully be another successful season.
Thanks for reading, go well