I have not really known where to start with this blog, I mean how do you begin to explain what happened on Saturday?
What I can say with confidence is that it was a day I will never forget. With 24 runners heading out from the yard we had lots of excellent chances and waking up early on Saturday morning I was so nervous of what was to come.
The one we were most nervous about without any doubt was Clan Des Obeaux who, having won the King George in such convincing fashion, really needed to win the Denman chase in order to book his place in the Gold Cup. Thankfully, that mission was accomplished in style.
Harry got Clan into a lovely rhythm and the pair of them took it up approaching the last fence before sprinting clear. I know a lot of people questioned him after Kempton, but there has never been any question in Paul’s mind that this is a top class horse and you only have to look at the last jump to see the confidence Harry has in him.
All roads now lead to the Gold Cup and in an open race I would not swap this young improving horse for anything.
Cyrname saunters to explosive Grade 1 success
On Paper, the Grade 1 of the day looked an extremely tough race so to watch Cyrname do what he did to a field of top level horses was almost freakish. He jumped brilliantly, was fast from fence to fence and when he took off after the last Scott and I stood watching in total disbelief.
Demolishing a field of good handicappers on his previous start was impressive enough, but to have the horses he did that far behind him on Saturday was incredible.
Any Grade 1 winner is special, but to have one for the de la Hey family at Ascot was fantastic. As I have said before they are huge supporters of ours and to win a huge race like that at their local track was brilliant.
Elsewhere the day was just madness. I kept thinking that surely our luck was going to run out, but the horses kept performing and we finished Saturday with a 33% strike rate.
From Quel Destin who enhanced his Triumph Hurdle claims in great fashion at Haydock to Magic Saint at Wincanton, who was delivered to perfection by Daryl having jumped well. The last named is a seriously nice horse and I cannot wait to see how he progresses.
Worthy Farm once again showed he is a stayer to keep on the right side of with his win suggesting he might have a little more in the tank, while Silver Forever demonstrated what an exciting future she has in the bumper.
Earlier on the card, Brio Conti looked back to form with his win and there is still plenty to come from him in terms of his fitness so I would like to think he will be very competitive come the Coral Cup in a month’s time.
Team work deserves huge credit
Days like Saturday quite simply could not happen without our staff. From Natalie and Trudie, who lead our team up at Haydock, to Kate and Kev who took our horses to Wincanton and Nutty who travelled to Ascot, everyone deserves so much credit.
While people were going out for their evening meals and normal Saturday evening socialising, our teams were still at the yard putting the horses to bed and ensuring everything was done properly.
Even the guys who stayed at home Saturday headed up by Clifford did amazing work to keep the show on the road while a huge amount of people were at the races. Our first lot went out an hour earlier than normal and, by half twelve, all the horses in work had trained and were back in their boxes.
I think more than anything what I am trying to say is that while racing fans see the horses at the track being lead round, there is a mammoth amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to achieve results like that.
Above anything else on Saturday I was most proud to be part of an organisation that can conduct and implement that type of a day without mishap; everyone pulls together, concentrates on their part of the process and recognises all factors are as important as the next piece of the jigsaw. As a result great things can happen, team work, however cliché it may be, really does make the dream work.
Magnificent milestone on the horizon
Away from Saturday, something I am really excited about is the fact that Paul is now one winner away from training his 3000th winner if you count winners on the flat, overseas and everywhere in between.
It is clearly a huge milestone, but more pressing for Paul is the 49 winners he needs to have trained 3000 jump winners in Great Britain, something I know will mean everything to him and it will be a historic moment.
Consistently performing at the top level is of great importance to Paul and in training 3000 winners he will again show how high he has held his standards for his near 30-year career as a trainer.
Coincidentally, while we are talking about Paul’s stats, the achievement of going through the £2 million prize money barrier on Saturday made it the 17th consecutive season Paul has earned over £2 million in prize money with his horses, yet again highlighting his long-standing level of training and horse care.
As a young man working in his yard, being part of milestones like that is incredibly humbling as you realise the magnitude of his achievements. I am a very lucky man to be doing the job I do and days like Saturday only make me more determined to be part of creating more days like that.
Harry win ensures a Grand day out
Before I conclude this week’s blog I am going to finish on my own personal highlight and, while I was on duty at Ascot Saturday, my favourite moment of the day came closer to home at Wincanton, courtesy of Grand Sancy and Harry Skelton winning the Grade 2 Kingwell hurdle.
Sancy is a wonderfully tough young horse who is owned by an enthusiastic, knowledgeable and kind group of people, but for me the real satisfaction was gained from who was riding him; Harry Skelton.
When I was growing up I obviously spent a lot of time with the Skelton brothers who both worked for Paul for a big part of their lives and both of them were incredibly good to me. When I started schooling at Paul’s, Harry was the best person to ride alongside as he would help me as much as he would himself.
He has now gone on to forge a brilliant career for himself with Dan and, while we are frequently in competition with them, I am always happy to see them succeed.
With Dan having a quieter weekend, Harry came down on Friday morning, rode out three lots looked round with Paul in the afternoon, rode two lots Saturday and then headed off to Wincanton. I have always had nothing but huge respect for both Harry and Dan and to see Harry now winning a graded race on one of our horses when at his absolute strongest was really sweet.
He is one of the best riders in England now, but more importantly you could not meet a better man. Everyone who was working for Paul when Harry was here was absolutely made up to see him and that says more than anything else. Harry is a top class guy and it was cool he got the chance to win on one of our horses once again.
So there we go then, a weekend in my life I will never ever forget; from the winners to a tipsy rendition of Sweet Caroline in the pub this one was very, very special with the only regret that extra bottle of Corona late in proceedings!
Go well, Harry.