A record total of winners in the season that ended on Saturday was still not quite enough to retain my trainers’ title.
Hats off to Nicky Henderson who thoroughly deserves his fourth championship after a stellar campaign that saw him land a series of major races at the biggest meetings. Nicky is a good mate and a great competitor and I was the first to congratulate him on Saturday with a hug and a handshake after the success of Altior put the result beyond doubt.
Going to Sandown I felt it was going to be tough given the deficit at the start of the day as I was running a few of mine on a wing and prayer hoping they would come back to form. Some ran really well like Dolos, San Benedeto and Ptit Zig who, in finishing second to L’Ami Serge, giving him 8 lbs in the Select Hurdle, put himself bang on course for his attempt to win the French Champion Hurdle for the second time.
If you look at the figures you will see that in the season just ended Team Ditcheat enjoyed 49 more winners than in 2015-2016 when we topped the table for the tenth time. In many ways we have had an amazing season, with our horses earning more than £2.5 million for their owners in this country with 171 winners at a consistent strike of 25 per cent. If we could do that every season I’d be thrilled. But from the start I knew we were desperately short of genuine Grade 1 performers and that cost us dear. Even so, we’ve done incredibly well given our firepower with plenty of highlights starting with Ptit Zig in France through to Pacha du Polder winning the Foxhunters at Cheltenham with Bryony Frost and then Vicente claiming a second successive triumph in the Scottish National.
We are all back on level terms as the new season starts today (Mon) and once again I’ll be looking to notch up twenty winners by the end of September.
With Potensis stepping down after a rewarding partnership I’m delighted to welcome a new yard sponsor Morson International on May 1 in a deal arranged by my good friend Ged Mason, an enthusiastic, long time owner and supporter of the yard. He has sponsored Harry Cobden and my daughter Megan and it is great to have his company on board in a significant new arrangement which should benefit both parties.
If, and it is a big if, we have some decent ground I could well give several nice prospects including Black Corton, Tommy Silver, El Bandit, Capitaine, Diego Du Charmil, Moabit and several more a run over fences in the next month or so before putting them away for the summer.
You can’t stand still in this game so we will also be turning over a number of horses this summer, selling some on and buying new stock, hoping to increase the quality of the team and find some smart recruits who might develop into Grade 1 horses for the future.
I’d like to thank all of Team Ditcheat for their dedication and hard work and for the loyal support of all my owners who make it all possible.
Here’s to 180 next season!