The Queen’s visit to the yard on Thursday was a tremendous honour for everyone involved with Team Ditcheat.
There was a tremendous buzz in the village once we heard of her plans and she wanted to know all about our training regime on her first trip to Somerset since her Jubilee tour in 2012. It was a brilliant experience to bring Her Majesty to the yard though I was more nervous on the day than I was about the Cheltenham Festival.
The Queen loved spending time with several of our best horses including our two recent Cheltenham winners Frodon and Topofthegame along with Clan Des Obeaux, Politologue, Cyrname and McFabulous. She clearly enjoyed giving each of the horses a carrot and knew as much about them as we do.
It was a thrill to see Zara, my eight year old daughter, present the Queen with a posy. During the visit she also chatted to several senior members of our staff including our jockeys Bryony Frost and Harry Cobden as well as my family and Paul and Marianne Barber. Everyone here is still on a high since her visit as we start the countdown to Aintree’s Grand National meeting where we will have a number of interesting races runners.
Clan Des Obeaux, Christopher Wood, Diego Du Charmil and Wonderful Charm are all set to run on Thursday. Better ground and a shorter trip should suit Clan Des Obeaux in the Betway Bowl as he didn’t quite last home in the testing conditions in the Gold Cup.
Christopher Wood comes fresh to the Doom Bar Hurdle, Diego Du Charmil takes his chance in the Red Rum, and may be joined by Brelan d’As, while I couldn’t be happier with Wonderful Charm who will enjoy decent ground in the Foxhunters. He is in better form this year and will be ridden by Will Biddick who is unbeaten on him.
On Friday Southfield Stone lines up in the Grade 1 novice hurdle, Politologue bids to win the JLT Chase for the second year running and Topofthegame can hopefully turn the tables on his Kempton conqueror La Bague Au Roi in the Betway Mildmay Novice Chase.
San Benedeto and Adrien Du Pont give us a strong hand in the Topham. Both have schooled nicely over the Aintree fences at David Pipe’s and they could be joined in the Topham by Warriors Tale if he doesn’t go for the Grand National.
In addition McFabulous, who I rate highly, goes in the Grade 2 bumper.
If Warriors Tale goes for the Topham in Thursday then I will not have a runner in Saturday’s Grand National but we do run Tommy Silver in the Handicap Chase and could have a couple more entries.
Aintree is going to be crucial in my bid to win the Trainers’ title for the eleventh time. It helps that I have a decent lead of almost £450,000 and still have plenty of nice horses to run over the next four weeks.
For the up to the minute news in my runners at Aintree please turn to my Betfair column which goes live late afternoon on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.