When I think of Paul Nicholls Racing and all the different facets which make it such a well-run operation, the first thing that springs to mind is obviously our wonderful horses.
However, an extremely close second is Paul’s quite remarkable team of people that work for him. This past week has tested, challenged and pushed us all hard with freezing temperatures and snow storms and just about everything in between.
What always amazes me is the strength of teamwork when these conditions hit. Up and down the country, I am sure yards everywhere have been putting in massive hours in order to keep their respective shows on the road, but down here at Ditcheat I can honestly say that everyone played their part in the horses not missing a day’s work or care in weather that was not for the faint hearted.
The biggest pain was Thursday night through Friday morning with a lot of snow falling during the night and most of the morning with a cutting wind not making things any easier. Rob, mentioned in the blog last week, quite literally did not sleep on Thursday evening, instead he spent the night clearing roads in ‘Nelly’ his New Holland tractor while also harrowing the hill gallop. He came to my house at 4.45am on Friday morning, where we discussed what he’d been up to, drunk a quick cup of tea and cracked on once again.
Superb staff defy testing weather
Kate and I then headed to the top yard where we met Natalie and the three of us helped Clifford feed all the horses before we went about clearing the yard – something which proved a frustrating task as no sooner had we cleared a part of the yard it had turned white again before we could get salt onto it. Eventually we got there though and one by one our staff came into work, well rugged up but crucially all present and ready to work even harder than normal.
For people that don’t know, our yard is a little walk from our hill gallop so we cleared about half a mile worth of road to the top of the gallop so we could walk up that road, down the gallop, do our two canters and take the horses back home. It worked well and all of the horses behaved themselves well crucially which was a relief as, at the top of Ditcheat hill with snow falling heavily and an icy wind blowing, they could have quite easily been difficult.
By close of play on Friday night we had all the gallops open and, with the help of Mr Barber and his massive business, the roads of Ditcheat were clear of snow and ice too. I guess the biggest thing I take out of a week like this is the team work element to it; you really can make anything happen when a group of people are all pulling in the same direction and it makes me proud to be part of that.
Deadly Dolos destroys Sandown foes
In other news, Sandown on Saturday was good fun with Dolos smashing a season best by jumping brilliantly round the famous two-mile chase course to record the finest performance of his career. Meanwhile, Give Me A Copper, who had not run for well over a year, ran a hugely eye-catching race to finish fourth in the Master’s Chase travelling strongly and jumping well before tiring after the second last. We believe Copper is a really smart horse and so long as we can now keep him sound I know Paul is very much looking forward to him for the rest of the year.
I guess the one real shame of the week on the racecourse was the fact we lost Wincanton on Thursday which looked to be a card where we had some great chances. We all love going racing to Wincanton with it being our local track but of course with the awful weather it made it impossible.
Sat here now in front of the fire with a slice of home-made Victoria sponge (Kate’s speciality) I cannot tell you the happiness I feel when looking at the forecast and seeing no freezing temperatures for the next 10 days or so. Hopefully, the next couple of weekends will see us run some really smart horses which in itself means this is an incredibly exciting time of year.
Week ahead promises plenty
Without doubt, topping the list is Clan Des Obeaux who will be entered in the Denman Chase at Newbury on Saturday. He looks great at the moment and I am sure Paul is looking forward to him getting his Gold Cup prep under his belt in order to bring him to the boil perfectly for Cheltenham in March.
Come Saturday with lots of nice horses running I am sure I will not be the only one in the team wracked with nerves, but one thing I know is that Clan will not be beset with such problems. He is such a laid back horse who does not tend to get phased by much, a trait that hopefully will stand him in good stead with what I am sure will be heightened media attention after his King George win.
Until Saturday though there is plenty of work to be done at home in preparation for all our runners throughout the week and yet again I find myself really looking forward to the seven days ahead.
Before I go I will just leave you with a story regarding one of my favourite owners and absolute favourite jockey for that matter; that of course is the great Mr David Maxwell.
Not many weeks go by throughout the season when we won’t have a small chat about the racing and his horses and these are always chats I thoroughly enjoy, he has a wicked sense of humour and being an Irish man responded wonderfully well to me asking him how the rugby ended up on Saturday night.
A brief riposte ensued with the second word being off . . . I’m sure it doesn’t take a scientist to work out the first word.
Go well friends.