Enduring setbacks with horses in a racing yard is sadly common place, when they are trained at the level of intensity we require from them sometimes sadly things go amiss. While this is a pretty normal yet frustrating occurrence some are more untimely than others.

Movewiththetimes setback today (Sunday) has been a serious kick in the ribs to team Ditcheat and Paul spoke for everyone earlier describing how gutted he was that he’ll miss Cheltenham, it’s a real shame that he won’t be able to go to the biggest stage, but he is a young, talented horse and I have no doubt that his biggest days lay ahead in his career.

Perspective is something that is offered up on a regular basis in our industry and for us, this weekend’s horrible loss of Sirabad has given us exactly that. A young, attacking and exuberant chaser his demise has left owners Mr and Mrs Woodhouse without a horse who they became incredibly fond of.

As it so often is, the week prior to Cheltenham was a quiet one for us on the racetrack with all of our attention on the Cheltenham hopefuls as their preparations come to crescendo, and now happily we can stop talking about it because it is upon us. I write this on Sunday evening with the gloss eroded from my excitement for the week ahead due to our weekend, but I write believing that everything happens for a reason and all is not lost.

Preview nights leave me biting my lip

We are going to Cheltenham this year with a team of competitive and sporting chances, rather like Paul has done all year, no headline acts of huge stature, but a team steadfast in its loyalty to Paul with the effort-o-meter set at full bore as always.

During a busy, but enjoyable week, I’ve been on three Cheltenham preview panels, and while my company on each one has been slightly different on each evening I have had an over-riding emotion I’ve worked hard to keep in check.

Obviously at these evenings enthusiasts and punters pay for our opinions on the races and our thoughts on how the horses are training, and that’s cool, I love talking about our horses so an evening doing that is a breeze. My difficulty comes when we discuss their chances and how we all think each horse will run. Of course some have better prospects than others, but lines like “it’s not good enough”, “it doesn’t jump well enough” or “I saw it at Kempton and it’s a terrible race if it wins” are sentiments I’m not sure will ever sit particularly well with me.

My reasons are simple. This week coming we are celebrating the finest National Hunt horses in the land, everyone one of them that turn up to the festival is a very high standard of racehorse in their own right and sometimes I think we are a little quick to forget that.

Sure champions will be made this week, some will win and some will lose, but working with the horses day in, day out, we are incredibly proud he or she is good enough to be at the festival at all. This world is packed to the rafters with average Joe’s but the equine athletes on show this week are so far away from average it’s ridiculous and, while of course we are all dreaming of big winners and the birth of new champions, our victory in the yard will be if all of our horses return safe and sound back to their stables.

Over the next week races are won and lost in equal measure and for the winners the week will hold memories like never before. Some of them I’m already lucky enough to possess but for us Cheltenham is not just a competition, like no other it should be a celebration of our sport and everything is good about it. The passion, the joy, the heartbreak, the nerves, the apprehension, the disappointment that can ebb and flow through ones’ week epitomises everything jump racing is.

Everyone has their team to support and get behind and gloriously over four days everyone does battle. Jockey to jockey, trainer to trainer, owners to owners or punters to punters, everyone right now will have their opinions on who’s going to win what race and who will come out on top when the week draws to a close.

Team Nicholls primed to perform

While I don’t know the outcome of next week I am absolutely certain of which team I am on and which team I will always be on, and that is team Nicholls. My passion for Paul’s yard knows no limits and my belief we are all incredibly lucky to be part of what Paul does is unshakeable, we have our ups and our downs like any yard, but with Paul at the helm there is always a man who will lead us forward without letting anyone under the bus.

Any success at Cheltenham for all of us here at Ditcheat would mean more than any sentence I can write or any celebration anyone can perform, because it’s so much deeper than that. Working in racing is not so much a job, it’s a life, it’s what you breathe and all you think about, it’s what lifts you up to heights nothing else can take you or drops you to lows you wish you never had. But we love racing for everything it does to us, and Cheltenham success is immeasurably significant.

However, win lose or draw I am intent on enjoying my working week and cherishing working for one of the finest festival trainers there has been. I will be genuinely pleased for those lucky enough to win and hope in return they’ll be pleased for us should we be fortunate enough to triumph, after all we are all chasing the same thing.

To all our team I wish you all the luck in the world, to our horses I pray that you come home safe and be the best you can be, and to the wider racing public I wish that us involved in team Nicholls can be part of the incredible memories that Prestbury Park is about to bestow upon you.

Go well my friends.