For the vast majority of these past few days all in Ditcheat was going just about as well as possible.
However, in a week where we trained five winners in just one day you will have to forgive me for not being totally over-joyed while I write this blog. I’ll get to the reasons later, but first of all please allow me to discuss the positives of this remarkable week for us.
It seems like an age ago when Coup De Pinceau made a good start to his chasing career when winning nicely at Exeter, starting off what was a great week for his owner Colm Donlon who also enjoyed success the very next day with the hugely exciting Silver Forever courtesy of an impressive success in the Chepstow bumper. Silver Forever, an Irish point to point winner, joined us in the spring and from the moment Natalie Parker began riding her in the summer she has always been well thought of.
Silver simply golden at Chepstow
While not remotely flashy in any of her home work, she is a strong-willed mare who approaches her task in a professional manner and completes her training with the minimum of fuss. She will more than likely stay in bumpers this year, but Nat has already jumped her a good few times and she is excellent which obviously bodes very well for the future when she does eventually go hurdling.
From now until pretty much the end of April, the vast majority of our valuable and most important races will fall on a Saturday. As you all know, those are races which attract the most prize money and boast added media attention and historically have been where Paul has won an awful lot of his races. I suppose I always try to stay pretty level headed now approaching big days for the yard, trying not to raise my expectations, instead endeavouring to stay calm and focused on the job. However, waking up last Saturday I did so with a huge level of anticipation. I knew we had some massive chances throughout the day and could not help but really get my hopes up for what lay ahead.
Three rainy lots later I arrived at Wincanton where thank goodness the rain had finished and the fun began. The rest of it has been well documented but to train five winners on a big day like that at our local track in front of so many huge supporters of Paul’s yard was incredibly special for all of us.
Grand Sancy won in exactly the fashion he should have done jumping really nicely and picking up his second race of this season already.
Capeland was given a quite brilliant ride by Bryony I thought who waited and waited before pulling him out and delivering her challenge very late in the day, a result that made me so happy as Kathy Stuart and her family who own Capeland are the most wonderful people and I know Paul simply loves training winners for them.
If You Say Run went about her business in her usual workmanlike fashion to win the valuable mares’ hurdle and, for all she does not do anything that impressively, she has a very good engine and a great habit of winning. She jumped cleanly throughout and although she got lonely late on I thought as seasonal reappearances go that was an excellent one. If You Say Run is the most charming mare with a gorgeous temperament who quietly goes about her work everyday with Felicity Hampton her regular rider and number one fan aboard her and I have no doubt that when she goes chasing she will take to that task with the minimum of trouble.
Our special Man delivers once more on the big stage
But then for us of course came the main event, the Badger Ales Chase, a race sponsored by long standing owners Mark and Tessa Woodhouse whose brewery make Badger Beer. This race is very much their Gold Cup, a race where they take hundreds of clients to the races to entertain them and a day on their racing calendar that means more than any other.
It is little surprise then that since Present Man came back in from his summer holidays there has only ever been one target and that is the Badger Ales Chase where he put in as good a round of jumping as I’ve ever seen from him. In big staying chases slick jumping is a massive asset to any horse and Present Man is as good a jumper as we have in Ditcheat. Talking to Bryony she told us that the strides he goes for simply would not be possible on a lot of other horses and I think that is what won him his race. It really was an incredible result for so many people from B on top, to Millie a young local lady who rides him everyday and watches the races with her wonderful family at the track, to Mark and Tessa his owners. To win the Badger Ales for them is as good as our job gets.
Flic ou Voyou also read the script beautifully and justified Paul’s faith in him in the spring when bolting up in the concluding bumper.
Thoughts and prayers with our dear Rose
I am sure by now you are reading this thinking what could have possibly gone wrong for me not to be saying what a stunning weekend we enjoyed, but sadly as the day went on news filtered through that Rose Loxton had suffered a fall at home riding one of her point to pointers. In doing so she suffered an open fracture to her leg along with a catalogue of other injuries. She was airlifted to hospital and is still in Bristol now, stable but in a terrible way.
Rose, Clifford’s right hand in the yard, has been with us for many years now and is the absolute heart beat of our yard so to hear the dreadful news put a real downer on the day.
She is the hardest-working most active Grandmother I think there has ever been as she juggles playing an integral part of our yard alongside training her point to pointers, while also acting as the rock to her ever increasing family.
Lots of people go into working with various different horses but there will not be one horse that goes throughout the season without care and attention from Rose, be it bandaging a cut, ensuring they are correctly rugged or feeding them lunch.
Many people work very hard for any racing yard to be successful and Rose will not only be missed for her sense of humour and quick wit she will he missed for the sheer amount of work she puts in on a daily basis. With a prevailing wind Rose will be back to full health in not too long and she has a great family headed up by husband Sam to support her through her recovery, for now though while the yard is without her it will be noticeably different.
Some people are so ingrained in our lives in team Ditcheat you almost take for granted the fact they are always there, I have no doubt I talk for everyone in our team in wishing Rose the speediest recovery possible and the very best. The yard, until you return, will not be the same.