As I am British I do not think there is any other place to start than say god it’s hot isn’t it?
Might be too hot.
We have been starting early this week just to try and get all the horses ridden before the midday heat really kicks in so fair play to all the guys who have been up bright and early, even more so than normal. Having said that, speaking to George Boughey this week and hearing some of the Newmarket pull out times I think we are still on a fairly relaxed time schedule!
So, how have things been at Ditcheat? Well the simple answer is busy.
We are now up to about 95% capacity with the majority of the horses boasting their first few canters under their belts. It is lovely to see the strings marching out round the roads again and all of us getting back into the routine we all know so well.
As I said in my last piece of writing, getting on the horses is a lengthy process but we have a good team of riders with Natalie, Lorcan, Diarmuid and Rupert hopping on the majority for the first time in the school.
I will share with you a little tale from this week as it is still causing us all amusement a few days on. We have a lovely horse called Take Your Time in our care, he is an Owner’s Group horse who won well at Lingfield last year, generally he is a smashing ride, very well-mannered, nicely behaved and Beth who rides him every day thoroughly enjoys him.
Well, we were getting on the horses that had come back from their holidays at Equi Prep, Owners Group HQ, and from what I can see essentially The Dorchester for horses. The likes of Calva D’auge, Miranda and co were all in action when, and I do not over exaggerate, the moment of the summer so far occurred.
Step forward Mr Charlie Davies, hugely popular pupil assistant in the yard, a man who much to our surprise recently got engaged. Our thoughts Michelle are with you at this difficult time.
Now Charlie does not get on many of the fresh ones, especially now he is engaged as we figure we had better look after him, but I took the opinion that Take Your Time being such a nice horse would be ok.
The normal process was followed, tacked up, little lunge round all completed with no drama.
“Think we will be fine Char, let’s get on him,” I suggest.
Up Charlie got onto Take Your Time and, well for a good lap or two of trot, things went swimmingly. Charlie was in perfect motion, even managing a rising trot, something I know he’s worked on. However, for whatever reason Take Your Time then felt this was his moment to shine, a buck and a kick followed but Charlie, channelling his inner JB Mooney sat tight, held on well and very quickly came out with the line, “I’ve still got it lads”.
And, it was at this moment, Take Your Time really did think it was time to go. He squirted across the school, produced three nicely-timed bucks, for balance Mr Davies called them plunges, I’ll let you decide.
He then came to an abrupt halt and Charlie, stylishly I might add, was catapulted gracefully over his head. Take Your Time stood there watching and I am fairly confident found it as funny as us.
Both were of course absolutely fine and TYT is now behaving perfectly and completed two trots just this morning.
Charlie however, well I think he will be pulling sand out of his ears and elsewhere for some time to come. We do not have many little mishaps but every now and again one will inevitably catch up with you and as long as everyone is ok it does have the capacity to cause endless amounts of amusement.
In other news, I was lucky enough to go to Woburn on Wednesday. Paul is an ambassador for Racing Welfare and as luck might have it he is not a golfer, so his poor old assistant had to take this one on the chin and go to play Woburn – I mean can you imagine my disappointment?
The day was in aid of Racing Welfare and the Injured Jockeys Fund, two charities that need no introduction to racing fans. Both do incredible work for our industry and give them their due they put on a fantastic day which I hope raised a lot of money. The only sadness was I did not have enough Mulligans to play the entire round with, even so I’m not sure Collin Morikawa himself would have been well enough handicapped yesterday to claim the winner’s spot.
There is also no truth in the rumour that those in Racing Welfare HQ said: “Let’s get Harry from the Nicholls yard, he’d be a great acquisition.” thinking they were getting Cobby not Derham.
Anyway, some say in life that you should never meet your heros, well this week I met two of mine.
In fairness I was probably that annoying guy that when you’re playing golf you do not want to meet, but when you’re faced with Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad you’ve got to have a picture haven’t you?
They both were absolutely great, gave the stupid fan boy their time and happily had a picture with me.
Now please, please do me a favour and one of you nick Kohli off at Lords this summer as I’m having a day out to watch you, my first Test match in fact.
In other news, it was great on Monday to get back to Highclere’s annual rosé drinking contest following a year missed due to the pandemic. A parade of their horses revealed a fine bunch I would add with Lime Avenue our most recent acquisition. She is a stunning Walk In The Park filly who will be ready for a bumper in the autumn, I think they have a nice one on their hands.
Highlight of that day though was meeting Mr Andrew Gemmell, owner of Paisley Park amongst others, after an introduction from Emma, we chatted all things racing and cricket, so it is fairly safe to assume we did not struggle for conversation. What a sense of humour he has and talking to them both you get the impression Emma and Andrew have a lot of sport along the way.
Our fortunes were mixed over the weekend at the games with Scaramanga breaking his maiden on the flat in a 60k staying race at Newbury under an inspired Silvestre De Sousa ride while on Sunday at a sweltering Stratford the thoroughly likeable Chez Hans brought up his three-timer for the summer, all in the capable hands of his young pilot Ben Bromley.
The only dampener of the weekend came at Market Rasen where sadly we lost dear Saint De Reve after an injury that would have provided him with no quality of life whatsoever.
He was not the most talented horse in the world, nor will he be the most remembered, but he was a sweetly-natured animal who never gave a moments hassle for the four years he was in Paul’s care.
I have thought long and hard about BBC1’s Panorama programme on Monday night and, while I feel perhaps there was not a balanced argument in the show to demonstrate the care a large majority of horses enjoy in their post racing lives, I do think that questions were raised that we have to be open too as an industry.
The only offering I want to make on the subject is something Paul told me a couple of days ago when chatting about it.
“Harry, if a horse is good enough to you that he spends his entire racing life in your care then I, as his trainer, have a responsibility to try and provide him the best possible life after that racing career.”
I am confident that around the racing world there are countless other examples of that as well.
I think that is probably as good a place as any to finish.