We ended a fabulous season with all guns blazing at Sandown on Saturday with three winners.
Greaneteen led the way with a career best to see off Altior in the Grade 1 Celebration Chase and Frodon raised the roof with a heart stopping victory in a photo finish to the Oaksey Chase.
Both were brilliantly ridden by Bryony Frost who only returned to the saddle on Thursday after twelve days off with concussion after a nasty fall in the Grand National.
The treble took our score for the campaign to 176 which is five more than our best previous achieved number in 2016-2017.
On a personal level I am thrilled to have won the trainers’ championship for the twelfth time, not least because I was frustrated by the way the previous season came to an abrupt halt in mid March just when I was planning a late assault on the title.
With a bit of luck on Saturday our record breaking tally would have stood at 177 because Enrilo won the bet365 Gold Cup in a tight finish by three quarters of a length before being demoted to third after a lengthy stewards’ inquiry.
We discussed an appeal with the owners on Sunday morning but eventually decided to take the result on the chin and move on. Obviously Enrilo caused interference when he idled in front on the run-in, and edged left, bumping the third horse Kitty’s Light but he immediately rallied and galloped all the way to the line. He wasn’t tired, just running green before keeping on again.
I said to Harry Skelton to hold on to Enrilo for as long as possible because he doesn’t do much in front but the horse was going so well at every stage he couldn’t help leading four out. It was a terrific run by Enrilo on his fifth start over fences and there should be plenty more to come from him next season.
The key to Greaneteen’s success was the way he settled better than usual thanks in part to the strong pace set by Altior. It was an excellent ride by Bryony who had the sense to follow the leader rather than let him go. All credit to her for a canny move latching on to Altior and getting a lead from him before nipping up his inside after the Pond fence. She got the tactics spot on and Greaneteen was clear by the time he skipped over the last fence.
I’m not surprised he has won a huge race though I felt it was more likely to happen next season. While he has always had loads of potential he has been a bit too keen for his own good at times so it is a big plus that he relaxed better on Saturday when he looked a proper racehorse. That has been the making of him. He flew up the hill and given that he is only seven there should be plenty more to come from him. The obvious first target for Greaneteen next season is the Tingle Creek back at Sandown.
Frodon obviously had a hard race in the Gold Cup and was very quiet for three weeks before showing the right signs recently. Bryony felt he was flat out at times but his jumping has always been electric, he never knows he is beaten and after being headed at the last fence he fought back on the hill and was in front again at the line. I always felt he would get back up because that is him. Frodon is a marvel and will probably have one run before heading to the King George again.
Scaramanga then completed a memorable day for Team Ditcheat with an impressive triumph in the closing handicap hurdle under top weight ridden by Bryan Carver. He is a useful dual purpose horse, has had a light campaign and as he enjoys fast ground I’ll keep him going for a while .
Although there is no jump racing this week I am sending Clan Des Obeaux to Ireland for the Gold Cup at Punchestown on Wednesday. He is in very good form at home, has thrived in the sunshine since Aintree, will be well suited by the track and worked nicely on Saturday morning. He will be joined by Bob and Co for the hunter chase on Friday. We are up for the challenge.
We have had an amazing time during a difficult season which was two months shorter than usual because of Covid. Every member of Team Ditcheat has played their part and I am proud of the way they kept going, particularly through the worst of the winter, when tough restrictions meant they had to sit in their cars drying out between lots and couldn’t get together in the warmth of staff room. So it was good to repay them all with a little socially distanced party at our local pub in Alhampton on Saturday evening.
We won the first race of the campaign at Southwell with Nineohtwooneoh and the last one with Scaramanga at Sandown on Saturday. In between we won loads of good races with nice horses and landed some top prizes with Frodon giving us a twelfth King George and Clan Des Obeaux outstanding at Aintree in the Betway Bowl.
Then there was Politologue in the Tingle Creek, Bravemansgame in the Challow and Monmiral at Aintree.
Another of my highlights was seeing Harry Cobden riding 123 winners before his injury brought a premature end to his season. He is only 23, much younger than Harry Skelton and Brian Hughes, deserves lots of credit, is improving all the time and his day will come.
Now we have to do it all again starting with a clean sheet and with the strongest team we’ve had for a long time I can’t wait for the jumps season proper to start at Chepstow early in October.
Looking ahead I honestly think that Dan Skelton is the biggest threat to my winning more trainers’ titles. He was a clear second this time, is fully focused and openly ambitious but having just won my latest trainers’ championship he knows I’m not going to let go easily!!!! I’m so proud of Dan and Harry who both joined me as youngsters at Ditcheat, worked very hard to progress and have got better each year.