Clan Des Obeaux was the star of the show for Team Ditcheat at Aintree where I ending up as leading trainer at the three day meeting.
With Gelino Bello and Hacker Des Places also in the winners’ enclosure and several more running fine races including Hitman, Monmiral, McFabulous and Cat Tiger we enjoyed a rewarding time at a course where so many of our owners enjoy having runners.
Clan has had some tough battles over the years and you just wonder if they might have left a mark. He ran below par at Newbury, just like last year, and we hoped blinkers first time would make a difference. They certainly did as he bounced back in style to land the Grade 1 Betway Bowl for the second year running. He usually comes right at this time of year, cruised into the lead early in the straight and was always holding the challenge of Conflated. It was a stronger renewal this year round a track he loves and I’d say this was one of his best victories. The plan is to defend his title in the Punchestown Gold Cup.
Monmiral and McFabulous chased home Epatante in the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle and will both be going chasing next season. Monmiral has had a difficult campaign since picking up a nasty injury in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle and it was really pleasing to see him finish a creditable runner up.
Cat Tiger also shone in going down narrowly in a tight finish to the Foxhunters on Thursday.
The next day I was thrilled with the run of Hitman into second place behind the favourite Fakir D’Oudairies in the Grade 1 Marsh Chase. I’ve always held him in high regard but he is still a bit weak, a work in progress and has needed time. He will definitely be stepping up in trip next season.
Bravemansgame was undeniably disappointing in the Grand 1 Mildmay Novice Chase at the end of a long season. Very keen on the way to post and in the race, he was beaten turning for home.
That was obviously not his running and in a funny way we might have left our race at Cheltenham by not letting him take his chance there. I’ve no doubt he will be fine next season when the King George at Kempton will be his first big target.
We side-stepped Cheltenham with Gelino Bello to keep him fresh for the Grade 1 Sefton Novice Hurdle which he won decisively by four and a half lengths. He is another exciting prospect for fences and will get better as he gets stronger.
Hacker Des Places then completed a great day for us on Friday by landing the closing handicap hurdle in the colours of the Owners Group.
With results in other races at Liverpool going my way I’m £270,000 in front in the trainers’ championship as we enter the final two weeks of the season.
It’s a huge advantage at this late stage and while mathematically anything is possible, Nicky Henderson conceded on Sunday and we can be a bit more relaxed and selective about what we run during the countdown to Sandown on Saturday week.
It has been a monumental effort by everyone involved with Team Ditcheat to get us to this position considering our squad of horses.
With a number of ours not performing as we would have liked since Christmas it has has been a notably challenging last three months and at times I’ve been tearing my hair out. Yet others have been awesome including the fresh ones we took to Aintree.
For the latest news on my runners this Saturday please do check out my Betfair column which goes live late Friday afternoon.