The determined victory of Shearer at Cheltenham on Saturday took me to the landmark total of 3,500 winners since I began training at Ditcheat late in October 1991.
That figure includes all my successes over jumps and on the flat at home and abroad.
I began with eight horses and my first runner on November 2 at Chepstow was pulled up at half way.
Approaching Christmas I’d racked up half a dozen seconds and was beginning to wonder if my luck would ever turn. So you can imagine my relief when Olveston, owned in part by my parents, broke the duck for me over fences at Hereford in December 20 ridden by Hywel Davies. The show was on the road.
So much has changed since then but the fundamentals of Team Ditcheat remain the same. It is still a case of working the horses hard to get them fit and working them hard to keep them fit.
We have an exciting team for this winter and the next target is 4,000 winners.
Shearer has improved a fair bit since we sorted out his issues with sore shins. He was a bit of a baby last season, did well over the summer and it was good to see him find plenty up the hill on Saturday to see off Twig in a Class 2 Novice Hurdle.
We were thinking of going chasing with Shearer after Cheltenham but will now keep him to hurdles for the time being.
On Sunday Hitman came oh so close to becoming my 3,501st winner with a brilliant run under top weight in the Grade 2 Old Roan Chase at Aintree. He travelled beautifully throughout, winged the last just behind Riders On The Storm and kept on strongly on the flat but was just held by a whisker on the line.
Considering he was giving 20lbs to the winner it was a great effort by Hitman on his first run since a wind op.
Jumping the second last he landed tight on the backside of Beakstown. That cost him a vital two lengths but he again showed he was a good horse by making up the ground and pushing the winner to the limit. The key is that he can breathe now after a breathing operation in the summer. It was a fabulous run off a mark of 159 and as I warned beforehand, he is bound to come on no end for the run just as he did late last year when second in the Tingle Creek Chase after a fine seasonal debut in the Haldon Gold Cup.
Clan Des Obeaux won his first King George V1 Chase off a rating of 160 and I’d say Hitman is sure to go up at least to that mark and am sure is going to relish 3miles .
He is still only six with so much more to come from him and he will now head to Haydock on November 19 for the £50,000 Intermediate Chase over two miles, five furlongs, won last year by Bravemansgame. Then it will be straight to the King George at Kempton.
Now that the rain has come we hope to be very busy in the coming days with runners at Chepstow on Tuesday and Wednesday before we take a team to Wetherby and plenty to Ascot at the weekend.
Provided the ground is suitable Bravemansgame should run in the Charlie Hall Chase on Saturday, and Secret Investor will have an entry too and Gelino Bello could run over fences on Friday while Threeundertheufive might run in the bet365 Hurdle over three miles enroute to Newbury’s Coral Gold Cup.
If the ground is on the slow side of good we will run plenty. If it is fast we will have none.
For all the latest news on my runners on Saturday please be sure to turn to my Betfair column which goes live early on Friday afternoon.