The Judges’ Award presented to Clifford Baker at the McCoys dinner at Cheltenham on Wednesday evening was fitting recognition for a man who has been at the heart of all our success for more than 25 years.
He is the first into the yard each morning, the last to leave in the evening and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to his vital role as head lad. Running a busy racing yard is not like running a factory when you can turn off the machines at 5pm on Friday, lock up for the weekend and come back on Monday. You can’t do that with horses to feed and exercise. Animals are labour intensive and always have been. It has never been a nine to five job. No-one understands that better than Clifford whose alarm goes off at 4.45 each morning.
We have changed things this season so that our staff work one weekend on and two off. That isn’t always easy to arrange because Saturday is often our most important day and of course we have Sunday racing too.
In a marvellous acceptance speech Clifford spoke of his pride at receiving his award from a great sport which he has loved all his life.
He joined Team Ditcheat in 1996, has been my right hand man ever since, is as enthusiastic as ever, and is keen to find one more Gold Cup winner to add to the five he has been so closely involved with.
The previous weekend at the annual Point-to-Point awards dinner my daughter Olive received her trophy for being the champion female novice rider. To ride ride eleven winners in her first season at the age of 16 was quite an achievement and I’m proud of her progress.
Back on the racecourse I thought Pic D’Orhy was superb in winning the Intermediate Chase at Newton Abbot on Saturday. He had a lot to do carrying 11st 12lbs, was brilliant at his fences and kept galloping. He is good in small fields of runners and will probably run next in an Intermediate Chase at Sandown over three miles or the Grade 2 Chase at Ascot over two miles, five furlongs at Ascot.
Hermes Allen has not shown much at home since joining us after winning a Point-to-Point in Ireland. But he looked good as he won with any amount in hand on his debut for us at Stratford.
A lot of the good horses are like that. Denman and Silviniaco Conti were ones who reserved who reserved all their best work for the racecourse. Neptune Collonges, our Grand National winner, was another. Hermes Allen certainly looked to have a bright future at Stratford. We will find another similar race for him with a penalty then step him up in grade.
I was hopeful for a big run from Silent Revolution at Newton Abbot but he slipped going into an early fence and pulled up sore having pulled some muscles. He will be fine and we will put a line through that run
I was delighted with Sabrina in the handicap hurdle and she now goes straight to the Richard Barber Memorial Hurdle at Wincanton in three weeks time, a race for fillies .
What we need more than anything is plenty of rain this week and there is some promise of that in the latest forecasts. As it is currently good to firm at Cheltenham I may not have any runners there on Friday and maybe only a couple on Saturday while you couldn’t be sure at this stage if Wincanton will go ahead on Sunday.
For all the up to date news on my weekend runners please be sure to check out my Betfair column which goes live on Friday and Saturday afternoon.