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About: Charlie Davies

Recent Posts by Charlie Davies

My Summer and New Season Thoughts

With the new season approaching, and Chepstow only days away, I thought it was about time to write my second blog. Telling you of a few things that some of the team and I got up to over the summer months, and my thoughts for the season ahead.

This summer has been the quietest for Team Ditcheat in a long time on the racing front, with only a few runners. However, I’m not particularly upset about that. I’m not the biggest fan of summer racing and am definitely in the camp that believes there should be a longer break than just the odd week here and there. And I certainly think a month of no jumping racing can only be good thing.
The lack of runners over the summer gave me plenty of time for other important jobs.
Our most significant and pressing task was the maintenance of our four gallops. Paul and I had agreed during the season that it was time to overhaul the surface of our hill gallop. After more than a decade of service, the old surface had seen better days. Additionally, the decision was made to address our problematic deep sand gallop, a perpetual headache due to its tendency to flood and freeze, far from the ideal conditions for training racehorses. To tackle these issues, we opted to remove the deep sand gallop and replace it with the surface from the hill gallop that was slightly less worn. With this groundwork laid, our next challenge was to clear the remaining surface from the hill. Once the hill had been cleared and some patchwork tarmacking had been done, we laid around 600 tonnes of brand-new gallop. I won’t bore you with the detail, but as you can imagine it took a lot of man-hours and I’m now an expert at driving a dumper truck.
Altogether we moved around 2000 tonnes of surface around Ditcheat. The team included Lance and his groundworks team, especially Phil, and Rob our gallops man. Although it’s unfair to call Rob just our ‘gallops man’. He’s invaluable in too many ways to mention; a man who can turn his hand to anything and also the man I ring if need a hand, or break anything – much to his occasional irritation. Another name to mention is Freddie Gingell who not only is a brilliant upcoming jockey but a pretty damn good driver of a digger and dumper truck.
I would like to give a big thank you to those boys. Without their hard work and determination, we wouldn’t have got this project done.
The time was also busy with making sure that all the horses out in field were well taken care of. During the summer months we can have up 120 horses in the fields surrounding Ditcheat, so checking them all two or three times a day takes a bit of time. But I do love wandering around, getting to know the new horses and seeing all the others relaxing and enjoying their break.
In June, I was lucky enough to attend the Tattersalls Derby Sale in Ireland with Paul. I’d never been to one of the store sales before and I really enjoyed going around with him and Tom Malone, Paul’s Bloodstock agent who oversees finding the next stars for Team Ditcheat. It was really interesting to see what Paul and Tom look for in each individual horse: studying their pedigree, looking at each horse’s confirmation and the way they move, and finally seeing how they handle the sale.
I have to say, the adrenaline rush when you are trying to buy a horse in the ring is quite addictive. We were lucky enough to buy three quality horses and I can’t wait to see their progression.
Next, they will go to Will Biddick, who does a brilliant job of breaking them in. Typically, they spend a year with Will and his team, learning all about being a racehorse, with the plan to run them in the following Autumn. This might seem like a slightly slow process but I think the more time you can give young horses the better. It’s certainly brought about great results, with horses like Stage Star, Mcfabulous, Knappers Hill and Threeunderthrufive coming through and all being multiple graded winners.
This year we’ve bought 17 three-year-olds, who are all now with Will. From him, we have 18 four-year-olds coming into the yard to run in bumpers, which is equally exciting. Seeing these young horses coming through, showing improvement from year to year is one of my favourite parts of the job. So being able to being able to be there and see why Paul and Tom chose them and the exact time they became part of Team Ditcheat was brilliant.
All the horses came back in on the second Monday of July, and it was back to business all over again. We also welcomed some new faces to the team, and I hope they all enjoy a great season and many exciting new horses.
Now came the long process of getting the horses race fit. Typically, this begins with trotting up the steep roads of Ditcheat Hill, clinging onto fresh horses – trying your best not to be at the top of the tumblers list, with the penalty of buying cakes for the team. Incidentally, as I write this blog, the position is held by Harry Cobden, who, much to the disappointment of the staff, still has not brought in a single cake. Hopefully this might jog his memory!
The months of July and August can sometimes feel like a bit of a slog as everyone is working hard to get their horses in peak performance, while racing and the reward of winners still feels like an age away. However, once the horses start working and schooling you can feel the excitement and anticipation building around the yard. Watching the horses schooling is something I look forward to more than anything. It’s a thrill to see our novice hurdlers making steady progress, session by session. They grow more confident and skilled with each time. At the same time, our established stars never fail to show exactly why they are as good as they are displaying both power and balance.
This season is full of hope and expectation. We have an amazing team of horses; the best we’ve had for years. If I go through some of those I’m particularly excited to see, I don’t think I can start anywhere but with Bravemansgame. He had the most amazing season, winning the King George and finishing second in the Gold Cup. Hopefully, he can have another great season and maybe go one better in the next Gold Cup.
I’m also really excited to see how Stage Star performs in open company. He gave me one of the best days on a racecourse when winning at the Festival and I hope it’s not the last. Another older horse I am looking forward to seeing is Pic D’Orhy after his Grade 1 win at Aintree.
I think we have a brilliant group of novice chasers, headed by our three Grade 1 winning novice hurdlers: Stay Away Fay, Hermes Allen and Tahmuras: all very exciting prospects. Meanwhile, Knappers Hill may not have won a grade 1, but he did win two Grade 2’s over hurdles last season. They have all schooled brilliantly and I hope they’re capable of winning lots of races between them.
We also have a number of horses who look like they will, as the saying goes, ‘improve for a fence’. Horses like my old friend Knowsley Road, Henri the Second, Golden Son and new to us this season, Ginny’s Destiny. Creating a group of novice chasers that you can’t help but get excited about.
We also have an exciting team of novice hurdlers, led by Captain Teague, who ran so well in the champion bumper at Cheltenham, and the unbeaten Inthewaterside. I could continue to name loads of exciting novice hurdlers – with 18 individual bumper winners going novice hurdling that would be easy – but probably bore those of who’ve slogged through to this point.
A couple of slightly lesser-known names I’m intrigued to see run are Farnoge, who won a bumper at Uttoxeter – the form of which has worked out very well. Also, two horses who have come off the flat are Liari and Panjari. Their schooling has been very good and they look quite exciting.
A few of the boys are getting excited about some of the bumper horses. I think that at this stage Touquet, Regents Stroll and Kap Boy are leading the way and might be worth following.
I hope that all the horses can put their best hoof forward and give their owners a huge amount of fun. But most importantly that when they step out on the racetrack, they all come home safely.
I don’t think it’s hard to tell that I’m really excited for the season to start. I hope Team Ditcheat has a great year full of winners, fun and memories to cherish, and fingers crossed for a 15th Trainers Championship.
Finally, before I go, I quickly want to wish an important member of the team the best of luck. Chloe Humphries, who has worked for Paul for several years, is riding in a charity race at Wincanton on the 29th of October and I wish her the best of luck and hope she loves every second of it. And wins! Of course. No pressure Chloe!

If any of you would be kind enough to sponsor her and the Bob Champion Cancer Trust, that would be great. CLICK HERE to donate.

Until next time.


My first year as Assistant to Paul Nicholls

Towards the end of last season Paul and I discussed me writing about my first year as Paul’s Assistant and you would think the summer break would be ideal to do this. However, in June I had the greatest day of my life: marrying my wonderful wife, meaning my attention was fully occupied. So here I am at the beginning of August writing about my brilliant first year.

I would like to begin with quickly introducing myself. My name is Charlie Davies, and I’m 27 years old. I’ve worked in horse racing for nearly 10 years, firstly, as a distinctly average jockey in the Cotswolds for Jonjo O’Neill and Charlie Longsdon; then in July 2019 I moved down to Ditcheat to take up the role as Pupil Assistant and 3 years later I became Paul’s Assistant – after Harry Derham left to start out on his own. Becoming Paul’s assistant has felt like a huge personal achievement. When I started out in horse racing I had no family connections to fall back on, so to get to such a prestigious position in this great sport means the world to me.

I have loved every minute of this past year, which has included some huge highs, including the amazing people I‘ve had the pleasure of meeting – although, and unfortunately as is the case with horses, there have also been a couple of lows. I’ve learned a huge amount from Paul, Clifford, and Dave, witnessing first-hand the immense amount of love that the staff and owners here at Ditcheat have for the horses, and the way the wonderful sport brings out emotions in people in such unexpected ways.

My day-to-day life is hugely varied and changes throughout the season. One guarantee, however, is that it always begins at 6.15am, when I meet Clifford in the office. We start to make a plan for the day: tweaking the riding out board, depending on what the day holds. Paul and Dave join us just after 6.30am and we go through each horse – all 150 of them. Something that I have found amazing is the attention to detail that’s given to every single horse. The impression of big yards being like machines couldn’t be further from the truth here at Ditcheat.

My day can then go a number of different ways: I could be off racing, usually with Paul or catching a lift with one of our jockeys. Or I could be helping with schooling or taking videos for our owners. Or… well there’s literally 100 other things. No day is ever the same. I might even dust off my riding boots – much to everyone’s amusement, as my bravery has definitely waned.

The 2022/23 season was hugely successful for Team Ditcheat with 163 winners and a strike rate of 27%. We had six Grade 1 winners, two of which were at Cheltenham Festival, and we broke Paul’s record prize money with a figure totalling £3,646,585 – beating the previous record by only £75, but a record is a record, none the less.

Of all our horses, Stage Star produced a couple of real highlights for me, the first being at Warwick when he won his first chase. Notably, this was because he’d somewhat lost his way towards the end of the previous season and to see him back to his best was incredibly satisfying for everyone. However, it was also the first time I did a TV interview, talking about one of Paul’s horses. To many this wouldn’t seem like a big deal, but to me who grew up watching his heroes do winning interviews, it was a truly special moment. Stage Star then created an even more special time for me with his win in the Turners Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham. As many of you know the Festival is our version of the Olympics, and with that comes a huge amount of pressure and expectation.

Paul hadn’t had a winner there in a couple of years and we all really wanted to remedy that. After we drew a blank over the first two days the pressure really cranked up, especially after a couple of the horses we really fancied underperformed. Going into Thursday, I’m not going to lie, I was feeling the stress more than ever, so when Stage Star and Harry made all the running to win in utterly brilliant fashion, I can honestly say I have never felt emotion like it on a racecourse. The sense of joy at having a winner at the greatest meeting of the year was something I’d never been a part of before and the release of all the pressure that I felt during those first two days was quite something.

To make it even better, walking in behind Stage Star, up that famous walkway with Ryan Bliss, who is a huge part of the running of Owners Group and one of my closest friends in racing, and seeing how much it meant to him made everything all the more incredible.

My second highlight was Bravemansgame’s win in the King George. This is the biggest race outside of the Cheltenham Festival and the highlight over the Christmas period. Paul has won the race an incredible 13 times, but I’d never been at Kempton on Boxing Day before. I was confident that Bravemansgame had all the ingredients of a King George winner, although when it rained and the ground became soft I was slightly worried. However, I shouldn’t have been, as he floated around Kempton and jumped brilliantly under a lovely ride from Harry, going on to win decisively and confirming all the faith that Paul and everyone in Ditcheat had in him – whilst putting many critics back in their box.

Holetown Hero and Knowsley Road are two of my favourites on the yard (despite the fact that I’m probably not supposed to have favourites; but when you ride them every day it’s hard not to.) Riding a horse daily means you build an even greater bond with them and, as much as I want every one of Paul’s horses to win, I have to say I wanted these two to win slightly more – I’m only human after all.

Both won twice last season which gave me a huge amount of joy and satisfaction. It’s easy to enjoy winners on big days with the amazing crowds creating a great atmosphere, but seeing horses win midweek for such brilliant and enthusiastic owners (who absolutely love both their horse and horse racing) makes this job feel so worthwhile. This is exactly the case with the Pelham Family who own Knowsley Road. They’re wonderful people and deserve all the success their horse gave them last year and hopefully will continue to do so.

Another group that provided me with quite a few highlights last year were our bumper horses. We had a very successful year with them, with 18 individual winners. I really enjoy seeing them progress throughout the year from young inexperienced horses to being ready to go to races and do themselves proud.

There were two particular highlights for me, the first being Fire Flyer winning at Ascot. Everyone knew I thought he was a very smart horse; from the day he came into the yard he just did everything so easily. So, to see him win so impressively was satisfyingly vindicating. It’s not often Paul and Clifford tell me I was right, but this was one of those few times.

Another highlight was a horse called Centara, who came to us a very big and green horse, barely knowing his feet were attached to his legs, or so it seemed. But under a lot of patient nurturing and attention from some of lads who rode him everyday he started to improve, and to see him win first time out at Taunton was brilliant. I would never have thought he was capable of that when he first arrived, which shows how much horses can improve over time with the right education and a bit of patience.

Yet with all these highs and amazing memories, there are hard parts to my job. The travelling is tough from October to May. I very often leave the house in the dark and don’t get back till it’s dark, spending hours behind the wheel of a car on my way to the races. I regularly miss social events and can work weeks without a day off. But hardest thing by far is when we lose a horse. As someone who got into racing because of his love of horses, I always find this particularly tough. No matter how many times it happens it’s still horrible. However even with these negatives I absolutely love what I do, and I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else in this world.

During the summer we lost a vital cog in Team Ditcheat. Mr Barber, Paul’s great friend and landlord passed away. Now I’m not going to pretend that I knew Mr Barber anywhere near as well as many of others in this great industry. But since taking over as Paul’s assistant, I’d got to know him over the year and saw how important a part he was within Team Ditcheat. He was a great man who was so liked and respected by everyone in racing, and you could see how much he loved his horses and this great sport. I always enjoyed our journeys to the races when he reminisced about his past stars, Denman and See More Business, while eating his favourite fruit and nut chocolate.

Working this past year so closely under Paul, I’ve got to see what makes him so successful. He works harder than anyone I’ve met; he is incredibly competitive and he drives himself and all of us to be better. Even though he was champion trainer for the 14th time this spring, he’s still thinking of ways we can improve next season. I’m hugely grateful to him for giving me this opportunity. He’s already taught me so much, and I’m know there’s so much more to come.

Overall, I’ve had an amazing year, loving every minute of all the ups and downs – meaning that the long days have all been worth it. I’d like to thank all the staff in Team Ditcheat for making this year so enjoyable and life considerably easier – helping me out, countless times. I also want to thank all the owners for making me feel so welcome and respected. And finally, I want to thank you the reader. I hope you’ve enjoyed my first blog and that I haven’t bored you too much. I hope that next season will be even more successful, and I’ll do my best to keep you updated along the way.

Till the next time…




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