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About: Harry Derham

Recent Posts by Harry Derham

Might be too hot

As I am British I do not think there is any other place to start than say god it’s hot isn’t it?

Might be too hot.

We have been starting early this week just to try and get all the horses ridden before the midday heat really kicks in so fair play to all the guys who have been up bright and early, even more so than normal. Having said that, speaking to George Boughey this week and hearing some of the Newmarket pull out times I think we are still on a fairly relaxed time schedule!

So, how have things been at Ditcheat? Well the simple answer is busy.

We are now up to about 95% capacity with the majority of the horses boasting their first few canters under their belts. It is lovely to see the strings marching out round the roads again and all of us getting back into the routine we all know so well.

As I said in my last piece of writing, getting on the horses is a lengthy process but we have a good team of riders with Natalie, Lorcan, Diarmuid and Rupert hopping on the majority for the first time in the school.

I will share with you a little tale from this week as it is still causing us all amusement a few days on. We have a lovely horse called Take Your Time in our care, he is an Owner’s Group horse who won well at Lingfield last year, generally he is a smashing ride, very well-mannered, nicely behaved and Beth who rides him every day thoroughly enjoys him.

Well, we were getting on the horses that had come back from their holidays at Equi Prep, Owners Group HQ, and from what I can see essentially The Dorchester for horses. The likes of Calva D’auge, Miranda and co were all in action when, and I do not over exaggerate, the moment of the summer so far occurred.

Step forward Mr Charlie Davies, hugely popular pupil assistant in the yard, a man who much to our surprise recently got engaged. Our thoughts Michelle are with you at this difficult time.

Now Charlie does not get on many of the fresh ones, especially now he is engaged as we figure we had better look after him, but I took the opinion that Take Your Time being such a nice horse would be ok.

The normal process was followed, tacked up, little lunge round all completed with no drama.

“Think we will be fine Char, let’s get on him,” I suggest.

Up Charlie got onto Take Your Time and, well for a good lap or two of trot, things went swimmingly. Charlie was in perfect motion, even managing a rising trot, something I know he’s worked on. However, for whatever reason Take Your Time then felt this was his moment to shine, a buck and a kick followed but Charlie, channelling his inner JB Mooney sat tight, held on well and very quickly came out with the line, “I’ve still got it lads”.

And, it was at this moment, Take Your Time really did think it was time to go. He squirted across the school, produced three nicely-timed bucks, for balance Mr Davies called them plunges, I’ll let you decide.

He then came to an abrupt halt and Charlie, stylishly I might add, was catapulted gracefully over his head. Take Your Time stood there watching and I am fairly confident found it as funny as us.

Both were of course absolutely fine and TYT is now behaving perfectly and completed two trots just this morning.

Charlie however, well I think he will be pulling sand out of his ears and elsewhere for some time to come. We do not have many little mishaps but every now and again one will inevitably catch up with you and as long as everyone is ok it does have the capacity to cause endless amounts of amusement.

Sorry Charlie.

In other news, I was lucky enough to go to Woburn on Wednesday. Paul is an ambassador for Racing Welfare and as luck might have it he is not a golfer, so his poor old assistant had to take this one on the chin and go to play Woburn – I mean can you imagine my disappointment?

The day was in aid of Racing Welfare and the Injured Jockeys Fund, two charities that need no introduction to racing fans. Both do incredible work for our industry and give them their due they put on a fantastic day which I hope raised a lot of money. The only sadness was I did not have enough Mulligans to play the entire round with, even so I’m not sure Collin Morikawa himself would have been well enough handicapped yesterday to claim the winner’s spot.

There is also no truth in the rumour that those in Racing Welfare HQ said: “Let’s get Harry from the Nicholls yard, he’d be a great acquisition.” thinking they were getting Cobby not Derham.

Anyway, some say in life that you should never meet your heros, well this week I met two of mine.

In fairness I was probably that annoying guy that when you’re playing golf you do not want to meet, but when you’re faced with Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad you’ve got to have a picture haven’t you?
IMG-20210723-WA0002 IMG-20210723-WA0001

They both were absolutely great, gave the stupid fan boy their time and happily had a picture with me.

Now please, please do me a favour and one of you nick Kohli off at Lords this summer as I’m having a day out to watch you, my first Test match in fact.

 

 

In other news, it was great on Monday to get back to Highclere’s annual rosé drinking contest following a year missed due to the pandemic. A parade of their horses revealed a fine bunch I would add with Lime Avenue our most recent acquisition. She is a stunning Walk In The Park filly who will be ready for a bumper in the autumn, I think they have a nice one on their hands.

Highlight of that day though was meeting Mr Andrew Gemmell, owner of Paisley Park amongst others, after an introduction from Emma, we chatted all things racing and cricket, so it is fairly safe to assume we did not struggle for conversation. What a sense of humour he has and talking to them both you get the impression Emma and Andrew have a lot of sport along the way.

Our fortunes were mixed over the weekend at the games with Scaramanga breaking his maiden on the flat in a 60k staying race at Newbury under an inspired Silvestre De Sousa ride while on Sunday at a sweltering Stratford the thoroughly likeable Chez Hans brought up his three-timer for the summer, all in the capable hands of his young pilot Ben Bromley.

The only dampener of the weekend came at Market Rasen where sadly we lost dear Saint De Reve after an injury that would have provided him with no quality of life whatsoever.

He was not the most talented horse in the world, nor will he be the most remembered, but he was a sweetly-natured animal who never gave a moments hassle for the four years he was in Paul’s care.

I have thought long and hard about BBC1’s Panorama programme on Monday night and, while I feel perhaps there was not a balanced argument in the show to demonstrate the care a large majority of horses enjoy in their post racing lives, I do think that questions were raised that we have to be open too as an industry.

The only offering I want to make on the subject is something Paul told me a couple of days ago when chatting about it.

“Harry, if a horse is good enough to you that he spends his entire racing life in your care then I, as his trainer, have a responsibility to try and provide him the best possible life after that racing career.”

I am confident that around the racing world there are countless other examples of that as well.

I think that is probably as good a place as any to finish.

Go well.

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It is an odd thing summer

Obviously, racing is not nearly as manic and, here in Ditcheat, we only have a handful of horses in training to run, but life always seems to be busy in and around the yard.

Power washing, painting, checking horses, updating gallops, fixing stables, tarmacking bits and bobs, hedge cutting, rail cleaning and all sorts of tasks needs tackling. Everyone also needs some time off and, before you know it, the time is nearly upon us for next week.

Next week? What on earth is going on next week I hear you say…

Generally, if you find yourself in Paul Nicholls employment the mid-Monday in July is the beginning, where it all starts for another year.

The vast majority of the horses return from their 10-week summer staycation and get back to the routine of yard life with the fairly basic aim having most of them ready to go again in and around the middle of October.

That is give or take a week or two depending on specific targets and plans that have been made by the boss.

I really enjoyed my summer holiday this year with plenty of golf played badly, lots of cricket watched, some even live, which after the pandemic was an absolute joy while generally taking things easy for a month did me the world of good.

I adore my job and I was excited to get back, but the rest was nice and I think it does all of us a little bit of good to have just a little bit of time away from one another.

Just before the holiday I joked with Clifford that I’d miss him during my weeks off as my first conversation every single day of my working life is with him.

“I won’t miss you,” came the reply, tongue in cheek … I hope.

Wandering round the horses in their fields over the past week I am itching for them to come back in now.

As a group they have done well for their summer and apart from the first two weeks of their breaks when monsoon season arrived in Ditcheat, they have enjoyed some fine and warm weather.

This week, although busy, is mainly quite calm and relaxed with only one entry on Sunday as most of the summer horses have run in the last few weeks.

Hold onto your hats next week though because that is when the fun starts.

I always think it is amazing that next Monday at 6:30am, Manor Farm Stables will be empty yet 49 hours later it will be full to the rafters once again.
New faces, equine and human, always make for a fun and interesting couple of weeks but being honest I think Paul and Clifford are happier men in three or so weeks’ time when the horses are back into a routine.

My job for the coming weeks is a fairly simple task, but nevertheless a job I enjoy.

Essentially every horse that comes back in from the field is taken into our arena, has some tack fitted before we let them have a buck squeal and a kick. When they have that exuberance out of their system we pop somebody up onto their back.

This is generally a fairly-well organised exercise with the odd naughty one making things interesting for the incoming rider but, generally come the back end of next week, most of them will be up and going and having a trot up Ditcheat hill in their groups.

I often think people must question why, if a horse is not racing until October or November, would they need to come into work in the middle of July?

However, working for Paul, you very quickly realise that those first couple of months of work are absolutely vital to the success of a horse’s season.

The ground work that is laid in those first weeks, building their strength, training their minds to be calm and relaxed in all of their work is basically setting the foundations for a good year.

In other news. the horses this summer are flying, which is nice to see, a double on Friday at Newton Abbot took this season’s tally to 20 which is a pleasing figure at this time of year.

Kilmington Rose winning three on the bounce has been a personal highlight for the summer campaign so far for lovely owners Henry and Charlie Pelham, but she has been backed up ably with victories for Darling Maltaix, Mick Pastor, Chez Hans and Eglantine De Seuil among others.

When jockeys are injured the one good thing that comes from it is the understudies get a chance to be in the driving seat and I thought Bryony was brilliant in Harry’s absence through May riding loads of winners and generally doing a great job.

Now Harry is back I am just hoping they both stay injury free for the next ten months and ride us lots of winners between them. It has been great to have Harry back recently and I have no doubt he will have another brilliant year.

I’m sure everyone will join me in wishing Bryan Carver a swift return to the saddle too following his recent fall at Newton Abbot. Bryan fractured his T7 vertebrae in two places and we all wish him a speedy recovery.

I think that is just about all the news I have for you at the moment and, although I am not going to do a blog regularly this season, I will endeavour to scribble some bits down through the year and keep you up to date with the yard, the boss and what is going on with me.

Until next time however, go well.

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A season review, well not review, just a chat about my year

While I am sure most of the seven readers of my long-lost blog are probably well over the mourning period for the afore mentioned and moved onto some copy far more engaging, entertaining and reliably produced, I have had the motivation recently to write about our season or year just passed.

The Covid19 year of no crowds, no cheering, no interaction, no normal.

The year of masks, cold, empty racecourses. The year of no clapping when the horses returned or atmosphere around a paddock. The unease in places through the winter of would it all continue?

Racing has faced many challenges this past year so I may shock plenty of you when I say that in all my five years as assistant, this is the one I will remember with most fondness.

I know it is odd but bear with me and I will do my best to make sense of that statement.

You see, during this pandemic-ridden dirt bag of a year that we have endured when separation, isolation and loneliness were commonplace, I do not think there has ever been a time when Paul’s often mentioned ‘Team Ditcheat’ has ever been so important to the people involved in that very team.

I am fully appreciative of the fact I, and everyone else working for Paul and in racing, that we have been incredibly lucky during the past 12 months to be able to get up, go to a job we love and, while things were not normal, we each had a purpose in life to wake up and carry on as normal as possible.

It turns out that is just about the most sacred thing you can have.

I think being part of something has made it easier for all of us and through it all I hope that everyone working in Team Ditcheat has felt we have stuck together and worked as a group to provide Paul with another fantastic season.

Numerically, from Christmas onwards, we felt that the magic number of 171 (up until then our best every tally) was there to be beaten, so we were all delighted when Threeunderthrufive ridden by Adrian Heskin won at Perth in the last week of the season to beat our tally. The clock eventually stopping on 176 after a fabulous three-timer at Sandown on the curtain closer.

This season though was not just about numbers, there were some truly memorable days scattered amongst the stream of victories and, like I did at this time last year, I am going to give you my top 10 moments from that season.

I will just add that these are not Paul’s highlights or the yards, they are just mine, things that meant a lot to me for some reason or another, moments that I enjoyed or got a kick out of – bigger than the one I do when we are lucky enough to have a winner.

I would also say that it is only when looking back at a season you realise this list could be 25 highlights long so 10 is the figure I reached hoping you would not fall asleep reading it.

10. Miranda goes up in Grade

I will start things off with a freezing cold January day in Doncaster. With such a great mares’ programme in the UK, having a nice mare in training can be lucrative so when the owners’ group syndicate purchased Miranda in November 2018 from Arqana in Deauville I am sure they did so in the hope her smart flat from would relate to hurdles. Happily, she took to jumping from the start and has enjoyed a good career ever since winning five hurdles’ races amassing just shy of 60 thousand worth of prize money.
Miranda is a charming mare with a fine temper when fresh, who can pull some snarly faces in the stable, but generally she has a wonderful personality and plenty of talent to go with it. Winning Graded races is always great but for a good-looking mare by Camelot this win in the Yorkshire Rose Mare’s Hurdle was significant for her future as a broodmare. I obviously hope we get to enjoy her for a good bit longer as a racemare, but when she does eventually retire to the paddocks she will do so with a good pedigree and that all-important black type which makes certain she will have a lovely home for life. Nothing short of what she deserves.

9. A January six-timer

Saturday 9th January, Wincanton, Kempton and a rearranged Chepstow. January is never all that busy for Paul, in fact up until this season he had never had more than 10 winners in the month. This Saturday in question though helped put that record right and gave me one of the finest days of the season. I headed to a freezing Chepstow where Pozo Emery and Storm Arising did their stuff, the Wincanton team got the job done with hugely promising Flash Collonges and Capeland while Harry and Paul headed to Kempton to win with Barbados Buck’s, Mcfabulous and Master Tommytucker.

It was one of those days that just when you thought it could not get better it did. Macfabulous has always been a horse I love so it was great to see him do the business but also fantastic for owner breeders Tony Fear and Louise Cabble to watch their Tommytucker win, despite giving everyone heart failure at the last.

We are lucky enough to enjoy doubles or trebles with some regularity, but a six-timer was very cool indeed.

8. Next Destination’s season

This highlight is not a moment, or a race for the matter, this is an entire season. In an earlier life, Next Destination had the world at his feet, placed in a Ballymore Novice hurdle he then went on to win the Grade One novice hurdle over three miles at Punchestown, stardom surely ensued.

Sadly for the subsequent three years, he was plagued by injury preventing him from racing at all in that period, so when Mr Denmark entrusted Paul with him in June it felt like one last roll of the dice with what is clearly a talented, but fragile horse.

It was very clear from the start, that we were dealing with a wonderfully natured horse who, despite a fair degree of rust, seemed to have retained all his enthusiasm and enjoyment for his work.

Paul and Clifford, along with Charlie who rides and looks after him, eventually found a routine for him that worked, a routine that included weekly sessions on the water treadmill combined with a different kind of work day including two steep hill trots as well as his hill cantering. Eventually he became ready to start.

A run behind British super mare Roksana at Weatherby started things off nicely before our lad notched a brace of Grade Two novice chases to add to his already impressive cv at Newbury and Warwick, where his bold, accurate jumping came to the fore.

He then went onto the Cheltenham Festival for the NH Chase where he found only Galvin too good in a race where a slightly faster pace might have suited. However, it was still a really good season that would not have been possible without a huge amount of a patience from Mr Denmark, a well thought out routine from Paul and Clifford, care every day from Charlie and hours of physio work from Theresa Dufosee.

Touching all the wood possible that the wheels remain attached, I have little doubt Next Destination will be capable of mixing it in some of the top staying chases next season. He is a fantastic lesson to a young wannabe trainer like me that flash homework from a horse is about as much use as a sunroof on a submarine.

Good lad Denis.

7. Harry riding breaking through the century of winners for Paul

If you are going to have a good season and train loads of winners, I find it is dead handy to have an excellent stable jockey. In my opinion Mr Cobden is just that. It is so easy to forget due to his impressive cv he is in his very early 20s. It was significant that on the final day of the season, when asked on ITV for a seasonal highlight Paul opted with the performance of Harry and how well he has done throughout the year.

During the year I have spent a huge amount of time in the car with Harry and he has become a really good friend, telling me about his farming, his personal ambition for his riding career and shooting, as well as offering the odd well-placed and timed moment of humour. Without doubt what I respect him for the most is his ability to stay level-headed.

I will just add that half the reason I am routing for him all the time is that if he keeps doing well he might get a new car. Sitting in the back of his current conveyance would be seen as a form of torture in some parts of the world.

It is a well-known fact that jockeys have a brutally tough way of life with falls an occupational hazard, not to mention the fact that even the best of them only win 20 or so percent of the time. Nothing remarkable about that I hear you say and there is not, but Harry throughout the year won and lost, was brilliant and not so brilliant, but he was the same guy at the end of every day, something I find really hard.

After Cyrname flopped in the King George he wandered out ready to ride in the next race and his first words to me wearing his big smile was “wasn’t that brilliant for B” same after Clan won at Punchestown, a text that evening saying what a fabulous result and how delighted he was for everyone.

It is a tough sport and he, more than anyone like every other jockey, desperately wants to win but his attitude in adversity is what I respect him for most. I also genuinely believe he is getting to be a better and better jockey. Sadly, the jockey’s championship dream did not work out this season but he will be back better than ever before too long.

I cannot write a jockey section without mentioning Bryony, Lorcan, Bryan and Angus who have backed up the main man all with great skill and success. Paul does his best to stick with his team when he can and they all ride plenty of winners. It is also nice on occasion that we can use Sam Twiston-Davies, Sean Bowen and Harry Skelton, three long-time friends of the yard.

6. Keep with the old and welcome the new

If you are being picky, then I have to say this is kind of two highlights, but they were both in December and they were both Grade One wins so work with me please. Any Grade one victory is special, and always provide memorable days, but the reason I want to talk about these two are because they came from two high-class horses at different ends of their careers.

Politologue has danced just about every dance, ran in more than his fair share of brutally tough contests and what is so wonderful about him is his sheer love and appetite for his job. He is a special horse in Ditcheat and as he galloped round Sandown jumping with his trademark pin-point accuracy, his ears permanently pricked forward down the back straight eyeing up his next jump – it was clear he was at his best.

He galloped up the Sandown hill that day under a Harry Skelton-drive to register his second Tingle Creek triumph and fourth open Grade One. Politologue is not the best horse to win the Tingle Creek but he is adored by those in Ditcheat and the Hales family who have enjoyed him for so long.

That day he was followed up the hill by a certain Greaneteen, who has improved beyond all recognition through the season to end up scooting up in the Grade One Celebration chase at Sandown on the final day of the season.

Bravemansgame’s success in the Challow for owners Bryan Drew and John Dance was another great day because for me this was a snapshot of what is to come from him. Admittedly, he was not good enough at Cheltenham and bumped into one at Aintree at the end of a long season, but this is a horse who, when he takes to chasing, will be wining plenty more Grade Ones.

Harry set a pace that suited him throughout the race and when he asked him for more effort up the home straight he galloped out really well. You hear it all the time the old ‘anything he does over hurdles’ type chat but with his physique and scope I am sure in the words of Frank Sinatra the best is yet to come.

5. Secret Investor’s Denman chase

Now I could talk about this lad all day long, Secret Investor. You would travel a long way and not find a better natured, kind or more wonderful horse to be around. He is a complete joy. Full of character, completely bomb proof around people or traffic, hilariously boisterous to saddle he is just one of those horses who if he were rated 80 you would not be able to help but adore him.

Throughout his career he has been a fine servant, winning plenty of nice races when the ground conditions are in his favour, the Denman Chase however was his day in the sun that he so richly deserved. When he is on song, for those of us that know him well, he’s a joy to watch, when things click and he bowls along with his handsome Kayf Tara head bowed, nose pointing out just to assure you he is doing his best, you know he’s going to take a bit of passing.

I know he beat a not fully-wound up Clan Des Obeaux, but for Clive and Joan Hitchens and Kate who looked after him it would not have mattered what he beat; Secret Investor won the Denman Chase, and even under the mask I could not hide my smile for a horse with a heart of gold and one that will always hold a place in my heart.

4. Frodon is the Christmas king

“So in conclusion Harry what’s your view, do you think he should run in the King George?”

“Absolutely Mr Vogt, if Paul and team are happy with him then he should absolutely run, he’s more than good enough to run in it, I know you’ve wanted a runner in the race for some time and whilst I cannot see him beating Cyrname and Clan Des Obeaux, he more than deserves his place”

Shows what I know.

That was a conversation Mr Vogt and I had a few weeks before Frodon and Bryony bossed a King George like only they could. Paul made no secret of the fact he was not the most fancied of our runners on the day but the thing is with this combination is they have a habit of springing a surprise and this was no different.

Of course, Frodon is a very high-class horse and, perhaps if he had not got stuck in the mud at Aintree three weeks before, he would have been half the price. Irrespective of that blip, Bryony got her best and most loyal partner in a fabulous rhythm out front and before you knew it they were in total control. His trademark kick from three out meant he got away from his rivals and he galloped home with his ears pricked to win the famous Christmas spectacular.

Mr Vogt is a wonderful man, whose patience and loyalty has massively paid off over the past few years and every time we have a winner for him there is not a person in the yard not delighted for him. I know he has suffered some personal tragedy this year and, while he is a private man, I am sure he will not mind me saying that I have no doubt at all that Frodon did her proud as he always does.

3. Bumper pack of young guns

To be honest, such is my passion for the yearly cycle of young horses in Paul’s care I could have quite happily written an entire blog on these bumper horses, but in the interest of not wanting my readers to fall asleep I thought I best keep it a little more concise.

In a nutshell they really did Paul proud this season. From being purchased two summers ago, broken in by Will Biddick, a man whose skill with young stock is unrivalled in my opinion, to joining “big boy” school, this year’s crop were always a lovely bunch.

From Stage Star who won in very taking fashion at Chepstow, Silent Revolution, Petrossian, Chavez and Gold Bullion all really good winners, Chavez a bit of a yard favourite due to his consistent and sustained effort to drop Angus on a daily basis, an effort that in fairness yielded plenty of success.

Shearer and Mr Glass, two of my personal stars winning three bumpers between them, Le Chiffre
D’or
, Kandoo Kid, Rainyday Woman and Flemenstide all getting their heads in front too.

It was perhaps fitting then after such a brilliant bumper season that Knappers Hill topped it off by winning the Grade Two Aintree bumper under a superb ride from Meg. At this stage, Knappers holds the best form and his schooling has been excellent, but I am confident that all of these young horses will be very exciting novice hurdlers and chasers to appear in the coming seasons.

It is such a satisfying way of producing horses and Paul, I know for a fact, gets a great thrill from giving them time to develop and turn into future stars. He is not the only one. Not forgetting that Mcfabulous, Enrilo, Threeunderthrufive and Flash Collonges have all come through this system, so it is clear in the results that some lovely horses are being produced.

2. 12th championship for the boss

When you get to the sort of dizzy heights Paul has managed to achieve in his training career one may be forgiven for thinking that there is not much left to tick off. Well, in Ditcheat that is not really the way we see it. Paul being crowned champion trainer for the scarcely believable 12th time was a magnificent milestone for him as well as everyone that puts so much in to make it possible.

A championship cannot be done with a week of hard work or a few months for that matter. It is the sum total of a year of endless toil from a huge number of people to make it all happen, the summer runners, the isolation yard, the rest and recuperation yards, pre training, the farriers, vets, physio, feed suppliers, fencers, jockeys, stable staff, office staff, Clifford Baker and David Rochester our two head men, it literally cannot be done without everyone putting it in all year round and so, when Paul stepped up at Sandown to collect a trophy he knows so well, I smiled at a really good job done.

It was the second trainer’s championship I have been lucky enough to be assistant for and I am so delighted I was part of it. Sometimes working with him every day you would be forgiven for taking what he does for granted, but he will keep doing it in his restless, unrelenting, competitive I will not be beaten sort of way.

1. The final punch from Clan

Now before you say Punchestown was not really a part of last season I am aware of that fact.
It was however one of the best racing weeks I have ever enjoyed and while Bob And Co and his fantastic owner/rider David Maxwell were brilliant in winning the champion Hunter Chase on the Friday, this trip for me was made on the Wednesday by a certain Clan Des Obeaux.

Tremendous at Aintree 20 days before hand when winning the Grade One Betway Bowl, Clan went to Punchestown in excellent form with Paul and team expecting a big run on a track that looked sure to suit him. With a dual Gold Cup winner as your main rival you are never bursting with confidence, but we really felt that if Clan put up one of his best efforts we would be right there in the mix.

Of course, I am biased as we came out on top of a brilliant race, but what unfolded in the Irish Gold Cup is exactly what you desire in a high-class staying chase in my eyes. An unrelenting gallop with pressure on horses’ jumping where stamina and class comes to the fore.

Having watched it back now 784 times I am still struck by how brave a ride it was from super sub-Sam who kept pressing the pace throughout the race and was quite brilliant on Clan conjuring five of his best jumps at the last five fences.

Sam was so strong and committed approaching the last two fences and Clan bravely answered his jockey’s request. My dream is and always will be to be part of winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup, it is the race that inspires me the most and one day I hope I will be lucky enough to be part of that.

To be part of winning the Punchestown equivalent though was something I will never forget and in difficult circumstances I still felt the warmth of the Irish hospitality, hopefully we can go back there next year with a big team and enjoy a more normal year.

So there we have it, another year gone by full of great days, fun days, hard days, sad days, funny days, satisfying days, slow days, freezing bloody cold days and just about everything in between. As I said at the top of the blog, I have felt lucky to be doing what I am doing still in work and have something to wake up and do in such odd, uncertain and scary times.

May is always busy with plenty of racing still on the agenda and, rather excitingly back at base camp, a brand-new schooling arena to get right. There is also some other May-type jobs to do, as well as turning most of the horses out for their holidays – I am sure the month will fly by before June.

June is going to be my rest this year, a bit of Padstow, bit of golf, hopefully lots of cricket and some sleep. That will take us up to July and we will be ready to hopefully do it all over again.

Let us hope that come next winter we will all be able to go racing in a more normal world once again.

Until then however, thanks for catching up and go well.

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