We ended the season on an incredible high by winning five of the seven races at Sandown on Saturday.
It was a brilliant way to conclude a tough campaign and even better that so many of my family and friends were there to enjoy the celebrations which began when I received the trophy for the trainers’ championship for the thirteenth time.
With the horses in sparkling form over the previous week we were hopeful of a rewarding afternoon with a number of good chances.
Knappers Hill was the first to strike in the opening handicap hurdle, Saint Calvados then hacked up in the Oaksey Chase before Greaneteen landed the Grade 1 Celebration Chase for the second successive year.
Enrilo then ran a bit flat in the bet365 Gold Cup before victories by McFabulous and Samarrive completed a day we will never forget.
It was a terrific afternoon, too, for Harry Cobden who rode all our winners except McFabulous and ended with a score of 99 despite missing the first part of the season through injury.
Harry is such a key part of our team, rides with a natural confidence and has already achieved a great deal for one so young and I am very proud of him.
My thanks to everyone involved with Team Ditcheat who have all played their part in securing another championship. We ended up with 143 winners and £2.94 million in prize money and if you add Frodon’s brilliant triumph in the Grade 1 Chase at Down Royal the true total is in excess of £3 million.
That is quite an achievement when you consider a number of our horses have been a bit in and out of form since the turn of the year.
Given the dry spell in recent weeks Sandown did a fantastic job in providing perfect ground that was just on the easy side of good.
Knappers Hill arrived in great order after qualifying for the valuable novice championship final a week earlier at Newton Abbot. He readily defied top weight, has so much ability and I’m sure there is more to come from him.
It was marvellous to see the pride of his part owner Paul Barber as he held his trophy afterwards. I would not have achieved any of my thirteen championships without the support of this wonderful man who gave me a chance back in 1991 and has backed me to the hilt ever since. To train him a winner on the final day was very special.
I was delighted to see Saint Calvados gain a stylish victory from the front. I don’t think we’ve had him quite right this season and we are still learning about him. He galloped all the way to the line, will stay three miles and I’m hopeful we can get him
fitter next season. The Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby could be a suitable starting point for him.
The dominant success of Greaneteen was really pleasing after a disappointing run at Leopardstown. Afterwards he spent three weeks at the vets with an issue in his eye which was diagnosed as an ulcer.
While he responded well to treatment, and it was clear it didn’t affect him at Sandown, he will have a little operation today (Monday) to remove the ulcer.
Greaneteen loved the better ground on Saturday, goes an end to end gallop, jumps well and stayed on strongly up the final hill. He is very smart on his day, probably hasn’t had the recognition he deserves, and will be back to defend his crown in the Tingle Creek towards the end of the year.
On his last run over hurdles McFabulous was very impressive in winning the Grade 2 Select Hurdle ridden by Lorcan Williams who has made great strides this season. McFabulous needs good ground, is more effective going right-handed and is a very exciting prospect for fences next season.
Samarrive has progressed nicely with experience, enjoyed the step up in trip to two and a half mile in the closing handicap hurdle and has a bright future and will now go novice chasing .
Most of our horses and staff will soon be off on holiday but we will be ready to go again in the autumn with the focus as usual on Chepstow’s two day meeting early in October.
Once you win the Premier League you want to do it year after year and we will be trying our best as always.
It will be a case of everyone working hard, maintaining standards and not cutting corners to ensure the results year in year out. You have to do things properly, something that Clifford Baker and I insist on at all times.
The difference this weekend is that we are saying goodbye to my nephew Harry Derham, my trusted assistant, and to Kate Nutt our reliable travelling head girl. We wish them every success in the future and gave them a big send off on Sunday at our end of season party.
They have both worked so hard to help us stay at the top of the trainers’ table but are now heading off seeking pastures new. Charlie Davis has earned the right to step up to replace Harry while Julia Batho who previously worked for Philip Hobbs, will take over from Kate and will be assisted by Flo Willis .
In addition Conor Houlihan is moving seamlessly into Charlie’s role and another of our excellent assistants Natalie Parker will play a bigger part in a variety of ways including helping me with race planning. I should also mention David Rochester who does a brilliant job in charge of the yard at Highbridge.
We are not quite finished yet because Clan Des Obeaux heads to Ireland on Wednesday bidding to repeat his stunning success in last year’s Punchestown Gold Cup. He will again be wearing the blinkers that helped him achieve a fine victory at Aintree. Roll on October!!