We ended a brilliantly successful season on Saturday with a fourteenth trainers championship and new record total of prize money.At times during the afternoon at Sandown it seemed that we might fall just short of our previous best tally of £3,646,511 set in 2007-08. But we cracked it in the end in the very last race of the campaign with Samarrive and Iceo earning enough to set a new record by the slender margin of £74. While it wasn’t a massively important thing it was nice to do it having got so close after a season when our horses have been in consistently good form with a strike rate of just under 28%. I’ve now finished first or second in the trainers’ championship for the past twenty five years and couldn’t have done it without all my loyal owners and the whole-hearted support of Team Ditcheat led by my long-time head lad Clifford Baker who is such a key player. Harry Cobden has been riding at the top of his game all season supported by our other jockeys. We have missed him in a few races just as Manchester City suffer when Erling Haaland is out of action. Harry knows the horses, has a great temperament and rides with so much confidence. The next ambition is to win another trainers’ title which would match the record of Martin Pipe. We will not be that busy over the summer but as usual will move into top gear from the start of October. I’m pleased to report that Bravemansgame is A1 after going so close in the Punchestown Gold Cup on Wednesday given a confident ride by Harry Cobden and will soon be on holiday in the field in front of my house with with Pic D’Orhy. Knappers Hill proved to be our only winner at Sandown with a few of ours under performing after a long season on ground that was a bit softer than ideal. With Harry stood down for the day after his fall with Enrilo in the bet365 Gold Cup Bryony Frost proved an able substitute. I was a little concerned about him getting the trip on the ground so was keen for her to take her time and let Knappers Hill creep into the race late on and she carried out the tactics to perfection. He has won ten of his sixteen races for Paul Barber and Paul Vogt and will be going over fences in the autumn with the Rising Stars Chase at Wincanton a possible target. McFabulous was sensibly pulled up by Lorcan Williams in the Oaksey Chase after suffering an irregular heartbeat. We ran plenty of tests after it happened the previous time at Newbury and need to investigate further to discover what is causing the problem. The good news is that he was right as rain on Sunday morning. We ended a memorable season with 163 winners and a total of £3,646,585 prize money, almost £1 million more than the runner up Nicky Henderson. Now we are all back to zero. It’s exciting that we have a lovely collection of horses including a nice bunch of young prospects that we have been buying recently. The future looks as bright as ever.
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Monday 24th April
We head into the final week of the season in a buoyant mood following the brilliant news that Bravemansgame can now run in the Punchestown Gold Cup on Wednesday.
That became possible once the FCA and BHA approved a deal for his joint owner Bryan Drew to buy the remaining 50% of the horse from John Dance.
I’m really looking forward to seeing Bravemansgame take on Galopin Des Champs again. He seems in great shape and schooled beautifully this morning ridden by Harry Cobden.
Being forced to by-pass Aintree has to be in his favour as he has had an extra twelve days to get over his race in the Gold Cup. He will travel to Ireland this evening accompanied by Shantou Flyer who will be ridden by my daughter Olive in the Hunter Chase at Punchestown.
It’s encouraging that our horses continue in top form after a brilliant two days at Ayr’s Scottish National Meeting, a fixture I always like to target, and a treble on Friday brought up a half century of winners at the track for Team Ditcheat.
In the paddock on Friday our horses looked amazing, big and strong and well as if it was their first race of the season. I’ve been thrilled with the way they have been ever since we changed to Red Mills supplying our feed. They has been a massive plus for us because it obviously suits the way we train.
All three winners at Ayr were ridden by Harry Cobden who has been at the top of his game all season. He has achieved so much given that he is only 24. Harry is full of confidence, a team player, he’s so good for us and I’m very proud of him.
Afadil gave us a perfect start to Friday’s card with a fluent success in a competitive two mile handicap hurdle. We thought he was still nicely handicapped and it’s possible he might run once more in the Swinton Hurdle at Haydock on May 13.
Hugos New Horse then won for the fifth time this season over hurdles. He is tough, keeps improving and handles all sorts of ground. He finishes his races strongly and has a bright future.
Sabrina brought up the treble with an easy victory in a valuable mares’ handicap hurdle. She is versatile and has given her enthusiastic band of owners a lot of fun.
Harry shone again on Saturday with a flawless ride in the Scottish Champion Hurdle on Rubaud who led all the way, jumping slickly, and had enough in reserve to see off the challenge of Colonel Mustard on the flat.
Rubaud is not an easy horse ride as he is keen and hangs to the right but Harry was more than up to the challenge and his positive tactics paid off handsomely.
It was a dream result for the horse’s joint owner Chris Giles who has always wanted to win this race in the country of his birth.
Rubaud has improved so much, is only five, is better right handed and should make a cracking chaser although I will probably start him off next season in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.
Threeunderthrufive ran very well to finish fourth in the Scottish National and Flash Collonges was unlucky to come down at halfway when he was travelling strongly. Harry said that he jumped the fence fine before stumbling on landing.
This week we have a couple of runners at Kempton on Monday and at Perth on Wednesday, then it will be a case of going to Sandown on Saturday with all guns blazing.
We have a total of eighteen entries at Sandown where our horses need to earn arouns £83,000 to beat our previous record total of prize money £3,646,511 set in 2007-08.
We plan to run Beau Balko, Killaloan and Holetown Hero in the £100,000 opening handicap hurdle while McFabulous and Solo are pencilled in for the Oaksey Chase.
Then it is the turn of Greaneteen in the Celebration Chase before we field four in the bet365 Chase… Frodon, Enrilo, Broken Halo and Switch Hitter.
Knappers Hill goes in the Select Hurdle while Cap du Mathan and Quel Destin are set to run in the novice handicap Chase. We are also intend to have two contenders in the final race of the season, depending on the ground, most likely Samarrive and Silent Revolution.
I’m really looking forward to the last day at Sandown and then we will all be back to zero when the new season begins. We already have a lovely team of horses for the future, have also recently bought some nice prospects and will be shopping for more.
Monday 17th April
With less than a fortnight until the final day of the season at Sandown it’s brilliant to know that the trophy for the trainer’s championship will soon be on its way to Ditcheat for the fourteenth time.
Aintree’s Grand National meeting is always a key point in the title race and we headed home on Saturday night with a lead of almost £1 million in prize money.
The challenge now is to try to beat our previous record total of £3,646,511 earned by our horses in 2007-08.
To pass that figure we need to win a further £190,000 by the end of racing at Sandown on Saturday week.
Pic D’Orhy was the star of the show at Liverpool where he gained a deserved first Grade 1 success with a fluent victory in the Marsh Chase in the colours of Mrs Johnny de la Hey.
I am so proud of this horse who has so much ability and is fulfilling the promise he has always shown. He was a bit of a slow learner when he started chasing but these days he is lightning quick over his fences.
I was determined to by-pass Cheltenham with Pic D’Orhy and bring him fresh to Aintree. He’s a better horse on a flat track and the Marsh was his target from the moment he finished second to Shishkin in the Betfair Ascot Chase.
He is still improving and readily saw off the challenge of Fakir D’oudairies who had won the Marsh for the last two years. Its exciting to think there is more to come from him next season.
We started the Aintree meeting with the bitterly disappointing news that the BHA would not allow Bravemansgame to run in the Bowl on Thursday because of an investigation by the FCA into the firm of his joint owner John Dance.
These things are out of my control but that decision might just have been a blessing in disguise because Bravemansgame had a hard race at Cheltenham and will be back fresh next season ready to go again.
Some of the Cheltenham runners we took to Aintree ran very well. They include Stay Away Fay and Hermes Allen who both finished in the money, although Stay Away Fay could not quite repeat his excellence at the Festival.
Stage Star, however, ran flat on Thursday. His work had been fine in the build up to the race but it is very difficult for horses to shine at both meetings and just shows the benefit of taking fresh horses to Liverpool. Bar the odd exception they can’t do both.
We ran a few more at Cheltenham this year but if your really prepare them for that meeting it is so hard to get them back in the same form for Aintree whether the gap is three, four or five weeks.
So next year I am going to be even more careful about choosing between the ones to take to Cheltenham and the ones I keep back for Aintree.
Complete Unknown, Sonigino and Blueking D’Oroux were among the group of ours who ran close to their best on Friday and have bright futures.
A double on Sunday took our score for the season to 156 with Jody Sole winning the Military Hurdle at Wincanton on Fame And Fun before my daughter Olive gained her first success against professional jockeys on Meatloaf in the bumper.
Looking ahead we will have two or three runners at Cheltenham in midweek before sending plenty of horses to Ayr’s two day meeting where Threeunderthrufive is on course for the Scottish Grand National. Iceo and Rubaud will have entries in the Scottish Champion Hurdle while Flash Collonges has the choice of the Scottish National or a three mile novice handicap Chase.
For the latest news on my runners at the weekend please be sure to check out my Betfair column which goes live early on Friday afternoon.