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Category Archives: Harry Derham’s Blog

October musings

We have recently been treated to some absolutely beautiful mornings in Ditcheat which has made for wonderful starts to the day.

However, we are getting closer to the stage of really needing some rain in order to run some of our horses that are ready to go.

Last weekend, as everyone knows, always represents a big few days for us with lots of the winter horses making their seasonal reappearances. Thankfully, that all went really well.

We enjoyed some taking performances from our young horses Including Knappers Hill, Outlaw Peter, Magistrato and Timeforatune and even some of the horses ran nicely in defeat.

Threeunderthrufive warmed to the task on chasing debut and jumped great for the latter half of the race until getting a little tired from two out to the line. He will be much better in a month’s time on some slower ground.

In my opinion, Fidelio Vallis ran one of the races of his young chasing career to finish second behind Tea Clipper, while Amour Du Nuit was at his best in the Silver Trophy to be third under what I thought was an excellent ride from the Cob.

Lallygag also ran well at Newton Abbot in the bumper sticking to his task really well to finish second.

The star performer for us over the weekend however was of course Bravemansgame who made a sparkling chasing debut at Newton Abbot. Plenty has already been written about him and we are all excited about his talent at Ditcheat so I hope Sunday went some way to demonstrating why we have so much faith in him.

Cobby was beaming when he got off him such was the manner in which he jumped and how “he didn’t come out of first gear.”

There will be much much harder tasks ahead but it was lovely to see him do that with his ears pricked first time out.

It obviously helps at the races when the horses are running well but I’m sure anyone at Chepstow or Newton Abbot over the weekend will have noticed what brilliant crowds there were at those meetings.

It really is fantastic to have big crowds back at the races and it looks to me like people have clearly missed going for a day out.

With things now in full swing everyday is packed to the rafters with either schooling, working or looking after owners or guests to the yard, which is great.

We had a big schooling morning on Monday, jumping 48 horses all together. Plenty of novices caught the eye by doing things nicely, with all of them basically ready to go and just waiting on a some rain for them.

On a depressing note I turned another year older last week which did lead to a funny story which I will share with you my loyal reader.

Paul and I generally have a bit of breakfast together. About 8:40 after first lot, I came in after riding out, took my coat off and much to my delight there was a couple of presents placed on the side.

“Open that one first,” he tells me, a grin appearing across the champion trainer’s face.

So I did, delighted with a present but curious as to why he’s already smiling. It’s aftershave, very nice after shave I might add.

“Thanks Paul.”
“No problem chap, I thought we’d get that for you as it strikes me like your current after shave is not working!”

Who needs enemies hey when you have friends like that . . .

Anyway, I did have a fun day all the same.

We all enjoyed a good night at the McCoy’s at Cheltenham the other day with Mr Vogt and Frodon collecting yet another award, undoubtedly richly deserved after the season he enjoyed.

It had however been a day or two since I had worn the dinner jacket and I was gutted to see the trousers slightly slimmer fitting than I recall at the last party.

I just want to talk to you all about a couple more things before I head on.

First of all as I said earlier it was great to see Lallygag finish second at Newton Abbot in the bumper on Sunday.

He was the first of the four year olds we have to run this season and it was encouraging to see him run so nicely. I think they are a good bunch of bumper horses this season but it is always a nervy time at this stage in the year as you want the last few weeks to go well before they get to the track.

I have always said those young horses are a massive part of why I love this job so much and I am hopeful they will do well for Paul again this season.

Jumping is a massive part of our training from day to day so it always fun when we have an ex flat horse that we need to teach how to jump.

Generally Lorcan Williams is the man in the saddle on these days and recently we have been teaching two three-year-olds the basics. Individualiste and Irish Hill are their names so hopefully later on in the season you will hear about them both.

It is endlessly interesting watching how individual horses take to it and how they adapt and learn to what is being asked of them. We start with just poles with the idea of progressing to hurdles when they are ready.

It is something I love doing and hopefully those two, as well as plenty of others, will jump nicely when they make it to the track.

I think that’s just about it for now actually so until next time, go well.

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28 years of service comes to an end

Sitting above Teresa Dufosee’s fireplace in her beautiful Charlton Horethorne home is a painting from local artist Martin Alford.

The heads of Kauto Star, Denman, Twist Magic, Master Minded, Neptune Collonges and Big Buck’s are accurately painted. In a household full of pictures and paintings it is perhaps poignant that those six take pride of place.
Teresa Dufosee, now just into the second term of her three score years and ten, has been an equine physio since 1981, although back then the term equine physio was rather like trying to explain a day off to Clifford Baker. Yes, people had heard of the term, but they were not sure quite what it meant.
As Teresa slowly but surely brings down the curtain on a career that has seen her run her hand along some of the world’s greatest performance horses, I caught up with her to ask her what it is that has kept her fire burning for so long, sustained her in times of tragedy and brought her sustained joy on almost every day.
From a family of doctors, Teresa’s father was quite remarkably one of 12, and nine of those children went on to work in the medical world. She explains how the world of being a doctor did not ever appeal, but throughout her life there was always an ability to soak up and learn about anatomy and how, if there was a problem, a way in which to fix it.
By 1985 there was enough work to take the plunge and go full-time into equine physio and, only seven years later in 1992, her close ally Ian McNab, the Castle Cary-based vet, introduced her to bright-eyed up-and-coming training talent Paul Nicholls.
What has followed is 28 years of service for a yard that shot into the racing stratosphere and never really stopped.
“I have been blessed and honoured from the start in Ditcheat,” Teresa explains to me as she sits gripping her gin and tonic tightly, visibly not wild at the idea of talking about herself.
“I suppose, when I look back, I always knew my place and worked on the basis I was a small cog in a big wheel and my job was to try and contribute to making the horses feel as perfect as possible before their races.”
She explains to me the importance of the relationship she has held with our long-standing head lad Clifford Baker and how she and Paul have worked so well together. At the centre of that relationship is a trust and understanding that both were always doing what was best for any horse over all those years.
What I want to know is what has kept Teresa doing this for so long?
Her answer explains everything one needs to know about Teresa. “Horses have always had the ability to stir my heart, Harry. I have been completely passionate about them forever.”
As she talks about our equine compatriots, those sentiments hold more weight with every word Teresa adds.
“When you work with horses, you learn something every day, even without knowing it.” What then follows is a line that Paul has recounted to me umpteen times: “Horses cannot speak but if you listen they will tell you everything you need to know.”
There is always a new challenge. No two injuries are ever exactly the same. No two horses are ever the same. Even now after all this time, those very animals still have the amazing ability to “endlessly fascinate and charm” a now beaming Teresa.
Horses are now the subject and the unease of talking about her career has been replaced with an endless memory of fabulous horse after fabulous horse. What strikes me as we talk and reminisce over horses, is that this was never about the ability the horse possessed, but rather his character and personality.
Of course, we talked about the superstars and how Kauto would look at you as you wandered into his stable with a look of ‘are you worthy to be stood next to me?’ Or how See More Indians, Paul’s first Grade 1 winner, was a bad-tempered character; or her beloved Twist Magic, who was a fussy so and so, but after a cautious start, Teresa grew to adore him.
What strikes me that during her time with Paul every single horse has been treated as an individual, something that, is without question, a belief shared with the man himself. It is perhaps a major pointer as to why they have worked so well together.
The chat about horses rolls on for hours and it is impossible not to smile with the obvious pride Teresa has at having been a “small cog” in such a huge machine for so long.
It therefore makes me immensely proud when I ask her to recall some of her fondest moments in her time at Paul’s and she nominates this season’s championship party as a memory that will “stay with her forever”.
Arguably more fittingly, she is most proud of the work done with Next Destination. Being a part of ensuring “one of the most beautiful thoroughbreds” she has seen made the track following three years of injury woes counts as a major personal achievement.
It strikes me that 11 years ago when her husband of 12 years, legendary John Dufosee, passed away, the relationships with the people she has met along the way and the horses in her life are what have gone a long way to keeping Teresa smiling.
“I have always known my place in Paul’s yard and been acutely aware of my failings and lack of knowledge,” is a line that stuck with me from the evening. It is a line perhaps only someone as successful and modest as Teresa could say with sincerity because here is a woman brimming with knowledge about horses and what it takes for them to perform at their best.
This is a lady who has dedicated her life to that very cause, and in a world where a short head can be the difference between Neptune Collonges winning that Grand National or not, Teresa Dufosee’s talented hands have contributed to more fabulous days than one could possibly remember.
The unshakeable belief that there is always something else to be learnt after achieving so much is further evidence as to why she and Paul have worked so seamlessly together for so long.
You are never really there. You have never achieved all you can and never learned all there is to learn. Does that resonate with you, I ask?
She smiles. The 28-year puzzle is finally put together.
One has a feeling the sort of passion for horses the like of which Teresa possesses can never fully be retired. However time indeed waits for no man or woman. She now feels it is time to take a back seat and enjoy some other things in life.
Happily, I do not believe for a second that Ditcheat – her “second home” – will ever be far from her heart.
Throughout my years as assistant trainer it has always been a treat for me to find ten minutes in a day to watch Teresa work with a horse. I have genuinely marvelled at the way in which she marvels at them. If they could speak, she would undoubtedly listen, as she has done so intently over so many years. I also have little doubt what she would hear is those horses collectively saying one resounding thank you.
I have little doubt that gratitude would be echoed by Paul, Clifford, our owners, and the team here at Ditcheat that Teresa so adores.
I am not sure thank you quite cuts it, but from all of us thank you Teresa.

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Busy time in Ditcheat

With very little chance of me writing a blog over the weekend given the Ryder Cup will be on, I thought I had better check in to give an update on all things ‘Team Ditcheat’.

In a nutshell ‘busy’ would be the description I would go for.

We have hosted schooling mornings a plenty, accommodated lots of owners who have visited the yard and undertaken the everyday tasks that go into it all. With all of that in mind, September is passing us by extremely quickly but to tell you the truth that is no bad thing.

We always target mid-October to be ready to roll, so the latter half of September is a period when you cannot help but wish time by so we can get racing and see which horses have improved, which new ones are smart, how last season’s bumper horses take to hurdling and novice hurdlers to chasing.

We are well into our schooling for the season now and have been busy getting all the novices doing plenty. They will take another step up the ladder on Monday when they have a jump round our 400m loop, which represents a bigger challenge from the indoor arena and an assignment that will give Paul a great idea of how close they are.

Today (Thursday) was a real treat as Frodon enjoyed his first pop of the season under Bryony and safe to say he has not lost any enthusiasm for his job over the summer. He carted B round the school at about 1000mph and looked to have all his usual bounce and love for life, something that never fails to make you smile.

The great weather through September has been a real treat for all the team working at the yard and kept everyone in excellent spirits. The work is hard at this time of year and things have to be done to a very high standard to ensure the horses are getting the work they need to be fit. Everyone is putting that work in though and hopefully that will all pay off.

So what have I been up to?

As I say there has been loads going and I feel like my feet have not really touched the ground recently. There has been two yard parties, one bbq and one evening at a local Italian restaurant, a great evening which always always ends up in a few sore heads.

As you can imagine there are a lot of us and, for whatever reason, they did not quite have enough staff on for the evening so if you can picture Harry Cobden and I handing out plates of carbonara and pizza then you are basically there with us.

Last time we went to the aforementioned Italian, Charlie Davies took it upon himself to drink a whole bottle of Limoncello but much to Michelle, his fiancé’s delight he chose not to repeat that great act this time round.

Away from staff parties I was lucky enough to be invited to Harry Skelton’s Champion jockey bash a couple of weeks back and I must give credit to the Skeltons as they really do now how to throw a good bash. Harry spoke beautifully about his ambition and dream of becoming champion and how grateful he was to everyone for being a part of it.

Harry is a great guy and I was very happy for him to realise his dream.

With all hands on deck at the moment I have been doing a fair bit of riding out which, in such a good month of weather, has been a real treat and often a great source of entertainment.

Angus Chelada, one of our conditional jockeys, will not mind me telling you that for all his skills on the back of a horse, his knowledge of racing would not be the best, so Charlie and I have taken it upon ourselves to educate Angus, or Rodney Trotter as I like to call him, with a regular quiz about what happened last season.

With a little more work we think he will remember that Frodon won the Fighting Fifth and Epatante the King George, something like that anyway…

“Ahhhh I was about to get that,” being his favourite line.

Talking of team Ditcheat, we were all extremely proud of one of our own, Amelia Norris, who last Sunday completed her second half marathon inside a week for the incredible Racing Welfare and raised well over what her target originally was.

It represented a fantastically brave effort on her part, perhaps the bravest bit of all was her riding out four lots the Monday after when even walking across the yard looked a bit of an effort.

The one bit of sad news we have had to stomach is that poor Topofthegame is having to have another season on the sidelines with his injury taking longer to heal than first anticipated.

Since the news was broken, I have read serval people on various social media platforms helpfully telling Paul what he should do with the horse. But please rest assured he is in the absolute best of hands and Paul will do what is correct for the horse.

Topper is owned by two very patient men in Mr Barber and Mr Giles who will always put him first.

The horses on the track have continued to go well despite us not being busy and we are now up to 29 winners for this season which is great going for this time of year. Hopefully the summer form bodes well for the winter that lies ahead.

The last point I want to touch on is that our ‘horses in training’ brochure is out now and available online, essential reading if you are a fan of Paul’s horses.

That is just about it for this time but hopefully in a few weeks I’ll be back with lots of racing to talk about.

Until then however, go well.

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