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Category Archives: Harry Derham’s Blog

Time to say goodbye

Chepstow on Bank Holiday Monday; Never a journey that is particularly enjoyable, but with Cobby fast asleep and Tim at the wheel, his blood pressure he tells me raising by the second due to the “f****** holiday makers”, I figured now would be as good a time as any time to write my last blog as assistant trainer to Paul.

That felt weird typing that.

I am doing it now as Tuesday morning is likely to be busy and is followed by a trip to Worcester in the evening. Perth will be my destination on Wednesday before Chepstow and the final day of the season at Sandown on Saturday.

For me then my time will be up.

What a time it has been. It feels like I have been at Paul’s my entire life, but it was in fact July 2011 when I properly embarked on my journey there as a wet behind the ears 16-year-old fully intent on becoming the next Ruby Walsh and riding Paul more Grade 1 winners than you could possibly imagine.


When I started Dan was assistant, Tom Jonason pupil assistant, Ruby was first jockey, the front yard was still home to the National Hunt behemoths of Kauto Star, Denman, Big Bucks and Master Minded.

I remember those early days being more fun than I could have ever imagined, I was finally free from school, a full grown up (or so I thought) and ready to take on the world.

It does not take you long in a yard the quality of Paul’s to realise that you have an awfully long way to go and I, despite my lofty Ruby Walsh ambitions, was going to be no different to anyone else starting out with Paul.

I will never forget those early schooling sessions with Dan after my Grandad taught me to ride properly.

“Keep coming,” he’d say as he built fences in the middle of the school. Despite my better judgement I did keep coming with varying degrees of success. “Harry, sit still you’re confusing yourself as well as him,” was a popular line.

My riding career with Paul was short, but I had some wonderful, wonderful days in the saddle and for those I will always be grateful to Paul and the owners that entrusted me on their horses.

It is only when you get a little older you realise how hard the boss will have tried for you to get you on those horses. I appreciate it now probably more than I ever did before.

After I’d finally worked out that riding was not for me, I am happy to admit that for a short time I had not one clue what I was going to do with my life, that is until one morning after third lot one day.

“Harry, can I have a word when you’re done please,” were Clifford’s words.

Now, as anyone who works in a yard will tell you, when the head lad wants a chat it is generally not particularly good news.

Happily, on this occasion I was safe. It turns out that Paul and Clifford had been talking and amazingly they felt I would have the making of a decent assistant trainer if I got my head down and learnt from the man in occupation of the job, Tom Jonason, who coincidently is still a great friend.

Tom’s intention was not to be with Paul forever and, after 18 months as “pupil assistant”, I was in the hot seat.

What has followed has genuinely been the best six years of my young life by some way. Full of challenges, some colossal bollockings, earth shatteringly shit days, memories that will last forever, friendships that will do the same and more life lessons than any university could have ever provided.

It has been written and talked about countless times in the press and in the media what a coach Paul must be to the young people in his team, but until you’ve seen it for yourself I am not sure anyone could properly appreciate it.

You see the thing is with Paul is there is no brief, there is a basic set of rules you wouldn’t want to be breaking.

Being late is not an option, being ill much less than ideal, talking rubbish is not welcome. But trying your best, looking smart, sharing his ambition and drive is essential, although at times hard to follow.

After that though as his assistant he sort of allows you your head and lets you find your feet. I am sure if you spoke to Dan and Tom they’d say the same.

It takes time to grow into the role for sure and my belief is that for the first two years, despite my trying my darndest, I was totally hopeless.

It is very difficult to work alongside Paul and Clifford, two men with such incredible experience, and feel as though you are being in any way helpful.
Keeping your head down though, keeping learning and finding your role is rewarding and, for the latter half of my time in the role, I feel like I have helped in a positive way.

However I have got on there has never ever been any effort lacking and I hope that has shone through.

I could write pages and pages and pages on the wonderful horses I have been lucky enough to be involved with. Some of the days I have been a part of because of the boss have been amazing, Clan Des Obeaux, Silvinaco Conti, Frodon, Politilogue, Dodging Bullets, Irving, Topofthegame, the list goes on and on.

I have been so lucky to watch them all day to day and enjoy their talents on the racecourse.

The reason all of us do what we do with the horses is for the chance that we might get to work with a special one and I have been so lucky to have put the saddle on lots of superbly talented horses.

I won’t just miss the good ones though, I’ll miss loads of them, from Calva D’auge trying to bite me as I walk round the corner of Highbridge, to Secret Investor shaking his handsome head at me on arrival to the top yard.

Tulin wobbling round to front yard with his mane all over the place or going to stand in the sunshine on a nice spring morning with Get The Appeal down at Highbridge.

It is such a treat to work with the horses every day and you really do get to know all of them well if you want to and are prepared to listen to the advice Paul gave me early on in my career, a line I have never forgotten.

“Horses can’t talk but they will tell you all you need to know if you listen.”

And he is right. If you listen, they will tell you plenty.

Although I hope to be doing all this for myself one day, I’ll miss the racecourse gallops, the schooling mornings, the work mornings, the new horses arriving every summer, the owners’ day brochure work, the owners’ day itself, the winners, the huge plans Paul creates and trying to make them happen.

Above all of that though I will miss the people. Paul talks about team Ditcheat regularly and in that team that are some fabulous people.

I am safe to say some nice things about David Rochester, head lad of Highbridge, the man I probably work closest with day to day. The reason I’m safe to say this is he never reads my blog.
David started the same month as me back in 2011 and he has become a dear friend. I read at his wedding and have watched him become a father on three occasions, he is a funny man who, if you did not know him, could come across as a right grumpy so and so but he possesses a heart of gold and is a really good man. I’m still waiting for him to have a sick day.

Natalie and Charlie the two pupils, both great people who I have had some amazing laughs with. A good example of that was when the three of us and Rob, the gallop man, decided a week before Christmas we better have our own pre-Christmas party. What followed was an evening that got incredibly boozy and lead to the four of us struggling quite heavily for the next few days.

Clifford Baker is without any question the most important member of Paul’s team and has been for over 20 years now.

Every morning between 6:10 and 6:30 it is just the two of us in the office, Clifford sipping his coffee, catching up on the news. It is 20 minutes every day that I love.

We have a chat about the day’s plans, yesterday’s action, always a segment on the England cricket team and generally keep one another up to date with what’s going on. Clifford is a man who wouldn’t talk unless there is something to be said, but we have had a fantastic relationship over my time with Paul and I think the world of him. Always will.

Naturally as assistant trainer, you spend a lot of time in the car with the stable jockey and over the past four or so years Mr Cobden has become one of my best friends. When he is not asleep in the car, you’ll be surprised to hear he’s actually not bad company and we’ve had some laughs along the way.

There have, of course, been some shitty days on the way back from winnerless afternoons when things have not quite gone right, but throughout all of it we have often managed to have a laugh at the expensive of something or other.

During the pandemic, when it was quite literally me and him in the car most days, we got to know each other really well and he is a properly good and decent man. I won’t miss the smell of the anchovies he buys from Marks and Spencer’s services, but let me tell you, you have not lived until you’ve sung The Chain by Fleetwood Mac loudly with him and Tim on the way home.

Being assistant trainer to Paul means that quite obviously over the past six years I have spent an awful lot of time with the man himself.

I have seen it all, the great days, the bad ones, the funny bits, the infuriating bits and everything in between. Paul wears his heart on his sleeve as he is a passionate man and makes no apology for caring very, very deeply about the success of his horses and business.

He is a born winner who even now after so many years has the same drive, determination and underdog mentality that has served him so well.

For the last 23 years he has either been first of second in the Trainer’s Championship. 23 years no less. He is doubtless one of the trainers of his generation and it has been a privilege to see it first-hand.

Don’t get me wrong, at times it has been bloody hard work, really hard work but I have devoted my life to my work and feel like I have done the boss and his business proud as a result. At least I hope I have.

As I said earlier in the blog that this week will be very busy and I intend to try and savour and enjoy every second of it while I can. It is looking extremely likely that he will be champion trainer for a scarcely believable 13th time this year which will be astonishing.

Once Saturday is done and dusted for me then a different life awaits, but I am incredibly excited to get started on it. I have a lot of work to do through the summer and also some holidays to take with Milly my girlfriend which I am really looking forward too.

While I will not be writing a blog for some time it is my intention when I am up and going to start one up once again.

When I started my blog some years ago now it forged a friendship with a man called Sam Turner who I have not mentioned once so I feel like this is a good time to do it.

Every single blog I have written he has tidied up for me and made sure it is presentable to the outside world, so thanks mate.

I would also like to thank Lina who works in Paul’s office as accounts manager – thank you for popping my blog up online time after time, often well outside of working hours. (You are most welcome Harry! Lina xx)

And finally, to you for reading it. I essentially started it because I quite liked writing, loved my job so wanted to share what I was up to and I really hope that you have enjoyed reading it.

I will miss being assistant trainer to Paul, I’ll miss it an awful lot, but I have absolutely loved every second of it. It is time to move onto the next adventure now, how lucky I am.

It won’t be for a while but until we talk again. Go well.



There was little doubt in team Ditcheat that Aintree needed to be a big one. With a quiet Cheltenham and Pauls obvious play to keep plenty back and hit Liverpool hard, driving up on Wednesday afternoon with Cobby, not much was said but we knew that the next three days needed to be productive.

Happily, they were exactly that. The two obvious disappointments were Bravemansgame & Stage Star, neither of which fired and ran their race, but they are both home safely and will have a long summer now. You do not become a bad horse overnight so I am confident they will be back to their best once again next season.
When Clan Des Obeaux trailed in behind Eldorado Allen and Royale Pagaille at Newbury in the Denman Chase you would have been forgiven for thinking that the ten-year-old had probably just about got to the end of his tether and his time dining at the top table may have come to an end. Paul however did not believe that for one second as he knew, just like last year, he was training him for the second half of the season and to peak at Aintree, a meeting so special to his part owner Ged Mason.
Blinkers really seemed to bring out a little more from Clan and early on in the race you could see he was on song. Jumping with great fluency that had deserted him at Newbury he travelled smoothly through the race, before Harry committed him jumping the second last. After Harry had reflected on it, he felt he got to the front a little early, but it was a race winning move and perhaps, if he had waited until later Conflated would have got him.
Clan is the most wonderful horse and has now won over one million pound in prize money, a superb achievement for any national hunt horse. I think the saying form is temporary and class is permanent is extremely relevant in his case. He is owned by Ged Mason, Sir Alex Ferguson and perhaps most importantly in this case Pauls long standing landlord Mr Barber, who was not able to make it to Aintree on Thursday but got huge amounts of joy in watching him win from home. I know it always means the world to Paul to train big winners in Mr Barbers famous colours.
A horse at the other end of his career, who notched his first Grade 1 success on the Friday was Gelino Bello, who after mixing it with some really smart novices this season put in a career best to win under a perfect ride from Harry. The boss has had this race in mind for Gelino for a long time now and Mr & Mrs Cotton were happy to by-pass Cheltenham in favour of Aintree and boy did it pay off. Gelino is a very handsome horse who has been with us since a two-year-old, so it is hugely satisfying to see him blossom into such a smart horse. I would be shocked if chasing did not come naturally to him next season and he could make into a really smart horse.
Now on a high from Gelino, just half an hour, later Hacker Des Places ensured it was a day to remember bringing up an Aintree double running the race of his young career under what I thought was a really sensible, well executed ride from Angus.
Angus and Hacker get on really well in their races. They are both small, both try hard and I think both slightly mad, but together they got it absolutely spot on. Angus delayed his challenge until he could wait no more after the second last before staying on well up the straight.
We were all absolutely made up for both horse and jockey and I was happy to see Angus enjoying it all after and taking it all in. Those days are really special for young guys like Gus and I know that it will have meant an awful lot to him. He is also in the process of moving into his new house that he has renovated himself so a few quid will help that process along nicely! Or so he tells me!
Of the beaten horses there has to be huge mentions to Monmiral and Mcfabulous, who both ran great races to be second and third in the Aintree hurdle. Hitman jumped brilliantly in the Melling Chase and only found Fakir D’oudairies too good for him under an accomplished ride from Lorcan who stepped in for B.
Lorcan obviously would not have wanted to ride Hitman in those circumstances with someone else injured, but he did a brilliant job as a replacement. That for me was the low point of Aintree, Bryony getting injured as the poor thing had the same thing happen to her at the same meeting last year. I hope that it will not be long and she will be back in the saddle.
The last horse I want to mention is Cat Tiger, who finished second in the Foxhunters under David Maxwell, giving him a fantastic thrill over the big fences once again. Cat is not a big scopey horse but he is agile, intelligent, accurate at his jumps and very honest, making him the perfect ride for David who executed his and Pauls race plan to perfection. It was just a shame on the day there was one too good for him.
Aintree for me is always a real treat and all of the team that go up with Paul get incredibly well looked after by Ged Mason, Paul’s long-time sponsor, owner and most importantly great friend. Ged is a wonderfully generous man who treats us all so well when we are up at Aintree and goodness does he know how to throw a party! Of all the places that the Betway Bowl has been I am sure it has the biggest celebrations when Ged wins it. He is a great man and I know how grateful Paul is to have his support. We all are.
With Aintree now out of the way, there is under two weeks left of the season and even more frightening that there is under two weeks left of my tenure as Assistant Trainer to the boss, something I haven’t thought about massively up until just now. I am doing my best to enjoy every last second of my time here and still working as hard as I ever have done, but I now know I’m on borrowed time. The next two weeks are full of good stuff, plenty of racing, gearing up to hopefully a big assault on Sandown on the last day of the season, as well as maybe a little trip to Perth in the meantime.
It would be fantastic to end the season on a high with some nice winners and all things being equal it looks likely that Paul will once again be Champion Trainer, something that not only means an awful lot to him, but to all of us too.
We work hard all season long to help produce the results Paul requires and hopefully over the next two weeks we will continue to do so.
I will talk to you all before I am done but until then. Go well.



In truth, ever since that rain-soaked day at Cheltenham a couple of weeks ago I have been thinking about writing this piece.

Thinking about what I can say about him, how I can describe the joy he has given so many of us in Ditcheat, talking about his career and all that he has achieved and celebrate the fact that his life is far from over as his hopefully long and healthy retirement begins.

I am of course talking about Politologue, the quite wonderful Politologue who brought the curtain down on his career as he was warmly applauded, covered in sweat, rain water and Cheltenham mud two weeks ago after his gallant fourth in the Champion Chase.

I feel that the facts will give some context to his career before I talk about the lad himself.

Owned by the Hales family, another famous grey for them, I’ll never forget John’s reaction as Guey won his Champion Chase.

A four-time Grade 1 winner, a winner of two Tingle Creeks at Sandown, a Melling Chase, a Champion Chase, a Haldon Gold Cup, an Ascot 1965 Chase – in total Guey ran in 31 races amassing £1,038,065 in prize money, winning on 12 occasions and being out of the first four on just four occasions, two of them when the silly bugger tripped up.

Twice he finished out of the first four then and, in only one of his races during a 31-race career did he finish out of the prize money all together.

He joined Paul in September 2015, a twice-raced novice hurdler, bought by Antony Bromley for the Hales family from Leenders after running out an impressive winner at Auteuil under James Reveley in June that year.

Hurdling was never going to be his game, but he won a Listed hurdle at Exeter on his way to going chasing in the autumn of 2016.

It would be fair to say he was a natural from his first start at a muddy Haydock when Harry Cobden, then second jockey, teamed up with him and cantered round to beat Vintage Clouds by 10 lengths.

I am not going to chronicle his career and talk about all his starts in this piece, I am just going to talk about the significant moments and the memorable occasions and goodness me, there have been plenty.

In the younger dashing days of his first Tingle Creek, a victory which showcased his accurate jumping in seeing off Fox Norton by half-a-length, he looked a champion of the future.

He was, in fairness, more than a little unlucky to rock up in the era of a certain Altior, who despite chasing valiantly on a few occasions, Guey could never quite get him. I think we will let him off for that.

He finished his 2017/8 campaign with my personal highlight of his career in winning the Melling Chase, fending off Min under Sam Twiston-Davies in a titanic struggle in the straight as Townend and Sam asked their mounts for everything after the last.

That win showed to me everything that Politologue was about. Grit, determination and a sheer will to win. The whole way up the straight Min looked to have his number but Guey on a going day was brave and would give you every drop he had if you asked him for it.

He got away from the last slightly quicker and kept Min at bay. It was a special day and a race I will remember him for above all the others.

In truth, as Guey got a little older he, like most, got a little trickier to train, as Grade 1 racing took its toll, but what I adored about him so much was come rain or shine every single day he would face his morning’s work with the same love and enthusiasm as he always did.

I take for granted Paul’s skill to train the thoroughbred to be at their best all the time and I am damn sure many people take for granted his skill at getting the absolute best out of all of his horses.

So perhaps for me the most impressive thing about Paul’s time with Politologue was that his two career defining performances in terms of numbers came following adversity.

Jump to December 2019 when fifth in the Tingle Creek, 18 lengths inferior to Defi Du Seuil on the day. In all honesty he never went at all.

Some thorough checks were carried out as he simply did not run bad races and it then transpired he was bleeding.

Enter Paul and Clifford. They came to the conclusion he was needing a change of routine, a change of plan and, after a chat with the Hales family, decided in order to get him at his best he needed to be fresh and change the way they trained him.

Hannah, who was riding him every day by then, bought into this and together they set about peaking him for the Champion Chase four months later. And peak him they did.

Paul produced a nine-year-old who had experienced plenty of hard racing and problems by that stage to run the race of his life and have his moment in the sun at the Cheltenham festival, a meeting Guey attended on six separate occasions.

It was the first day Harry Skelton had teamed up with him and they gelled perfectly to record a memorable success.

Nine months later he went on to add another Tingle Creek to his cv once again under Harry, his trademark jumping once again proving vital.

That would be the last of Guey’s victories. He ran four times after that Sandown success, running with credit, but towards the end it was clear that although the enthusiasm was not waning, that bit of pace and brilliance he once possessed had now deserted him.

Many sports people from all manner of sports go on too long, let their star fade and the memory of their brilliance then disappears with it. Lots of horses do the same. The may bow out at a lowly meeting when they are not half the horse they were, running stones below what the figures they once proudly recorded.

Paul and the Hales family were adamant that was not for Guey and I thought it was fitting he got to perform his last act on the biggest national hunt stage of them all.

For most of his career Politologue used to get extremely excited and probably a bit nervous before his races so I had the pleasure of leading him out onto the track for many of his races. I will always cherish those moments looking at him after all those Grade 1 battles he’d been in still relishing the challenge of getting out there and giving his all.

In my opinion, Politologue resonated with racing fans initially because he was a gorgeous grey but also because of his bold, front-running style and longevity.

That is in a huge part down to the skill of his handler and Paul has done a magnificent job with him.

I also think it is down to him that for all the hard races Guey had, for all the times he was beaten by more talented horses, until the day he retired he retained every bit of his love and desire to race.

As it transpires, it will probably end up being the last time I ever sat on him, but around two weeks before Cheltenham Paul let me have a sit on him to gallop Guey around Wincanton.

Surrounded by younger horses who now possessed more pace than him, I smirked as he pulled the whole way round the two-mile gallop, wanting to give you more than you needed.

“Whatever you do late on in the gallop look after him, don’t give him a hard time,” were Paul’s last remarks to me as I headed out to the track.

It was even more admirable then that even as the younger horses quickened away from him in the last furlong or so of the gallop he chased them as hard as he could without me asking him to.

He was a special horse that tried his heart out.

Thankfully, because of the boss and the Hales family, Politilogue will retire in good health and just as importantly good heart.

He will spend the summers with the Hales family back with Lisa along with the rest of their lovely horses and spend his winters with Mike and Lucy Felton near Ditcheat going out hunting and generally enjoying a five star home alongside a certain Big Bucks.

And my goodness don’t you deserve it old boy.

The front yard will not be the same without his handsome head looking out from box number two. But everyone’s life that was lucky enough to be intwined with his will not be the same either for a multitude of good reasons.

Working at Paul’s it would be forgiven to occasionally take for granted what special horses we work with, but everyone who has worked with Guey has never done that.

We all know what he has given to us all and we are eternally grateful to him for it.

Above my bed I have a big picture of me and him walking into the yard after a routine day of training. I smile at that picture regularly. How lucky was I.

So Politologue, thank you. Thank you for trying so hard, for giving so much and for being so good. You are a wonderfully kind horse and deserve a wonderful retirement.

You my friend are a very special horse. Go well Guey.