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Category Archives: Harry Derham’s Blog

Track success earns the dinner of champions

Hello everyone, this week’s blog is penned on the back of some excellent days at the races with plenty of nice winners on track which encouraged me to enjoy a steak and pint celebration on Tuesday!

From Truckers Lodge getting off the mark over fences at Chepstow to Ecco winning well at Ascot or Calva D’Auge creating a nice impression at Plumpton there has been plenty to enjoy, but the performance which without doubt gave me most enjoyment was Dan McGrue winning on Monday at Plumpton.

While it was not the biggest race Paul will win this season, it was hugely satisfying to see Dan McGrue get back to winning ways after what was a hugely frustrating season the year before with niggly problems stunting any form of progress made.

This year, following his breathing operation, Dan is a new animal and seems to be loving his job and his racing. His seasonal debut was very encouraging two weeks ago and, following a very positive ride from Harry, he got the job done in a competitive heat.

Dan McGrue obviously does the running himself, but he owes his success in part to his owners The Barbers, Martins and Bennetts who have been patient with him and allowed Paul the time to get him back to his best. He has done that by getting him enjoying his training once again and Kate, who rides him every day, deserves great credit for encouraging Dan to retain his enthusiasm for his work from day to day.

As I say, his victory was not a huge win, but it meant the absolute world to his owners and for us working with the horses every day it is wonderful to see.

Michelle’s brilliant efforts rightly rewarded

Elsewhere this week we have celebrated the first employee of the month award and October’s winner was Michelle Marsh who, having joined us in the summer, has done a brilliant job with her horses. I have no doubt in saying that her yard favourite is Touch Kick and his win at Fakenham in October topped off what has been a brilliant start to her life at Ditcheat so we were delighted to award Michelle the Dodson and Horrell sponsored prize.

I am finding it hard to believe that we are already into November which means that Paul’s team is really starting to hit their stride now and are running to a really good level which bodes very well for the coming weekends where some big targets lay. My routine of heading off to the races is now pretty much in full swing and I love that part of my job very much.

I have said before in my blog that getting to meet our owners at the races and a huge amount of different people has always been a fun part of my job and I am lucky I get to head off racing so much. It does not really slow down not until the end of April which I will not be complaining about.

One race I did not get to see first hand was Clan Des Obeaux who made his excellent seasonal reappearance at Down Royal over the weekend, finishing second to Road To Respect having jumped brilliantly throughout the race. I know Paul was thrilled with that run and all roads now lead to the King George where I am sure he will put up another big display.

Ascot events leave us all perplexed

While Clan was strutting his stuff in Ireland I was in the middle of one of the most bizarre situations I have ever had to deal with on a racecourse at Ascot.

Obviously everyone knows what happened and, while there has been a huge amount said about it all, I just want to make this point as in a tricky situation the owners of Capeland, Mr and Mrs Stuart, have been amazingly sporting about the whole situation.

There would be very few owners that were keen to congratulate the de la Hey’s after the race and when I rang Mrs Stuart that was exactly what she wanted me to do.

It was obviously a very unfortunate event and hopefully Capeland will be able to make up for the disappointment of Saturday another time this season. However, credit to Diego Du Charmil who managed to get back to the front after coming to a standstill and losing all of his rhythm.

That’s just about all I have time for this time for this week so I hope you have enjoyed reading my latest offering and I will speak to you all in a fortnight.

Go well, Harry


Fabulous Frodon ready for Aintree return

I won’t lie to you, I cannot wait to this weekend and I will tell you for why; Frodon.

For those keen racing fans among you, you will know that the Old Roan Chase at Aintree on Sunday is the scheduled return to the fray for last year’s Ryanair Chase hero and in all truth hero of just about everything else.

Frodon reappears shouldering a huge amount of weight in a decent looking field, but win lose or draw this is a horse that racing fans seem to adore and as one of those fans I am excited to see him back on the track doing what he loves more than anything else.

His preparation has seemed to go well this season, but this is very much the start of a year and, for those of you with expectations of a Ryanair type performance I would warn that although he is fit and ready to go Paul, as always, is trying to prime him for later in the year and not now. I do not care too much for that detail though as watching him is always a treat and I have no doubt it will be the same come Sunday.

Young talent beginning to emerge

Looking back and, for those of you that know how much passion I have for up and coming young horses, you will know I throughly enjoyed last week in particular when one of our brightest young five-year-olds Enrilo got off the mark over hurdles at the first time of asking with the minimum of fuss at Wincanton.

For me though Enrilo represents much more than just that one day. You see he along with Flic Ou Voyou (second at Chepstow two weekends back) were bought as store horses or unbroken three-year-olds. They have been in our care from that day either with Will Biddick, learning the ropes and how to be a racehorse, or with us undergoing the fine tuning required to compete at the level we expect of them.

To see those horses which at one stage were raw, clueless and extremely babyish turn into the horses they are now and to know what is to come from them is hugely exciting. Types like Eason, Zyon and Mcfabulous are still all to come and, perhaps even better than that, the next two years of those types are looking nice as well.

Last year’s stores, now four are all just weeks away from their first bumper races while this summer’s stores have been broken, in had their break and are about to embark on their first season of training. It is a timely process and Paul could not do what he does with these horses if he did not have the backing of some incredibly supportive and patient owners, combined with talented people around him to produce them.

Touch Kick evades his rivals grasp

There have been plenty of other racing highlights for me in the past week like Ecco looking really good in his novice hurdle, Red Force One getting off the mark in the same discipline or Silver Forever looking extremely smart winning at Chepstow. However, the one victory I took the most satisfaction from was Touch Kick who added another victory to his already solid CV when winning the feature race at Fakenham on Friday.

Touch Kick has been with us from the start of his career and in that time has won his bumper, hurdle and chases. He will never be a superstar, never a champion or graded performer, but a more likeable and straightforward racehorse you could not find and I admire that in him hugely.

Touch Kick knows his limits, he knows what he can and cannot do and gets on with his job and on Friday he was a joy to watch. He and Harry jumped from fence to fence in a seemingly unbreakable rhythm that enabled him to remain on the bridle until after the last fence. Michelle, who is new this season, has ridden him from the day she arrived and it is fair to say Touch Kick now has a new biggest fan and rightly so.

The one downer of the past few days was poor Le Prezien who cut himself badly in the Welsh Champion Hurdle and will now sadly miss the rest of the season which, in hindsight, made his effort of giving over a stone away to the winner an even better performance than it looked on first assessment.

That is about all I have time for this evening so I will once again thank you for taking the time to read about my working life and will speak to you all again in a fortnight.

Go well. Harry