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Category Archives: Harry Derham’s Blog

Fabulous Frodon

I have just arrived at Plumpton races on a sunny Monday after an excellent schooling first lot at home so thought I would skip the course walk with Mr Cobden and put together a few thoughts from the past couple of weeks.

Having thought about it the whole way down here I really think there is only one place I can start this week’s blog and that is of course with Frodon and his heroics at Down Royal over the weekend with his partner in crime Bryony, who was at her brilliant best.

At this stage I have basically run out of words to describe him as he seems to relentlessly keep on raising the bar of what looks possible for him.

I do not mind admitting one bit I was of the opinion it would be hard for him to go over there and beat the Irish horses in their own back yard. Paul however, from the middle of July, has had that plan in place for him and there was no chance he was going to be caught out through a lack of fitness.

As per usual with the deadly duo of Frodon and B, they found a fantastic rhythm, attacking each and every fence, an ability which makes life incredibly difficult for his competitors to make ground on him as he does not tend to make the errors which enable his rivals the chance to pressure him.

Bryony saved just enough for when she needed it most and then the two of them were not for passing up the run in to record a victory we will all remember for some time to come.

I really do think it was yet another remarkable training performance from the boss to get Frodon in the condition he needed to be in to beat his rivals on the day. I was once again thrilled to bits for Mr Vogt, Frodon’s owners and his family who love him so dearly.

Sadly, as so often happens with racing, the enormous high felt after Frodon was replaced with a feeling of great disappointment after Cyrname struggled in the Charlie Hall with Harry rightly pulling him up in the straight.

Early on in the race it looked as though he had his mojo back as he travelled enthusiastically and jumped well but, as soon as Harry needed more from him, he cannot seem to get enough air into his lungs to fuel his engine.

It really is such a shame as he is a fantastic horse. I have no doubt Paul, Johnny de la Hey and his family will think about what the right thing is to do next with him. One thing I can assure you though is that whatever that decision is it will be for the very best for Cyrname.

Now we have ‘enjoyed’ plenty of rain it has been so exciting getting the novice hurdlers on the track and, over the course of the last seven days, we have unleashed some extremely exciting novices in the shape of Gelino Bello, Mr Glass, Stage Star and Kandoo Kid all creating excellent impressions on hurdling debut.

I have no doubt for Paul that this is particularly exciting as there has already been years of work put into these horses and they are really starting to pay dividend. Hopefully over the coming weeks there are a good few more nice ones to come.

I was taken in particular with Gelino Bello who, for Mr and Mrs Cotton, put in a beautiful display of jumping at Aintree last Sunday to win in effortless fashion in what appeared a deep looking race.

It is such a nice surprise when horses which don’t show you huge amounts at home go to the track and perform like he did as you just know there is more to come from him. He is just one of a number of exciting horses and I am excited to see him develop this year.

Now Cobby and I are back on the road again regularly, I have started to find what I call my winter rhythm which generally comprises of a lot or two at home on the gallops before heading off to the races.

While I would be lying if I said I do not miss watching the horses all morning at home it is great to be back racing almost every day and, with 49 winners on the board, the yard is in great form as things are getting more serious.

At Cheltenham last weekend the Stewart family led by Judy held a memorial for Andy who, very sadly for all of us at Ditcheat and most of all Paul, died in September.

Of course, Andy was a fantastic owner over many years for Paul and together they enjoyed some truly memorable days on the track, most famously with Big Buck’s who enjoyed the most incredible staying hurdling career.

Those of us that were lucky enough to know Andy though, will not remember him for those days, we will remember him for his generosity and kindness towards everyone he met and how he could not do enough for charities and people that were most in need.

For 20 years it is no exaggeration to say Paul and Andy spoke everyday whatever it may have been about from horses to Barbados to who he was having lunch with that day or what government was leading the country.

Andy was a special, special man.

I will personally never forget the chances he gave me in the saddle on Salubrious, Saphir Du Rheu and many others. It was always special riding in his red, black and white colours and those few words he said to every jockey before every single race.

“Remember most important, safe and sound”

That probably summed Andy up perfectly. As the horses walked around the paddock for his memorial race at Cheltenham a huge rainbow appeared over the track. I have little doubt Andy will have been up there somewhere telling anyone who would listen he’d organised that with Cheltenham, a track he loved so dearly.

Another big week lies ahead for us now with the Haldon Gold cup on Tuesday at Exeter, a race I love, while there is plenty of good racing for the rest of the week. Things are now very much full steam ahead.

I will just finish on one note before I head off to saddle for the first and that is to say I was delighted for Gary Moore and his family’s success this weekend.

Gary has become a good friend of mine over the last few years, mainly down to the fact he regularly takes the piss out of me at the races. I have felt for his family this week in particular poor Josh who in his career has endured some rotten luck and spent all last week in hospital awaiting an operation.

Having spoken to Gary on Saturday he tells me he is now relieved to be home and hopefully on the road to recovery.

It is a funny game this sport of ours and I was happy to see Gary and Jamie enjoy success on Saturday, although in typical Gary fashion he was more annoyed about the novice hurdler that got beat more than he was happy about the winners.

Don’t worry Gary you were beaten by an alright one, I smiled. The second word was off in his reply, I’ll let you decide what his first word was.

Chat again soon. Go well


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.


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.