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Category Archives: Harry Derham’s Blog

Coronavirus ensures challenging times lay ahead

This is a blog I could never have envisaged writing. Following the joy of the Cheltenham festival, the grim realization that in seven days the world is now a vastly different place.

Life, as many of us know, will for the next six weeks and probably beyond change dramatically. The spread of COVID-19 has not been welcome news for anyone across the globe and, whilst we are a tiny percentage of the world within our horse racing bubble, I suppose one only really notices these things when they directly affect and impact on us.

With the sensible ruling from the British Horseracing Authority to cancel racing until the end of April many people in our wonderful sport face turbulent and unknown times ahead.

I have not been blogging recently due to the sheer amount of activity we had going on at the yard with racing many times a week, schooling at home, racecourse galloping and everything else that goes into caring for and training 139 horses at any one time.

Horse welfare our primary concern

However, Paul said this morning I ought to check in and let everyone know what we at the yard will be up to in the coming weeks and months.

Obviously, with Paul’s yard, our primary focus has and always will be to care for our clients horses whatever their level of ability to the same high standard. During this national health emergency we are currently developing an ever-changing plan to ensure that we can still do that.

Horses which would now be approaching the climax of the season before their summer breaks will face a markedly different April to the one they would normally experience, so instead of training hard for their last big races they will now be let down gently, their work load significantly decreased and the important and lengthy process of ‘roughing off’ begun.

Normally at the end of the season, the horses get turned out in the warm weather into huge fields of lush May grass, however at this time of the year it is far too wet, cold and there is simply not enough grass to accommodate that, so our job is to look after them in the same manner until later in the spring when that is possible.

Since the announcement was made that racing will be suspended one of Paul’s biggest concerns was the huge work force he employs and how to keep them financially stable through this time.

We have now had several meetings with the staff and, while it is an ongoing and ever-changing situation, we have reassured them all that there is still work for everyone and the intention is to keep everyone in work taking care of the horses.

So many people are now working from home, but for yards and studs around the country that is not an option and looking after the horses in our care is still of upmost importance.

The more I think about this current situation the more unbelievable I find it. I get so wrapped up in my little racing bubble and I would suggest that many people in this sport do the same.

However, I do have one hope for this weird and scary time. In a world where there seems to be a growing sense of division and unrest and people are no longer able to disagree with one another without having an argument on social media, we may start to realise how lucky we are and appreciate our lives a good deal more.

There are going to be some pretty rubbish times ahead for a lot of people I would imagine so a bit of kindness and humanity could well go a very long way.

For now though, take care and of course go well.


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