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Category Archives: Harry Derham’s Blog

Mona comes to the rescue

As so often is the case with us here in Ditcheat, after the mad dash through Christmas and the New Year we have, in racing terms, taken a pull and let our foot slightly off the gas.

The jump season proper is a long one for us and for the horses that have worked so hard in their races up to the New Year, so the first couple of weeks of January represent a time for them to refresh and take a small break before the demands that February, March and April require of them. Before you think we have shut the gates and closed down however, I can assure you that things on the track for the number of horses we are still running are all rosy, with Lifeboat Mona providing the excellent highlight of the weekend when running out the convincing winner of a valuable Listed mares event at Sandown.

Mona wasn’t the simplest to train last year with some minor frustrating issues holding up her progress. But, as Saturday proved, when on song she is well above average. Her slick jumping allied with her excellent turn of foot once again brought her to the fore. She really is a sweetheart and from saddling her, to riding her, to all her adoring Axom owners making a fuss of her afterwards, she is gentle and kind mannered throughout which make her an absolute joy to have anything to do with.

Mona celebrated by spending the whole day in the field yesterday (Sunday) along with her friends, Tagrita, Antarctica De Thaix, Viky De Reponet and Jessber’s Dream. Turning our mares out is something we endeavour to do everyday after they have trained and, with their results continuing to impress, it seems field time is extremely well earned.

Oscar a winner, but Capitaine will bounce back

It wasn’t Capitaine‘s day against the imposing Finian’s Oscar but we were far from deflated, preferring to focus on how well he stayed on up the hill even after a typical Sandown mistake two hurdles from home. I’ve said before how much I like Capitaine and Saturday’s result changed absolutely nothing; he is a beautiful horse who will get plenty excited when he jumps fences next year.

Away from the track and as I’ve said, not much is going on in Ditcheat, bar the usual 128 horses being ridden out every morning. Everyone is working hard and the yard is a happy place as we looking forward to the coming weeks.

Looking ahead to this week, we will be primarily competitive on two days, Wednesday and Saturday. A horse I’m looking forward to is the dual winning point-to-pointer that goes by the name of Overland Flyer. He is a big strong son of Westerner who will be a chaser for next year (excuse the cliché) but I like his temperament and hope he’ll show he’s well worth following for the coming months.

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A trio of reflections on a memorable year

Hello everyone, I hope you all enjoyed a wonderful festive period and are feeling re-energised for the year ahead.

For us here at Ditcheat, Christmas and the New Year provided a busy couple of weeks for the whole team with the highlight being reaching 100 winners for the season before the 1st of January. The ton of winners was a landmark Paul had his eye on for a while and it was great to achieve it before the turn of the year.

While having dinner the other evening with my closest friends we discussed our highlights of the year just gone by and spoke about our aspirations, aims and predictions for 2017. After an hour or so of chatting I thought it would be fun if I did the same kind of thing for my blog, so I’ve come up with three of my professional highlights from the past year, a year I’m pretty sure has been the best in my life to date.

A Champion effort from Paul and the team

My first highlight was the last day of the season at Sandown when Paul was crowned champion trainer as it was simply an incredible climax to what was a roller-coaster season. The weeks leading up to Sandown were so up and down with the pendulum swinging from one way to another with Mr Mullins often looking likely to come out on top. The atmosphere at Sandown in April was truly amazing and it was a day I’ll never forget. It’s only when I looked back in the summer and really thought about it that I realised the enormity of being the ten times champion. It was a stunning achievement and to play a very small part in a couple of those years made me ridiculously proud.

Ziggy’s Paris heroics a summer highlight

Highlight two happened back in June in Paris and it was a day where PTIT ZIG reigned supreme and dug deeper than imaginable to win the French Champion Hurdle. Ziggy is a wonderful horse who doesn’t have the luxury of bundles of scope, gears to burn or a gorgeous stride, he instead has the heart of a lion and a willingness to give you everything. Many travelled better than him that day, many jumped better than him, but at the death where it really mattered Ptit Zig was quite magnificently the strongest. Winning a Grade One in England isn’t the easiest thing to achieve, so you can imagine how difficult trying to win a French one is. Ziggy has now crossed the channel and done it twice.

To me, Ptit Zig will always be a special horse and he provided us all with a memorable day in France. I will never forget sprinting alongside the track with Andrew Doyle shouting “GO ON ZIGGY” at the top of our voices, it was a truly magical

Ditcheat role one to be treasured

The third and final professional highlight from 2016 is a selfish one so please forgive me. It is, quite simply, becoming assistant trainer. For a 22-year-old guy with a limited set of GSCE’s working in your dream job at an early age is pretty damn cool and something for which I am incredibly grateful. I don’t say this lightly when I say I have a passion for my job and a genuine love for the racehorse as a breed. I get to meet some fascinating people and, since the first of May since I took over from my now close friend Tom Jonason, a day hasn’t gone by where I haven’t learned something new. Whether it is doing the gallops, listening to Paul on how he race plans and enters or learning to work with people in a way that you get the best out of each other.

Life on a daily basis at work presents challenges that I often don’t know the answer to, but I’m learning that if you try your absolute best all the time, listen to those who know better and ask for advice, things suddenly become easier. I love enjoying the honour of calling myself assistant trainer to Paul and hope I can contribute more to the yard over time.

In terms of 2017 and predictions I think it would be foolish of me to making huge statements in terms of what is to come, but I will however give an aim of mine for the coming year and it’s a simple one.

Foggy’s wise words mean so much

It is a piece of advice given to me from Ian Fogg – I could introduce him as director of Ditcheat Thoroughbreds or one of our biggest owners or the funniest man in Ditcheat – but when he gave me this advice he was performing a role he does a brilliantly (as he does with the aforementioned jobs) and that was being a friend of mine.

The advice was this. Life is a gift, one not to be wasted or taken for granted. Don’t pay attention to wealth or status to define someone, focus on them as a person and how they conduct themselves. Get up in the morning, looking forward to what you do and try your best while doing it. Smile and thank people for the simple things. Invest time into people you care about, look forward to the future, never dwell on the past and most of all have fun.

Pretty good advice I thought. So here goes 2017, bring it on . . .

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Patience is a virtue . . . so I’m told

It has been said to me many times before that good things come to those who wait, well sadly for you, waiting an extra day for my blog has not yielded good things, just another lengthy blog for you to wade through!

Hello everyone and season’s greetings to you all. Telling you all why my blog is a day late is a good place to start, so I’ll begin with an explanation before moving on to much more exciting equine matters.

If by now, like Mum and Dad (and Paul on sufferance), you are weekly readers then I should imagine you are getting the impression I don’t get out much and if you’ve got that impression then you’d be spot on. Obviously, racecourses are where I spend a huge amount of time but when work is finished for the day I like to live a quiet day-to-day life spent with one person in particular, trying to cook or watch French three-year-olds galloping round on my computer screen at places like Auteuil, Pau or Angers or somewhere else . . . you get the idea.

Christmas a time for Bailey’s hi-jinks

This weekend however, well just Sunday actually, was not the norm, but it was a very good day. I spent it with my girlfriend Kate and my very best friends Stan, Channon, Ed and Ed (not the same Ed) eating well, laughing lots, playing cards, while in the evening attending Paul’s house for a Christmas drinks party and a bloody good evening all round.

Sunday was a day where the phone was switched off and we all had a brilliant day, I put the blog to one side and enjoyed a day to remember with the one stand-out highlight arriving in the shape of our very own Mr Ed Bailey losing a bet and taking a canter round our new gallop on his own two feet with not a huge amount of clothing on. If you’re reading this Mrs Bailey we had a towel and a hot drink ready for him afterwards and I promise that we are usually much more sensible with your son. We’ve sent him back now and hope you find him in rude health once again. It’s rare when I cry with laughter, but my god this was funny. Imagine a very pale body… actually no cancel that. Some of you could be eating.

That was my Sunday, so please forgive for my tardiness, if you will.

Young stars continue to shine

Talking of days to remember this week has been jam packed with them. It seemed like a day couldn’t go by where we didn’t have a lovely horse saunter round one of the various racecourses we visited, with highlights achieved almost on a daily basis.

I usually go racing with Paul and when I do I generally try to listen as best I can to tips or things he says, knowing that at any time there could be the next pearl of the wisdom that only very few people have access too. However, on Thursday with Paul tied up in meetings all day in London, Dad and I set off to Exeter in search of a couple of winners on what looked a day with some nice chances.

I’m sure you’ve seen the results and if you didn’t we were lucky enough to have a fantastic day with some lovely high-class performances from Give Me A Copper and Le Prezien.

Tagrita was the one for me though as she tries so hard. Everything looks an effort for her, but from the moment the tapes spring back, the yellow flag falls and you fix your binoculars on her, you do safe in the knowledge that whatever she has in her locker she will give you all of it and then just for good measure she’ll probably chuck in the kitchen sink.

I probably have a love for the thoroughbred more than I should, but there is something that softens my heart about a horse who will give you everything just because they can. Tagrita is a gem and she continued her unbeaten run over fences with heart and determination. I’m not sure where she’ll go next, but wherever she does whoever tries to go past her will not have an easy day out on the field of play.

Politilogue in his pomp at Ascot

Friday morning came along and it felt like someone had grabbed me, popped me in a Sky box, hit rewind for 24 hours and we started all over again. It was eight thirty, my arms where getting stretched as I tried to temper Adrien Du Pont‘s enthusiasm for galloping and I was about to head off to another racecourse (Ascot) where we once again had three excellent chances.

A magic day ensued where we were fortunate enough to enjoy three smart performances with Sam Twiston-Davies taking centre stage and absolutely nailing his part in Friday’s achievements. Sam is excellent on a daily basis but the ride he gave Capitane was special without doubt.

Future stars are as precious as pigs in blankets on the Christmas dinner in Paul’s yard and last week we ran plenty with very few disappointing, Movewiththetimes resumed winning ways while Politilogue left everyone dreaming of huge days after putting in a round of jumping nearly as immaculate as John Hales’ white wine selection.

Topofthegame was on top of his game and carried his giant body round Ascot to make a winning start in the process, making his gentle and quite gorgeous nature even more lovable. He is not far off eighteen hands and after a performance like that with not one serious piece of work under his belt we hope his future is as magnificent as him.

Saturday fare seemed good, but I haven’t the foggiest how good

I would like to talk about my day’s racing on Saturday but, after close inspection I concluded like the rest of the racing public, I couldn’t see a bloody thing so went home safe in the knowledge this year’s likely World Hurdle winner boasts a pretty cool name and is clearly a very classy horse. Well done Mr Fry and team, a great day for all of you no doubt.

It has been a fast-paced week as you can see and the blog hasn’t covered the half of it. I’m told that Christmas is a special time of year and, although my feeling of festivity isn’t bursting through the roof, I’m well aware the type of week we’ve just enjoyed is indeed incredibly special.

We have reached winner number 97 for the campaign before Christmas which is something we are proud of and in a few days time we will stop and take stock for a couple of days.

I intend to eat more than appropriate and spend time with my fantastic family and Kate. Life is really quite merry for me right now and, while I’m not lucky enough to know all of my blog readers on a personal level, I am keen to wish you all a very happy, healthy and wonderful Christmas.

There isn’t much I want for Christmas but, if purse strings have been stretched to breaking point for presents for the family, Mr Mix could well be worth some attention on Boxing Day at Wincanton.

Until then however, have yourselves a merry little Christmas.

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