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Category Archives: Harry Derham’s Blog

Mr Barber proves a modern day trail-blazer

There are a couple of people in my life that, when they ask you to do something, you don’t question it. Whatever their request may be, because of the level of respect you have for them, you just carry out their order.

I would like to think that I can include Mr Barber, landlord to Paul’s main yard, as a good friend of mine as he is one of those people who I hold in that regard. If you could bear that in mind for the first part of the blog I’d be grateful. Mrs Barber celebrated her birthday on Friday so to celebrate we headed to Cheltenham to watch Arpege D’Alene run in the novice chase.

At the end of a day where fun was had and Arpege ran really nicely, the three of us got in the car in high spirits ready for the journey home. In all truth it started well, Cheltenham was a breeze and the Lexus was purring along nicely until the Almondsbury interchange where things went south. Mr Barber declared that the roads were suffering from ‘Fridayitus’ and we should continue down the motorway instead of tackling Bristol.

Wise idea I thought, so the M5 it was

Fifty painfully slow minutes later we came to the conclusion that sat at a standstill really wasn’t getting us home, but happily I didn’t need to worry as Mr Barber assured me he knew the savviest of short cuts through Nailsea into North Somerset via every farm track, sorry B road in the county. As I mentioned before, questioning Mr Barber wasn’t something I was ever going to do, but I couldn’t help but feel like our route wasn’t the most direct, however his most reassuring line was that 50 short years ago Mr Barber used to deliver apples to Nailsea and knew the route off by heart. The thought that the roads may have changed a little in those 50 years kept popping into my mind, but with tongue firmly bitten I carried on and learnt plenty about the local countryside along the way.

Looking back I can’t help but feel that was my punishment for thoroughly beating him in a tense game of cattle counting on the way up to Cheltenham. For those of you wondering, Mr Barber (crowned farmer of the year twice) informed me that at this time of year not many cows are turned out so he wanted to see how many he could spot, to my delight the final tally was four nil to me, a result I’ve tried to remind him of as many times as I can since.

A truly funny day and a birthday I hope Mrs Barber will always associate with fond memories of her first KFC and lots of laughs.

Doncaster delights only topped by Frodon foray

With some excellent chances at Doncaster and Cheltenham on Saturday, I headed to the home of jump racing optimistic of a good day but what followed exceeded my expectations.

Three winners at Doncaster provided an amazing day for Andrew, Gemma and Scott who travelled with the horses to witness Cliffs Of Dover record his sixth win of his campaign in frenetic style. Present Man won his first Graded race on his first attempt under that magic man Mr Sherwood again and the late Mr Roach smiled from above as All Set To Go found the winning trail once again.

For me though, the highlight of this week was the amazing little Frodon winning the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup under our man Sam Twiston-Davies. He nearly started favourite for the BetVictor Gold Cup and, after one race-stopping error, I wasn’t bright enough to understand why he went off a drifting 14-1 on Saturday. However, Sam rode him with the confidence and belief that makes him such a brilliant jockey and the pair battled so well to see his rivals off up the hill.

Days like Saturday are what we all work so hard for back at home and to have a four timer was very special. Twenty four hours on from getting back from Cheltenham I’m now happy to report I’ve dried off!

Christmas jumpers at the ready for Ditcheat and Ascot

Today (Sunday) meant I’ve been required to brush the dust off my Christmas jumper to attended Ian and Wendy Fogg’s Christmas drinks and that generally means the big day is drawing near. The only good bit of news about the impending arrival of Christmas is that before that comes Long Walk Hurdle day at Ascot, a day I can’t wait for.

Aside from a valuable handicap hurdle on the card, the presence of the equally interesting Long Walk means I’m really looking forward to seeing how our French champion hurdler Ptit Zig gets on.

Until then we have some nice entries through the week and four new horses from the latest Cheltenham sale to get to know.

The quest for 100 winners for the season is now 11 away and, as you can see once again, all at Ditcheat is great.


Bullets not fully firing but remains a star

Well I’m back on the road this week, this time on the way home from Huntingdon after Dodge’s respectable effort in the Peterborough Chase when finishing fourth.

In all truth he ran about as well as he could these days, the speed he once had he now doesn’t, but he enjoyed himself all the same and, as always, tried his best. He may not be the champion he once was to some, but to us and his group of wonderful owners he will never be anything other than an unforgettable star who gave us some truly special moments.

Latest landmark a great team effort

Elsewhere this week, Team Ditcheat reached another milestone breaking through the one million pounds barrier in prize money for the season – an achievement that is always a brilliant landmark to attain before the turn of the year. We reached the magic million on Saturday down to two quite brilliant performances from our horses As De Mee and, in remarkably brave and gallant fashion, Rocky Creek, who won the London National.

No you read it right, I did say Rocky Creek!

Paul always tells me that if you watch extremely closely then you’ll never stop learning about the horses so when As De Mee was well beaten in the Paddy Pow . . . I mean BetVictor Gold Cup he told me how he was never again going to ask Sean to take his time on As De Mee, preferring instead to see him right up at the front of the race enjoying himself, a lesson that paid off in some style at Aintree where his jumping was immaculate.

Winner, winner chicken dinner

Sean told me afterwards he hadn’t enjoyed a ride so much before and the victory was never really in doubt. It was a great prize to win and another landmark day for our friend Mr Bowen. He has won big handicaps and Graded races this year and yet the most excited I’ve seen him was when looking forward to a plate of chicken nuggets!

While all that drama was playing out on Merseyside, Grandad and I were just about to leave a quiet day at Chepstow when we thought we had better wait and watch how Rocky Creek faired at Sandown . . . what followed wasn’t what I was expecting.

But then how could you suggest Rocky, who has been struggling to get his head in front for some time now, would roll back the years like he did?

Jack top of the league

In hindsight though he was probably a good thing considering it was a Saturday and Jack Sherwood was riding him! Jack has got a better record than Premier League leaders Chelsea on Saturdays this season – riding really good winners for us. Don’t ask me why, but there are certain horses that just run for Jack and don’t for other people, he has a style that some horses love and he got a fantastic tune out of Rocky who seemed to relish Saturday’s stamina test.

Happily our string continue in great form as the weeks go by, something I hope continues for some time. Wins from the wonderful front-runner More Bucks – who once again jumped his rivals silly when winning at Sandown on Friday – and Aux Ptits Soins who discovered the winning thread at Kelso on Sunday were highlights of the week for me.

There were other notable displays like Coillte Lass who cantered around Ludlow to start the week superbly, Rainy City who posted a career best at Sandown and another excellent effort this time in defeat from Boa Island. Add an immaculate display of jumping from Antarctica De Thaix when finishing second in her first chase on Friday and you’ll see that we have enjoyed a decent seven days.

Spade work leaves me cold but remains essential

A good week on the racecourse then but at home things have been a little more challenging with that horribly annoying fella Jack Frost getting right in the way. To put it bluntly it’s been bloody cold in Ditcheat this week and with the cold weather comes plenty more work for us, including gritting the roads so they are safe for our horses to venture out on. I have no idea if you’ve done much gritting, but just to clarify being in the back of a pick up truck at half past six in minus six temperatures spreading salt isn’t the most fun you could have. But these jobs have to be done and fair play to the whole team who worked hard and ignored the cold all week to keep the show on the afore-mentioned well-salted road.

Sam chat a trip to treasure

In a week where so many good things have happened you’d be forgiven in thinking that the highlight of my week was a difficult choice, quite the opposite actually. My highlight was a car journey of all things, on the way to Sandown on Friday with Sam who rerouted after Exeter fell victim to the cold. What could possibly be fun about a two-and-a-half-hour car journey I’m sure you’re thinking?

Before you start imagining Scholfield levels of heroism like our Newton trip I have to stop you, there wasn’t a jam we had to overcome or horses to get to the races, it was straightforward, we just chatted. But spending time with a guy as ambitious and full of life as Sam is not only fun it’s insightful and engaging. We all know about his ability in the saddle and recently we have seen his tireless will to get back into the saddle as quickly as the doctors dare let him. For me though the refreshing thing about him is that the friendly, warm and honest guy you see on camera is exactly who you find when one is lucky enough to get to know him.

It’s great to have Sam back in the saddle and even better to have him back part of the team, a team built with all kinds of characters, but Sam is a good egg right to his orange tinged core and we are lucky to have him.

Fans’ favourite Dover back on track

Looking ahead to this weekend where, fingers crossed we will be represented across the country I am looking forward to one horse in particular, a horse who goes by the name of Cliffs Of Dover. Throughout October Cliffs racked up fans nearly as quickly as he racked up wins and we are all excited to see him strut his stuff again.

Talking of hot three-year-olds I partnered Chameron in his first canter this week alongside Ditcheat Thoroughbreds’ latest purchase Monsieur Co, another French three-year-old, now sadly I can’t see into the future but I’d be surprised if you, the racing public, weren’t enjoying those two in due course.

Until next time . . .


Gary ‘Clics’ beautifully on farewell ride

It is very rare in sport that the fairytale ending actually comes off. Of course, lots are planned and thought about but in reality, particularly in our sport, a perfect ending is very difficult to execute. Happily however, for our friend Gary Derwin the perfect curtain closer to his career came in the shape of victory aboard Clic Work on Thursday.

Gary joined us in the middle of last season and very quickly became a popular part of the team riding out every morning. He rides Jessber’s Dream and El Bandit everyday doing a fantastic job on two very tricky horses so when he came to Paul and asked if he could have one more ride before he hung up his boots the decision was an easy one. Since Thursday lots of people have been asking him why he has taken the decision not to renew his licence but after a good chat with him, his decision is clearly well thought through and sensible. Gary now has a young family to look after and opportunities to ride nice horses on the track were becoming impossible to come by as was the time to commit to a yard full time in order to get those rides.

We are the fortunate ones in this situation as Gary has chosen to come to us to continue riding out every day and be part of a racing yard. He gave Clic Work a top ride to win on Thursday and the whole team were absolutely made up for him, I’ve often talked about my pride in being part of a yard that can give people such special days and Thursday was really as good as they come for me. It was an occasion Gary will never forget and neither will plenty of us and I will always smile when I think of that day. You have to respect a man with more than his fair share of ability in the saddle who is giving up race riding to take care of his family and Gary has my utmost respect.

Join the Clan and get on board with our new star

I’m sure, like many of you, I watch plenty of racing throughout the year and if you are a regular blog reader then you’ll know that with my passion for young horses, novice hurdles and chases and bumpers are races I try and pay particular attention to. I am always hoping for one superstar to emerge from the pack, and maybe, just maybe Clan Des Obeaux could be exactly that.

Sean Bowen, aside from being a belting good jockey, is a straight talking guy who doesn’t mix his words, so when he hopped off Clan in the Newbury winners’ enclosure after routing a high-class field and declared that he is the best horse he’s ever sat on I let my imagination run wild. Clan is as good a looking horse as you could lay your eyes on and with a near flawless jumping technique and high cruising speed at four-years-old he looks to have the potential to go right to the top. As I said last week though, building for the future with a horse like Clan doesn’t mean this year will be busy for him as Paul is intent on nurturing his abundant ability.

The biggest well done of all though goes to Scott Marshall who has ridden Clan from day one last season and insisted he was a machine ever since. Scott does a beautiful job on him and was made up to see him deliver like that.

Brave Irving comes out Fighting

If any of you are casual players on a sports team or maybe a professional sportsman or woman then you will probably know the pain of pre-season training, the hard work and preparation that goes into getting ready for your first competition, race or event of the year. For our horses it is much the same, some take longer than others to get fit, some find it easy, while some you wonder if they will ever lose their summer bellies.

For some though it’s simply a right struggle and in Irving‘s case it has been exactly that. Irv has been many things through the last few seasons, tricky to train, baffling and frustrating, but when fresh and firing on all cylinders he is always quite brilliant. His physical problems make him a nightmare to keep right and all of Paul’s team as well as him deserve a lot of credit for getting him back to win a Grade One. From David who feeds him and cares for him, Melissa who rides him and Holly who looks after him and makes his bed, everyone has worked incredibly hard to get him back and my god wasn’t it worth it!

His win also showcased an increasingly mature performance in the saddle from Harry Cobden who was landing his first Grade One which is a remarkable achievement aged just 18.

A warm welcome back for our main man Sam

Back at camp, this week just past has been an exciting one, with two new French horses arriving, both high class prospects. Viky De Reponet is a mare who has taken some eye catching scalps in her native France while Chameron is a good looking new three year old unbeaten in two starts over hurdles, wins which include the Listed Prix Finot. They are both settling in well and are horses to really look forward to in the coming months.

Something I really can’t wait for this week is the return of our main man Sam Twiston-Davies. As we all know Sam is a brilliant rider and, after telling me about the fitness training he has been doing at Oaksey House, I can’t wait to see him in the saddle for us once again this week.

Best of luck on your return Sam – all of us at team Ditcheat are one hundred per cent behind you.