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Category Archives: Harry Derham’s Blog

Drinking from the bottle to our Magnificent Seven

It is Sunday, quarter to four in the afternoon, Nick Scholfield is at the wheel and we have just got on the M3 and raised a bottle of Lucozade and water respectively to Black Corton, who topped off what can only be described as a very good week for all involved.

Seven winners from 10 runners are the final statistics as the week closes with Cliffs of Dover taking the starring role winning on Friday and today at Kempton.

As Cliffs of Dover walked off the lorry in the summer, he set foot in our yard with a relatively modest profile ahead of a new career as a juvenile hurdler. However, with a first-class attitude to jumping and assistance from Harry Cobden in the saddle every day he has been transformed into a progressive young horse. Harry has settled him and taught him to relax during his training at home so it’s great that he has enjoyed due reward on the track with him.

Andrew, Gemma and Jayne make the trip worthwhile

Fakenham from sleepy Somerset isn’t a journey relished by many, but on Friday Andrew, Gemma and Jayne made the five-hour trip more than worthwhile bringing home two winners.

It’s so easy to forget the hours of hard work everyone puts in to get our horses to the races, and Fakenham is an 18-hour day for the guys that took Pilansberg, Keltus and Lou Vert so for them to be in the next morning at half past six says a lot about our dedicated staff.

A super Saturday work morning

First lot on Saturday morning saw 47 horses in action, among them some of our most exciting charges for the year to come; safe to say it was a work morning not to be missed.

With lots of big races now very much on the agenda we are gearing up the likes of Silviniaco Conti, Le Mercurey, Zubayr and Dodging Bullets for their first runs of the season, all of which are now not too far away.

Working over four furlongs never asks too much of our string or really tells us much we don’t already know, but as the weeks go by Capitaine continues to make an impression and, perhaps more significantly, he keeps pleasing Andrew who partners him every day. The two of them galloped past me on Saturday, Andrew crouching into his Davy Russell inspired position with a smile on his face indicating Capitaine was probably going quite nicely. Good news then as he will be entered on Sunday in the Dominic Baker Memorial at Wincanton a race, as I’ve said before, we long to win every year for very obvious reasons.

Highbridge quartet hit the heights

If like me you’re a huge fan of team Ditcheat then you’ll know we had five winners on Friday, an achievement we are all very proud of, four of those winners hailed from our numerically smaller yard Highbridge. David Rochester and Andrew Doyle are responsible for the day-to-day running of the yard overseen by Paul and Clifford so were hugely deserving of the pat on the back they received on Saturday morning from Paul. David feeds all of Highbridge and we often joke that he spends more time caring for his 46 equine inmates than his wonderful young family just around the corner in Alhampton. But well done men, a great day for everyone and in particular you two.

Sam’s loss felt deeply but others fill the breach

In the absence of Sam, who celebrated his birthday in hospital this week, the rest of our jockeys have been taking their opportunities to ride winners with one in particular seizing his moment.

Jack Sherwood, who longs to ride winners more than most folk long for their next breath, has done some great things in the colours of Mr and Mrs Woodhouse, so it was no surprise to see him make all riding Present Man at Wincanton. Jack gave Present Man a great ride from the front encouraging some super jumps from his partner and the plan made at the start of the season for Present Man is very much still the plan. More of that to come!

So there we are then, as you can see once again things in team Ditcheat are great, and I am appreciating and enjoying every winner we have knowing things are only going to become more difficult as the winter comes.

Living the dream at Marks and Spencer

We are some way down the A303 now and Nick is getting nearly as good a tune out of his car as he did Black Corton a few hours earlier. We’ve happily stopped at Marks and Spencer so, as a celebratory lasagne followed by profiteroles creeps ever closer, I afford myself a smile knowing that not only do I have a perfect evening in store it is only five days until the Ditcheat Thoroughbreds-owned Marracudja takes to the stage at Cheltenham.

There is plenty to look forward to then, but without doubt the best piece of news this week is that our main man and great friend Sam (Twiston-Davies) is on the mend and, despite his injury, in good spirits.

I know I speak for everyone at team Ditcheat Sam, in saying that we are wishing you a quick recovery and our very best.


Here we go again!

Hello everybody, hope the summer has been good to you all and I very warmly welcome you back to my blog, a place where exclusives are rare and humour is hard to find, but much to my surprise it seems my Mum wasn’t the only one to read about my weeks last year so I’m going to blog again this season.

As I said last year, I have no intention of being a tipping service nor do I want a career in race reporting so I won’t ever talk about all our runners, my intention last season was to bring to light the stars of team Ditcheat, events behind the scenes and to share with you this wonderful ride I am currently enjoying as an assistant trainer.

The loss of true friends difficult to take 

However, this year team Ditcheat, my team of which I am so proud to be part of, will do battle without one of its most loyal supporters. I am of course talking about the late Mr Roach, who finally succumbed to his battle with illness after the bravest and most dignified of fights.

We are incredibly fortunate to have a core of loyal owners, some of which who have been with Paul from the very early days and Mr Roach was an owner and friend to Paul long before the championships and the glory, back when aspirations were far higher than achievement. Trusted friends in any walk of life do not come by the dozen, but even to my young mind Mr Roach to Paul, Mr Barber and many others was exactly that. He was a comrade who lived by his word and forged some brilliant memories over the years on and off the racecourse. I never spent hours or days with Mr Roach, just brief influential encounters where a piece of advice dispensed was always worth listening to, a time where you would always be smart and look him in the eye with a firm hand shake. Simple values that I’m sure were the bed rock of a full and wonderful life for a great man. He will be missed by many people all over this land but at this time when I pause for thought, I make an effort for my manic mind to slow and consider how Mrs Roach and his closest family and friends are feeling right now.

A gap has been left, a void that will not be filled, but memories I hope for those grieving that will last a lifetime.

Swift to forget my birthday

It’s a male Derham trait not to make too much of a birthday but on Wednesday I grew one year older – sadly I’m not sure wiser has followed …

If you listen to the pop hit 22 by Taylor Swift, a woman who has more boyfriends than Sam Twiston-Davies has had winners, then like me you might have been worried that becoming a partying lunatic might have been on the cards.Happily the longing for winners and fast horses is still right at the forefront of my mind. I had a wonderful day involving two delicious cakes which could never be a bad thing. Big thank you to Kate and Amy for them!

Magnificent seven set the tone

These last four days have included a fair amount of hard work for the whole team. With runners at Hereford, Newton Abbot and Chepstow it gave me, and lots of others, a few days to get into the routine of life where going racing will become the norm. Fortunately all these days racing included one vitally important thing – winners.There were seven in total with some performances that promised great things for the season ahead. Personally, in terms of equine stars that stood out, Dolos and El Bandit were at the top of the list, both showing abundant class when winning at Chepstow. I think is worth focusing on El Bandit for a second as he really demonstrates all the positive things about our team. He started his career on a rather low note at Wincanton being tailed off in a bumper in the spring of 2015 and here he is 18 or so months later winning a Grade 2.

Paul is forever reminding me that Rome wasn’t built in a day and with good horses patience in abundance is required. He never had anything but upmost faith in El Bandit and always insisted that once the penny had dropped he would be a serious force to be reckoned with.

Terri Jay and Gary Derwin deserve a huge pat on the back for the work they have put in with El Bandit, as it would be fair to say some days he is anything but straightforward, but their hard work and patience has paid off in great style and he’s a horse very much on the up.

Stepping forward in a crisis

After Sam’s horror fall at Chepstow he sadly wasn’t fit enough to take the rest of his rides on the day, but it gave two guys the chance to shine. Nick and Sean both benefited from Sam’s misfortune, but I really felt for Sam as that is a painful position to be in, in more ways than one. However, he has a long season ahead of him and he made absolutely the right decision for his own health and one day isn’t going to change his already brilliant career. Paul has not only invested in the future with his young horses over the last few years, he has built a team of young riders to be very proud of and to have Nick and Sean riding for us as well as Sam puts us in a strong position with riding plans.

Ditcheat team has the X Factor

The forecast is currently not smiling on us with a dry week looking likely so we won’t be busy over the next few days, in fact until the rain comes we will pretty well stay at home, safe in the knowledge the string is in fantastic order. Sat watching Dermot O’Leary try and add drama to the worse group of singers ever assembled since Sean, Stan and I were in a car together I am overflowing with optimism for the season that lies ahead. I feel lucky to be in the position I’m in and can’t wait to share it all with you. For those of you that are new to the blog you’ll hear a lot about Dodging Bullets and Aux Ptit Soins, my daily rides, and for the regulars you’ll be delighted to hear both are in rude health as their work load increases.

As you can see then, all is well with my little world and in the words of The Carpenters, we’ve only just begun…


Owners’ day a great success

From the all consuming owners’ day to the string doing their first pieces of work, I feel like there is plenty to report on from team Ditcheat, hence I thought I’d provide an update for those jump fans missing the sport.

Owner’s day success

There has been a great vibe around the yard this week just gone, with the whole team thrilled at how our annual owner’s day ended up. By a sheer stroke of luck we had a break in the rainy weekend and for the hours we hosted the 300 odd people that came along the weather gods smiled on us.
We paraded the 82 horses stabled in top yard all of which looked absolutely fantastic. Paul did plenty of work with all of them on Saturday, the idea being come parade time they would hopefully be calm and sensible.
Well, although it was great to see that Saturdays work hadn’t affected most of them it did give the team of staff leading them up some white knuckle moments!
We could not have been happier with how they all looked as a group, with their coats shining in the odd bit of sunshine that crept through the cloud.
Owner’s day as I described last year is a day I have always loved, I endeavour to be as busy as I can trying to talk to all of our owners in attendance, thank them for their continued support and give them an update on their respective charges.
Those updates I think are always easy at this time of year, because well in September none of the horses have been disappointing and we can dream that they are all superstars!

The work is stepping up

The daily routine for the horses is now stepping up all the time, with a lot of the yard doing their first pieces of work either Friday or Saturday. Obviously like any year there are more forward horses that are doing a great deal more, but as a rule the vast majority have just started to gallop at speed once or twice a week with aims of their first races in the middle to later part of October.
At this stage I could name paragraphs of horses that are taking my eye but I’ll give you three horses maybe a little of the beaten track who are catching my eye.
A juvenile hurdler called Dolos continues to impress with his maturity at this stage of the season. He a strong, seriously well built son of Kapgarde, a sire we have done well with, who could be ready to go to Chepstow in early October.
Another hurdler who the team is really pleased with is a four year old called Garo De Juilley, Jordan Williams one of our conditionals here is doing a brilliant job with him every day and is very pleased with how he is progressing.  A four time winner on the flat in France I believe that Garo has a touch of class and I can’t wait to see him over timber this autumn, possibly at the Cheltenham showcase meeting in October.
Alcala is a horse who has now been with us for three seasons and I still don’t think we have seen the best of him. He is rated 129, had some good form last year and I think over fences this term he will start to realise his potential. A great jumper who will possibly have a run over hurdles to start the year, he could be a nice horse to watch as the season develops.

A senior star bulletin

Another cause for great optimism at this time of the year is how our older stars are coping with their pre season. Silviniaco Conti Dodging Bullets, Zarkandar and Ptit Zig are all training really with plenty of zest and vigour. Conti in particular is going along very nicely, and as Paul said last week we are planning to go to Down Royal for the Grade One JN wine chase at the end of October.

A personal note

Now five months into my role as assistant trainer I think I am starting to find my feet a little more. Apart from riding out, there is no set routine to my days with Paul encouraging me to make the job my own and develop so that I will hopefully be as useful as I can. As with anything it takes time to learn about new jobs but I’m trying my best and being a bigger part of this amazing team is something I am really enjoying.

A big well done

Most of all though at this stage of the year I think our fantastic team of staff deserve lots of credit, we are working the horses very hard at the moment but the guys and girls are putting just as much in and it’s great to see so many partnerships being struck up.
From Scott on Cyrname, Harriet on Pilansberg, Lorcan on Southfield Theatre, Andrew on Crin Au Vent or Matt on Clic Work everyone is working extremely hard to make sure the horses are having the perfect preparations for their seasons. A season, which if you’re Harry Derham literally cannot come soon enough.