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Category Archives: Harry Derham’s Blog

Fabulous Frodon ready for Aintree return

I won’t lie to you, I cannot wait to this weekend and I will tell you for why; Frodon.

For those keen racing fans among you, you will know that the Old Roan Chase at Aintree on Sunday is the scheduled return to the fray for last year’s Ryanair Chase hero and in all truth hero of just about everything else.

Frodon reappears shouldering a huge amount of weight in a decent looking field, but win lose or draw this is a horse that racing fans seem to adore and as one of those fans I am excited to see him back on the track doing what he loves more than anything else.

His preparation has seemed to go well this season, but this is very much the start of a year and, for those of you with expectations of a Ryanair type performance I would warn that although he is fit and ready to go Paul, as always, is trying to prime him for later in the year and not now. I do not care too much for that detail though as watching him is always a treat and I have no doubt it will be the same come Sunday.

Young talent beginning to emerge

Looking back and, for those of you that know how much passion I have for up and coming young horses, you will know I throughly enjoyed last week in particular when one of our brightest young five-year-olds Enrilo got off the mark over hurdles at the first time of asking with the minimum of fuss at Wincanton.

For me though Enrilo represents much more than just that one day. You see he along with Flic Ou Voyou (second at Chepstow two weekends back) were bought as store horses or unbroken three-year-olds. They have been in our care from that day either with Will Biddick, learning the ropes and how to be a racehorse, or with us undergoing the fine tuning required to compete at the level we expect of them.

To see those horses which at one stage were raw, clueless and extremely babyish turn into the horses they are now and to know what is to come from them is hugely exciting. Types like Eason, Zyon and Mcfabulous are still all to come and, perhaps even better than that, the next two years of those types are looking nice as well.

Last year’s stores, now four are all just weeks away from their first bumper races while this summer’s stores have been broken, in had their break and are about to embark on their first season of training. It is a timely process and Paul could not do what he does with these horses if he did not have the backing of some incredibly supportive and patient owners, combined with talented people around him to produce them.

Touch Kick evades his rivals grasp

There have been plenty of other racing highlights for me in the past week like Ecco looking really good in his novice hurdle, Red Force One getting off the mark in the same discipline or Silver Forever looking extremely smart winning at Chepstow. However, the one victory I took the most satisfaction from was Touch Kick who added another victory to his already solid CV when winning the feature race at Fakenham on Friday.

Touch Kick has been with us from the start of his career and in that time has won his bumper, hurdle and chases. He will never be a superstar, never a champion or graded performer, but a more likeable and straightforward racehorse you could not find and I admire that in him hugely.

Touch Kick knows his limits, he knows what he can and cannot do and gets on with his job and on Friday he was a joy to watch. He and Harry jumped from fence to fence in a seemingly unbreakable rhythm that enabled him to remain on the bridle until after the last fence. Michelle, who is new this season, has ridden him from the day she arrived and it is fair to say Touch Kick now has a new biggest fan and rightly so.

The one downer of the past few days was poor Le Prezien who cut himself badly in the Welsh Champion Hurdle and will now sadly miss the rest of the season which, in hindsight, made his effort of giving over a stone away to the winner an even better performance than it looked on first assessment.

That is about all I have time for this evening so I will once again thank you for taking the time to read about my working life and will speak to you all again in a fortnight.

Go well. Harry

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Ditcheat primed for the dawn of a new season

It feels quite fitting that I find myself writing my first blog of this brand new season on the eve of our first winter runners; one might even think I had planned it, and while I’d love for that to be true, in all honesty it is not.

This is a bit of good old fashioned luck that has made me look organised and for those loyal readers who have supported my blog for the past four seasons I welcome you back and I hope I can entertain for another season.

I will however start with a little house-keeping and that is to say that this year my blog will be coming to you every other Wednesday with my reasoning two fold. The first reason is that a really good mate of mine, Ryan Bliss, asked if I’d do a podcast with him through this season and I thought that would be a cool idea, in part down to the fact I’m a big podcast fan myself.

So the week that the blog is not present a podcast will be recorded instead, for all you readers and non listeners I can only apologise. Second reason for it being produced on a Wednesday as opposed to a Monday like last season is time. I found myself racing to complete the blog last season on a Sunday night, generally fairly tired after a weekend racing, so writing it as I am now on a Tuesday evening seemed like a much better idea.

Good, that’s the house-keeping done, now to update you on me and the yard.

Summer chores completed, now the fun begins

Things here are all good and to level with you I cannot really believe I am now six months into my fourth season as assistant to Paul, you know the old saying about time and fun well it seems it must be true. Work is really very good at the moment with anticipation high as always at this time of year to get going and get involved in what promises to be another exciting National Hunt season.

The summer as always at Ditcheat was quiet in terms of our representation on the track, but manic everywhere else with gallops to turn, horses to check, stables to fix, disinfect and paint all while Paul bought some really beautiful looking store horses that totalled at the end of the summer a nice round 14. They look a smashing bunch and I cannot wait to see how they progress with Will Biddick this season before they join us at big school later in the season.

Obviously just like every season July and August is a fun time of year with lots of new faces human and equine to get to know and this year I am of the belief that on both fronts we are doing well.

New faces settling in well

From new pupil assistant Charlie who has settled in brilliantly to lots of new full-time staff like Michelle from Cheltenham, Mia who opted for a year with us instead of University, Holly, quite possibly the funniest person to ever set foot in Ditcheat, Keaton who despite a hilarious unseat just last week has nestled in nicely and Angus who gets the award for continuing to bring some of the best one-liners possible despite not particularly realising he is that funny.

With a staff the size of Paul’s there will always be new faces and this year is no different, but good characters always fit in well here and some of the guys I have mentioned and others have all contributed to the beating heart of the engine room in the team.

It is as exciting as it has been for some time equine wise in my opinion. The horses look superb and have generally trained pretty well this pre-season with established stars and bright new talents filling a currently increasing capacity. Highbridge, our second yard, is undergoing an exciting development that will be finished next week, seeing eleven boxes put up and a brand new walker, further enhancing what is already a great yard.

All eyes focused on Chepstow as young talent unleashed

I will just briefly touch on some of the top names like Cyrname, Clan Des Obeaux, Frodon and Politologue who are all looking well and I believe Paul is really happy where all of them are at the moment, they each have targets and are being trained accordingly, but fingers crossed they will all perform just as well if as last term.

As I said at the beginning of this blog we are on the eve of our winter runners starting again and like everyone in the yard I am really excited for the coming months. While this is where the hard work really begins it is also when the fun starts. The past few months have been filled with long days of hard and focused work in order the prepare the horses as perfectly as we possibly can and now, now we are able to watch them run.

The week’s meeting at Chepstow is always where Paul considers the proper start to the jump season and this year is no different with some lovely horses likely to tackle their respective races, Silver Forever, Trevelyns Corn, Flic Ou Voyou, Greaneteen, Secret Investor, Scaramanga and Glenlivet some names among others we are looking forward too.

I am going to leave it at that this time as I want to try and keep the blogs short, sharp and enjoyable this season, but until next time enjoy the winter runners starting to come back out and go well.

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Summer in Ditcheat

A visit to some of our horses out in the fields

Watch the video to see how some of our stars and new horses are enjoying their summer and hear Paul’s plans.

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