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Category Archives: Harry Derham’s Blog

Cheltenham countdown continues apace

I am just walking home from a rather soggy morning stables, but in good spirits as the morning has gone well and, one by one, the days tick by on the countdown to Cheltenham.

The last week has been another good one with the horses continuing to hold their form and run very well. From San Benedeto to Christopher Wood, Macfabulous and Rhythm Is A Dancer there have been plenty of excellent winners.

Without any doubt though, my highlight was Tommy Silver who suffered desperate luck on his previous start when looking like the winner only to be carried out late on. However, this time though in his first attempt at three miles, Tommy and Harry were quite brilliant. I have honestly never seen him jump in such a brilliant rhythm and there was never a moment’s doubt.

This win was great not just because it saw a slightly frustrating horse finally put in the sort of performance we hoped he was capable of, but it was also Paul’s 100th success of the season, another milestone that further confirms the consistency of the man at the helm.

The victory at Ludlow presented the perfect scenario as Tommy is owned by yard sponsor Ged Mason, ridden by stable jockey Harry and showcased a horse putting in a career best so the culmination of all three factors made my Ludlow Wednesday the real high point of the week.

Young guns promise plenty for the future

There are two more performances I would like to touch on briefly as regular readers of the blog will know how much I enjoy seeing nice young horses run from the yard. The horses that really caught the eye this week were the juvenile Christopher Wood – now unbeaten in two starts – who created an excellent impression at Newbury, hurdling slickly before powering away late on to book his place to Aintree in April.

The second classy performance of the week from the young guns came courtesy of Mcfabulous, who is a really exceptional athlete and advertised that opinion by making all to win the closing bumper on Saturday. Paul has always held this lad in really high regard and we cannot wait to see him hurdling next year. He may run again this season but Paul will make that decision in the next few weeks when he knows how he came out of that effort.

Back at the yard, a lot of eyes are starting to look quite firmly towards Cheltenham and, in terms of the horse’s preparations, this week ahead of us is as crucial as any. Their final half-speed and piece of work will take place over the next six days as will their final schooling sessions so, while the excitement mounts, it is so important everyone remains extremely focused on the job in hand.

With the big four days almost in touching distance, it is important to remember there is a huge amount of work to be done between now and then, while there is also some big races beforehand with Malaya poised to head up the charge in the Imperial Cup this weekend.

My week, although not nearly as busy as next, has plenty going on with my final Cheltenham preview to go to, while Exeter, Wincanton and Sandown play host to our runners this week.

Cheltenham quiz provides more questions than answers

Of course the biggest task that lay before me ahead of Cheltenham is our annual pre-Cheltenham quiz that takes place in the Manor on the eve of Cheltenham, a night always enjoyed by many and much to my frustration normally won by Paul’s team – not that he’s remotely competitive.

I always enjoyed the quiz when I competed in it and continue to enjoy it now playing the part of the quiz master. I must briefly say a massive thank you to a good mate of mine Rhys Williams who I would not be able to do it without. He writes all the questions, comes up with ideas for the rounds so I just have to read it all out. Rhys is more reliable than Google when it comes to racing knowledge and it is a huge help to me trying to do the quiz.

With that in mind and about 100 other things to do over the next two weeks, my next blog will be posted the Monday after Cheltenham.

I am hoping that I will still have a hangover and we have enjoyed some memorable moments at a week that means so much to all of us. Until we do speak next however I hope that you all enjoy Cheltenham whether you are going or just watching it on television. It is a fabulous week that I feel so, so lucky to play a tiny part in and I try my best every day I am there to appreciate how lucky I am. Oh and before I go, don’t miss a double figure price about Posh Trish.

Go well, Harry

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Stable landmark ensures another great week

Thankfully, it was a very sunny start to the week in Ditcheat, Iʼve just got off my second lot and am now heading to the gallop with Clifford and Grandad so this is very much a blog on the fly.

A late night home from racing followed by watching Rory play the back nine in Mexico scuppered all chances of the blog being written last night. I am however delighted to say it has been another productive week for our horses with lots of winners and excellent runs.

My week was also pretty unusual where a rare trip to London included an appearance on the Luck On Sunday show, thanks to Nick himself who wanted me on there. It was a good but nervy experience and one that in the end I enjoyed after my apprehension at first.

Heading back to the beginning of the week it started off in really quite perfect style with Capitaine winning well and Taunton bringing up Paulʼs overall winners tally to 3000, a truly remarkable achievement.

That winner was always going to be a big deal for Paul, but it was made all the more special being at one of his local tracks in Taunton and having Mr Barber in attendance for the win, a man who has been Paulʼs biggest supporter throughout his career. Capitaine is not the easiest of horses to deal with at home as he has had his fair share of problems so I must say well done to Megan who rides him every day and has done a good job in keeping a lid on him.

Captain earns his stripes at Exeter

She must really love Capitaine as he even lured her to Taunton to lead him up and having Megan there for the picture after the victory made it a great day for Paul and, in all truth, winning that race was a lovely one to get to 3000. My personal highlight of the week arrived on Friday courtesy of Captain Cattistock who, after having had a slightly frustrating stop start-season up until now, showed what a promising young chaser he is winning in determined fashion at Exeter.

The thing about the Captain is he will never be all that impressive as he is slightly lazy when he gets to the front, but he has plenty of ability to go with an excellent technique and in my opinion he will quietly progress in staying novice chases.

Kate, who rides him every day, has done a brilliant job with him as he was not in a great way after his Haydock fall, but along with Paul and Clifford, she has brought him back to winning ways and was rightly very proud of him at Exeter.

We were lucky enough to have four winners over the weekend and the one that stuck out for all the right reasons was Southfield Stone who I felt was given a really excellent ride by Harry to win the Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle. He may not have been on the best horse, but made a decisive race-winning move around the final bend and, with the help of a willing partner, held on late on. Harry is growing in confidence all the time and ahead of Cheltenham that is obviously very good news for us.

Bumper crop continue to excel

While the more experienced, open company horses of the yard continue to run well this year, it was once again hugely satisfying to see all three of our bumper horses run so well this weekend; two of them winning and Golden Gift finding only one too good for him at Chepstow.

Enrilo who won well at Kempton is a beautiful young horse who already jumps very well and looks a great prospect for next season. Big shout outs must go to Natalie, Jana and Lorraine who ride the three bumper horses that ran this weekend and, without patient and accomplished riders, young horses cannot flourish the way you want them to. Hopefully, all three will make up into nice novice hurdlers with a summer behind them.

After racing on Saturday I resembled some sort of lost tourist as I headed into London in the hope I would locate my appointed hotel before my Luck On Sunday debut. Well, I found the hotel without any trouble at all, that however was not the big issue as the nearest car park was more of a mystery and, after half an hour of driving round in a state of countryside confusion, I stumbled across the nearest car park.

The London adventure was not yet over however as a trip on the tube was next in order to get to my destination for dinner. I had been given extensive instructions in order to navigate my way down the central line, but I was not oozing confidence as I headed into Ealing Broadway.

Lucky to spend Sunday watching another master

Luckily I found my way there and back without any drama and was ready for Sunday morning’s fun. After the initial nerves and sweaty palms I enjoyed my time on the show and bagged a croissant afterwards. One thing which is great to witness is watching Nick Luck himself in action.

He is so normal in front of the camera and, having been out of the country for the past two weeks on other work duties, the sheer amount of coffee a man could drink during one show was also impressive.

Having Nick host the show immediately puts you at ease and lets you feel like you are just having a chat which makes things a little more comfortable. The week was then concluded by a trip to Fontwell which was drenched in sunshine and it was lovely to witness Ostuni win nicely for Barry and Anne Fulton having been a bit of a nightmare earlier in the year.

Bryony has done a brilliant job with him as he has been anything but straightforward in his first couple of races, trying to do anything but race sensibly. He is growing up now though and will hopefully start to progress into a nice horse.

Cheltenham is now not a million miles away and, with that in mind, I have my first festival preview this week; they are evenings that always amuse me so I am looking forward to that. Aside from that though I think Monday is the only day I will not be racing so it is looking like another busy one. I very much hope you all have a good week.

Go well, Harry.

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The great eight make it a weekend to remember

I have not really known where to start with this blog, I mean how do you begin to explain what happened on Saturday?

What I can say with confidence is that it was a day I will never forget. With 24 runners heading out from the yard we had lots of excellent chances and waking up early on Saturday morning I was so nervous of what was to come.

The one we were most nervous about without any doubt was Clan Des Obeaux who, having won the King George in such convincing fashion, really needed to win the Denman chase in order to book his place in the Gold Cup. Thankfully, that mission was accomplished in style.

Harry got Clan into a lovely rhythm and the pair of them took it up approaching the last fence before sprinting clear. I know a lot of people questioned him after Kempton, but there has never been any question in Paul’s mind that this is a top class horse and you only have to look at the last jump to see the confidence Harry has in him.

All roads now lead to the Gold Cup and in an open race I would not swap this young improving horse for anything.

Cyrname saunters to explosive Grade 1 success

On Paper, the Grade 1 of the day looked an extremely tough race so to watch Cyrname do what he did to a field of top level horses was almost freakish. He jumped brilliantly, was fast from fence to fence and when he took off after the last Scott and I stood watching in total disbelief.

Demolishing a field of good handicappers on his previous start was impressive enough, but to have the horses he did that far behind him on Saturday was incredible.

Any Grade 1 winner is special, but to have one for the de la Hey family at Ascot was fantastic. As I have said before they are huge supporters of ours and to win a huge race like that at their local track was brilliant.

Elsewhere the day was just madness. I kept thinking that surely our luck was going to run out, but the horses kept performing and we finished Saturday with a 33% strike rate.

From Quel Destin who enhanced his Triumph Hurdle claims in great fashion at Haydock to Magic Saint at Wincanton, who was delivered to perfection by Daryl having jumped well. The last named is a seriously nice horse and I cannot wait to see how he progresses.

Worthy Farm once again showed he is a stayer to keep on the right side of with his win suggesting he might have a little more in the tank, while Silver Forever demonstrated what an exciting future she has in the bumper.

Earlier on the card, Brio Conti looked back to form with his win and there is still plenty to come from him in terms of his fitness so I would like to think he will be very competitive come the Coral Cup in a month’s time.

Team work deserves huge credit

Days like Saturday quite simply could not happen without our staff. From Natalie and Trudie, who lead our team up at Haydock, to Kate and Kev who took our horses to Wincanton and Nutty who travelled to Ascot, everyone deserves so much credit.

While people were going out for their evening meals and normal Saturday evening socialising, our teams were still at the yard putting the horses to bed and ensuring everything was done properly.

Even the guys who stayed at home Saturday headed up by Clifford did amazing work to keep the show on the road while a huge amount of people were at the races. Our first lot went out an hour earlier than normal and, by half twelve, all the horses in work had trained and were back in their boxes.

I think more than anything what I am trying to say is that while racing fans see the horses at the track being lead round, there is a mammoth amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to achieve results like that.

Above anything else on Saturday I was most proud to be part of an organisation that can conduct and implement that type of a day without mishap; everyone pulls together, concentrates on their part of the process and recognises all factors are as important as the next piece of the jigsaw. As a result great things can happen, team work, however cliché it may be, really does make the dream work.

Magnificent milestone on the horizon

Away from Saturday, something I am really excited about is the fact that Paul is now one winner away from training his 3000th winner if you count winners on the flat, overseas and everywhere in between.

It is clearly a huge milestone, but more pressing for Paul is the 49 winners he needs to have trained 3000 jump winners in Great Britain, something I know will mean everything to him and it will be a historic moment.

Consistently performing at the top level is of great importance to Paul and in training 3000 winners he will again show how high he has held his standards for his near 30-year career as a trainer.

Coincidentally, while we are talking about Paul’s stats, the achievement of going through the £2 million prize money barrier on Saturday made it the 17th consecutive season Paul has earned over £2 million in prize money with his horses, yet again highlighting his long-standing level of training and horse care.

As a young man working in his yard, being part of milestones like that is incredibly humbling as you realise the magnitude of his achievements. I am a very lucky man to be doing the job I do and days like Saturday only make me more determined to be part of creating more days like that.

Harry win ensures a Grand day out

Before I conclude this week’s blog I am going to finish on my own personal highlight and, while I was on duty at Ascot Saturday, my favourite moment of the day came closer to home at Wincanton, courtesy of Grand Sancy and Harry Skelton winning the Grade 2 Kingwell hurdle.

Sancy is a wonderfully tough young horse who is owned by an enthusiastic, knowledgeable and kind group of people, but for me the real satisfaction was gained from who was riding him; Harry Skelton.

When I was growing up I obviously spent a lot of time with the Skelton brothers who both worked for Paul for a big part of their lives and both of them were incredibly good to me. When I started schooling at Paul’s, Harry was the best person to ride alongside as he would help me as much as he would himself.

He has now gone on to forge a brilliant career for himself with Dan and, while we are frequently in competition with them, I am always happy to see them succeed.

With Dan having a quieter weekend, Harry came down on Friday morning, rode out three lots looked round with Paul in the afternoon, rode two lots Saturday and then headed off to Wincanton. I have always had nothing but huge respect for both Harry and Dan and to see Harry now winning a graded race on one of our horses when at his absolute strongest was really sweet.

He is one of the best riders in England now, but more importantly you could not meet a better man. Everyone who was working for Paul when Harry was here was absolutely made up to see him and that says more than anything else. Harry is a top class guy and it was cool he got the chance to win on one of our horses once again.

So there we go then, a weekend in my life I will never ever forget; from the winners to a tipsy rendition of Sweet Caroline in the pub this one was very, very special with the only regret that extra bottle of Corona late in proceedings!

Go well, Harry.

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