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Category Archives: Harry Derham’s Blog

Visit of Her Majesty leaves us all with special memories

I have been dying to tell you all about this past week for ages. The last few weeks have been particularly difficult as I have really wanted to let you in on our secret, but I was not permitted to!

However, now the Royal visit has been completed, I can tell you all about what an absolutely incredible day it was on Thursday when we hosted Her Majesty the Queen at our yard.

The mechanics of the visit began taking shape when Lina, our accounts manager, and Paul were holding secret meetings to plan everything and there has been a huge amount of work gone into in particular from Lina who alongside the palace and police force made the whole thing happen.

The Queen was in Somerset and expressed an interest in coming to Paul’s yard and so the visit was arranged. To be honest, with the busy nature of our work I had not given it much thought up until the day when, as I arrived for work and saw the place teeming with police, I started to realise how much of a huge deal it was. The amount of thought, work and security that goes into the Queen visiting anywhere is massive and I quickly knew this was going to a special day.

We rode out first lot and then the press started to arrive just as second lot was going out. A few radio interviews were conducted before security told us that our special guest would be five minutes so we organised ourselves one last time and awaited her arrival.

Magical meeting a fabulous experience

The next half an hour went so quickly, but it was incredible. The Queen arrived in a huge Bentley and was introduced to Mr and Mrs Barber, Paul’s landlord, before meeting Paul, his mother and father and three daughters.

Immediately after those initial greetings, our second lot came in from exercise and walked in the yard past Paul and our special vistor.

We then paraded Clan Des Obeaux, Cyrname, Frodon, Mcfabulous, Politologue and Topofthegame and that was the part I enjoyed the most.

Watching Paul and the Queen discussing each one of the horses and seeing her interest in them was fascinating and we walked the horses all around the yard, stood them up and then took them individually to meet her.

Now I have lead and ridden Politologue all over the place, but I was so nervous as I pulled him out of his stable to parade for the Queen – “guey” like the others behaved beautifully and gratefully accepted the carrots she fed them.

After the parade, the Queen met some members of the team including our farrier Tom, physio Teresa, Lina, Harry, Bryony, Clifford and me.

What struck me the most was how knowledgeable about the whole industry she was – racing is clearly a big part of her life and it was incredible to have met her, a real once in a lifetime opportunity which I will never forget.

Paul then had a final chat with our guest before she headed off to, as she said: ‘to do some work’. It was a day I will never forget, but the part that will stay most with me was watching the Queen and Paul stood in the middle of our yard just talking horses like they were just two racing fans, that was magic and I know Paul loved it too.

Elsewhere this week we have slightly had a case of seconds, Coup De Pinceau ran a good race at Warwick to finish second, as did Scaramanga and Favorito Bucks at Ascot where they both ran nicely, but found one too good, albeit with Scaramanga not enjoying a huge amount of luck.

I write this blog en route to Ludlow with Brian Carver on Monday morning, but before I headed off I was lucky enough to watch the Aintree chasers school which represented the perfect way to start the week. The horses all seem great and I am looking forward to seeing what they can all do in Liverpool.

It is no Secret the love I have for Seeky

The only thing left to tell you all about is my highlight of the week and for those regular readers it will not take a scientist to work out what that was. For a couple of seasons now Secret Investor has been one of my absolute favourites in the yard.

Although they are not important qualities in a racehorse, ‘Seeky’ is as kind and gentle a horse you would ever come across. He is a big boy and has to overcome plenty of niggles from day-to-day to keep the show on the road, but he is a wonderfully honest horse who made my week when he won at Wincanton.

I thought Harry did a really great job on him as he rode him very positively, got him jumping and, in all truth, never looked like being beaten The manner in which he jumped and galloped home with his ears pricked was brilliant to see. It was great for Kate who looks after him and rides and who kept saying how well he was and that we needed to run him, so a big well done to her.

That’s about it for this week, until next time, go well everyone.


Birds sets sights on Sandown Prey

Monday morning in Ditcheat today is glorious. The sun is out, it is warm, the horses are looking well and we managed to saddle a couple of winners over the weekend.

It is hard to believe we are now not far off the end of the season and, with a dry week forecast, it kind of feels like spring is in the air.

In terms of reflecting on last week there was not a huge amount going on in terms of runners, but of the runners we did have it was nice to have a couple of good results. Birds Of Prey won in cosy fashion at Taunton last Monday in a slowly-run race which would not have suit him at all.

He will now go to Sandown on the last day of the season for a 100k novice handicap hurdle which is a race I believe will suit him well as I can’t help but feel a strongly-run race will much more suitable.

Throughout this week we have obviously been bringing the Cheltenham horses back into work and happily all seems good with them. Unsurprisingly, they have not been undertaking masses of work, but are all back cantering and, with some of them now turning their attention to Aintree, it is important the next couple of weeks go without problems.

The most interesting point of my week came on Thursday when I represented Paul at an event in Manchester for his chief sponsor Morson. I was on a panel with Brian Robson, Ricky Hatton and Mark Cueto which made for a really interesting discussion about their careers in sport and what they have done since.

Each of them have been hugely successful in their disciplines and it was fascinating to compare sports and the challenges that each of them have faced during their lives. I loved the day and was really grateful to Ged Mason whose company is Morson for letting me be part of such a cool event.

The weekend that followed went well with the trip to Kelso made worthwhile courtesy of Kuputana jumping and winning well under an excellent ride from Sean who was so calm on a tricky mare.

David Rochester must also take huge credit for her victory too as he has ridden her since she has been with us and done a great job with her. Kuputana is a talented mare who has not quite put things together up until now, but I have no doubt she has a great engine and if she can continue to put in clear rounds I’m convinced she will win plenty more races.

Harry’s century the week’s highlight

A career best from Saintemilion at Exeter on Sunday made it a really excellent conclusion to the week. He jumped quite brilliantly on his way round for a horse having his second run over fences and stayed on well to win.

The most important part of that win though by some margin was that the victory marked Harry’s 100th winner of the season; a brilliant milestone considering he sat out the vast majority of the summer with a neck injury. Harry has done a great job in his first season as stable jockey and I thought it was fitting he rode his 100th winner on one of Paul’s horses.

Harry partnering his 100th winner and Saintemilion obliging was without doubt the highlight of my week and pretty much made my entire weekend. Once again we have a fairly quiet week ahead with some nice entries to look forward to on Sunday perhaps the pick of which is Scaramanga who steps into his first handicap.

Aintree preparations continue to progress and all being well we will head up to Liverpool next week with some live chances.

Go well,


Fabulous Frodon leaves us on Top of the world

When contemplating the last seven days, I am not too sure where to start. Cheltenham, always the biggest week of our year, comes with so much pressure and expectation that to come away with two Grade 1 winners made it really very special.

Cheltenham week is exhilarating and exhausting in equal measure with the two-hour drive there and back punishing enough every day as well as everything that goes with the week. For all that the weather was not perfect spring-time sunshine, the crowds were huge and I hope that all of you that attended thoroughly enjoyed your days there.

It’s funny, I have been lucky enough to be at the Festival for a number of years now and every time, prior to the first race on each day, I have a beaming smile across my face knowing how lucky I am to be a part of it all.

I will start with the two winners of the week with Topofthegame and Frodon, winning the RSA Chase and the Ryanair respectively.

Topper is a huge horse has always been high-class so, since his run at Christmas, this race has been the only plan. It has not always been plain sailing with Topper and his training schedule has not been without mishap so to get him there in peak conditions was a remarkable training performance. The man who deserves a big mention for his part in this victory is Matt Hampton who rides Topper everyday and has done a brilliant job. You would not think it because of his size, but Topofthegame is a nervous horse and not particularly trusting, but Matt and him have a great relationship and they get on well which keeps Topper relaxed in his work from day to day.

Harry’s game works perfectly

I personally felt it was one of the rides of the Festival from Harry who executed his patient waiting tactics brilliantly and produced him to lead at the last before asking him with his whip just three times. It was a ride of supreme confidence and maturity advertising the fact Harry is right at the top of his game too.

A day later, I witnessed one of the bravest and most amazing wins I think I have seen at Cheltenham with Frodon making just about every yard to win the Ryanair Chase. By this stage if you are a regular reader of the blog you will know all about Frodon, his character, his nature and his bravery. He really is a special horse and it took all of his guts and determination to get the job done. His jumping was simply incredible and, although being hassled the whole way, he never once took his eye off the job.

After the race though it was madness, absolute madness. The noise was deafening for the whole walk back down into the winners’ enclosure with Bryony and Frodon lapping up all the attention. It really was a special moment as he came into the paddock to face a hero’s welcome for a true Cheltenham warrior.

For the Vogts, his quite wonderful owners, Michelle – who I am not sure has stopped crying yet given she looks after him – and Holley who rides him every day, Thursday was a day that will not be forgotten by all of us at team Ditcheat. Frodon really is a lion heart and I love him dearly.

Clan and Guey give their all in defeat

I was immensely proud of Clan in a tough Gold Cup who ran his heart out to be fifth after jumping brilliantly throughout. The Gold Cup is obviously the race that everyone dreams of winning and, while this year that didn’t happen for us, we were still pleased with Clan who gave everything as he kept on bravely even when he was beaten.

Of the other beaten horses there were plenty who did very well. Brio Conti travelled beautifully in the Coral Cup for a long way to finish fourth, Brelan D’as ran a mighty race to be third in the Grand Annual, but the one who made me most proud and was the highlight of my week was Politologue who ran a huge career best when finishing second behind Altior in the Champion Chase.

Altior is obviously a supreme champion and all credit to him, but Guey really made him fight for it up the hill and gave everything in trying to beat him. Although he did not succeed he fought like a champion and deserved his big round of applause he received when he came back to the winners’ enclosure.

The wonderful thing about the Cheltenham crowd is that they appreciate top-class horses and all of them receive a generous welcome be it a winner or placed horse and rightly so as the competition there is so, so tough.

One thing I could not do in this blog was forget to mention our little Malaya who won the Imperial Cup at Sandown a couple of days before Cheltenham and in the process pulling off a good little plan put together by the boss. Malaya, who sometimes can be her own worst enemy, such is her competitive nature, battled hard to win and could head to something like a Scottish Champion Hurdle before go novice chasing next season.

Staff efforts ensure Cheltenham week runs smoothly

While for most, Cheltenham week is an absolute ball, filled with drink, socialising and fun, the week for our team at home and at the races is long and tough. Everyone feels remarkably lucky to be part of it of course, but I must pass on a huge well done to all our staff who made the week run like clockwork.

The horses left every morning at 7am sharp and were not home before 9pm before kit then had to be packed and prepared for the next day. All that hard work needs doing to a high level for Paul to achieve the big results he did.

We of course enjoyed a few beers and a fine rendition of Sweet Caroline, a track which is fast becoming a Ditcheat sound track following our big wins.

In this season, a season where Paul’s horses are running better than ever, it felt almost fitting that Paul roared back to Grade 1 success at the festival; after all he prides himself on his improving young chasers and in the case of his two winners that is exactly what he has.

The yard continues in good form and although we face a fairly quiet week ahead, we are now regrouping and preparing the string for what will hopefully be a successful six weeks until the end of the season.

Go well