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Monday 25th April

We ended the season on an incredible high by winning five of the seven races at Sandown on Saturday.

It was a brilliant way to conclude a tough campaign and even better that so many of my family and friends were there to enjoy the celebrations which began when I received the trophy for the trainers’ championship for the thirteenth time.
With the horses in sparkling form over the previous week we were hopeful of a rewarding afternoon with a number of good chances.
Knappers Hill was the first to strike in the opening handicap hurdle, Saint Calvados then hacked up in the Oaksey Chase before Greaneteen landed the Grade 1 Celebration Chase for the second successive year.
Enrilo then ran a bit flat in the bet365 Gold Cup before victories by McFabulous and Samarrive completed a day we will never forget.
It was a terrific afternoon, too, for Harry Cobden who rode all our winners except McFabulous and ended with a score of 99 despite missing the first part of the season through injury.
Harry is such a key part of our team, rides with a natural confidence and has already achieved a great deal for one so young and I am very proud of him.
My thanks to everyone involved with Team Ditcheat who have all played their part in securing another championship. We ended up with 143 winners and £2.94 million in prize money and if you add Frodon’s brilliant triumph in the Grade 1 Chase at Down Royal the true total is in excess of £3 million.
That is quite an achievement when you consider a number of our horses have been a bit in and out of form since the turn of the year.
Given the dry spell in recent weeks Sandown did a fantastic job in providing perfect ground that was just on the easy side of good.
Knappers Hill arrived in great order after qualifying for the valuable novice championship final a week earlier at Newton Abbot. He readily defied top weight, has so much ability and I’m sure there is more to come from him.
It was marvellous to see the pride of his part owner Paul Barber as he held his trophy afterwards. I would not have achieved any of my thirteen championships without the support of this wonderful man who gave me a chance back in 1991 and has backed me to the hilt ever since. To train him a winner on the final day was very special.
I was delighted to see Saint Calvados gain a stylish victory from the front. I don’t think we’ve had him quite right this season and we are still learning about him. He galloped all the way to the line, will stay three miles and I’m hopeful we can get him
fitter next season. The Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby could be a suitable starting point for him.
The dominant success of Greaneteen was really pleasing after a disappointing run at Leopardstown. Afterwards he spent three weeks at the vets with an issue in his eye which was diagnosed as an ulcer.
While he responded well to treatment, and it was clear it didn’t affect him at Sandown, he will have a little operation today (Monday) to remove the ulcer.
Greaneteen loved the better ground on Saturday, goes an end to end gallop, jumps well and stayed on strongly up the final hill. He is very smart on his day, probably hasn’t had the recognition he deserves, and will be back to defend his crown in the Tingle Creek towards the end of the year.
On his last run over hurdles McFabulous was very impressive in winning the Grade 2 Select Hurdle ridden by Lorcan Williams who has made great strides this season. McFabulous needs good ground, is more effective going right-handed and is a very exciting prospect for fences next season.
Samarrive has progressed nicely with experience, enjoyed the step up in trip to two and a half mile in the closing handicap hurdle and has a bright future and will now go novice chasing .
Most of our horses and staff will soon be off on holiday but we will be ready to go again in the autumn with the focus as usual on Chepstow’s two day meeting early in October.
Once you win the Premier League you want to do it year after year and we will be trying our best as always.
It will be a case of everyone working hard, maintaining standards and not cutting corners to ensure the results year in year out. You have to do things properly, something that Clifford Baker and I insist on at all times.
The difference this weekend is that we are saying goodbye to my nephew Harry Derham, my trusted assistant, and to Kate Nutt our reliable travelling head girl. We wish them every success in the future and gave them a big send off on Sunday at our end of season party.
They have both worked so hard to help us stay at the top of the trainers’ table but are now heading off seeking pastures new. Charlie Davis has earned the right to step up to replace Harry while Julia Batho who previously worked for Philip Hobbs, will take over from Kate and will be assisted by Flo Willis .
In addition Conor Houlihan is moving seamlessly into Charlie’s role and another of our excellent assistants Natalie Parker will play a bigger part in a variety of ways including helping me with race planning. I should also mention David Rochester who does a brilliant job in charge of the yard at Highbridge.
We are not quite finished yet because Clan Des Obeaux heads to Ireland on Wednesday bidding to repeat his stunning success in last year’s Punchestown Gold Cup. He will again be wearing the blinkers that helped him achieve a fine victory at Aintree. Roll on October!!

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Monday 18th April

Knappers Hill booked his ticket for the last day of the season at Sandown with a ready success at Newton Abbot on Easter Saturday.

He needed to finish in the first four to qualify for the final of the £100,000 Novice Championship Handicap Hurdle next weekend and did so in style with his joint owners Paul Barber and Paul Vogt present to see him win.
Its a race we won in 2019 with Getaway Trump and Knappers Hill deserves another shot at a big prize after his fine run into sixth place in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury in February.
It’s great to be heading to Sandown on Saturday with my 13th trainers’ championship virtually sealed. Full marks to every single member of Team Ditcheat who has played their part in making it possible.
They have worked so hard through all types of weather over the winter and with a number of our horses not running up to form since the turn of the year the last three and a half months have not been easy.
But we enjoyed a brilliant time at Aintree and since then have been able to coast towards the finishing line without the need to chase winners all around the country.
Enrilo returns to Sandown on Saturday seeking to gain compensation for his luckless defeat in the bet365 Gold Cup a year ago. He was clearly the best horse on the day, before being demoted, and good ground will again be in his favour.

Greaneteen and Rouge Vif are both intended runners in the Celebration Chase, McFabulous is set to start in the Grade 2 Select Hurdle and the plan is to run Scaramanga in the same race
For the latest news on all my runners on Saturday please do check out my Betfair column which goes live late on Friday afternoon.

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Monday 11th April

Clan Des Obeaux was the star of the show for Team Ditcheat at Aintree where I ending up as leading trainer at the three day meeting.

With Gelino Bello and Hacker Des Places also in the winners’ enclosure and several more running fine races including Hitman, Monmiral, McFabulous and Cat Tiger we enjoyed a rewarding time at a course where so many of our owners enjoy having runners.
Clan has had some tough battles over the years and you just wonder if they might have left a mark. He ran below par at Newbury, just like last year, and we hoped blinkers first time would make a difference. They certainly did as he bounced back in style to land the Grade 1 Betway Bowl for the second year running. He usually comes right at this time of year, cruised into the lead early in the straight and was always holding the challenge of Conflated. It was a stronger renewal this year round a track he loves and I’d say this was one of his best victories. The plan is to defend his title in the Punchestown Gold Cup.
Monmiral and McFabulous chased home Epatante in the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle and will both be going chasing next season. Monmiral has had a difficult campaign since picking up a nasty injury in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle and it was really pleasing to see him finish a creditable runner up.
Cat Tiger also shone in going down narrowly in a tight finish to the Foxhunters on Thursday.
The next day I was thrilled with the run of Hitman into second place behind the favourite Fakir D’Oudairies in the Grade 1 Marsh Chase. I’ve always held him in high regard but he is still a bit weak, a work in progress and has needed time. He will definitely be stepping up in trip next season.
Bravemansgame was undeniably disappointing in the Grand 1 Mildmay Novice Chase at the end of a long season. Very keen on the way to post and in the race, he was beaten turning for home.
That was obviously not his running and in a funny way we might have left our race at Cheltenham by not letting him take his chance there. I’ve no doubt he will be fine next season when the King George at Kempton will be his first big target.
We side-stepped Cheltenham with Gelino Bello to keep him fresh for the Grade 1 Sefton Novice Hurdle which he won decisively by four and a half lengths. He is another exciting prospect for fences and will get better as he gets stronger.
Hacker Des Places then completed a great day for us on Friday by landing the closing handicap hurdle in the colours of the Owners Group.
With results in other races at Liverpool going my way I’m £270,000 in front in the trainers’ championship as we enter the final two weeks of the season.
It’s a huge advantage at this late stage and while mathematically anything is possible, Nicky Henderson conceded on Sunday and we can be a bit more relaxed and selective about what we run during the countdown to Sandown on Saturday week.
It has been a monumental effort by everyone involved with Team Ditcheat to get us to this position considering our squad of horses.
With a number of ours not performing as we would have liked since Christmas it has has been a notably challenging last three months and at times I’ve been tearing my hair out. Yet others have been awesome including the fresh ones we took to Aintree.
For the latest news on my runners this Saturday please do check out my Betfair column which goes live late Friday afternoon.

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