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Andy Stewart

Everyone involved with Team Ditcheat has been hit hard by the death of my close friend Andy Stewart on Friday.

He was a brilliant owner with us for twenty years, a huge supporter of the yard and always generous to the staff whenever he had a winner.
Andy quickly became a good mate and we shared so much success together at the highest level. You couldn’t ask for a more enthusiastic owner and my life will not be the same without him. He was tremendously loyal, had a heart of gold and I was blessed to train for him. He was a great and kind man and we spoke virtually every day for twenty years until he suffered an accident at his holiday home in Barbados six weeks ago.
Andy loved jump racing with a passion and was proud of making his wealth in the City after being expelled from school. That enabled him to get seriously involved as a racehorse owner.
The first horse he sent me was Cenkos who won at Warwick less than a fortnight later in May, 2001. In the two decades that followed we won over 200 races for Andy and his family and over £5 million in prize money.

At one point he had twenty five horses with me and he enjoyed going to Newton Abbot for a Novice Chase every bit as much as having runners at Cheltenham. Quite simply he loved the game .
When we last met for lunch in Brighton at the end of June he was full of enthusiasm as we went through the list of his horses for the current season that he owned with his family. I felt they were as good a group as we had ever put together and it is so sad that he will not now get the chance to see them run.
Celestial Halo was a top hurdler in Andy’s colours, winning the Triumph Hurdle in 2008 before failing by a neck to beat Punjabi in the Champion Hurdle a year later and then finishing runner up in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle. He also won a Grade 2 race at Auteuil at the age of nine.
But Andy will rightly be remembered best for owning the superstar Big Buck’s who landed the Ladbrokes World Hurdle four years in succession. Big Buck’s was so talented that he ran up a sequence of eighteen consecutive wins over hurdles and Andy enjoyed every one of them. He put so much into the sport over the years and it was fitting that he owned such an amazing champion.

Our thoughts are with Judy Mark and Paul . RIP my friend .


Monday 19th July

It was great to see Scaramanga gain an overdue first success on the flat in a valuable Class 2 handicap over two miles and half a furlong at Newbury on Saturday.

He has struggled on soft ground in the past but showed notable improvement in the closing weeks of the jumps season with victories at Newbury and Sandown which saw his hurdles mark rise to 151.
So I felt Scaramanga was bound to be competitive back on the flat at Newbury on a mark of 86. The original plan was to go to take him to Royal Ascot until heavy rain put paid to that.
With my daughter Megan suspended at the weekend he was given a fine ride by Silvestre de Souza, who stepped in when Hayley Turner was caught up in heavy traffic on the way to Newbury.
Silvestre quickly had his mount in the perfect position just behind the leaders and made a decisive, race winning move when he seized the initiative just over two furlongs out.
Scaramanga was soon clear and kept on in determined fashion to hold the late challenge of Rodrigo Diaz by half a length.
This is a horse on a roll now and we could look next at the two mile, five furlong handicap at Goodwood if its not too soon, before an entry in the Cesarewitch at Newmarket.
Further ahead he could be interesting in the autumn in something like the Grade 2 three mile hurdle at Wetherby at the end of October if the ground is decent.
Our small band of summer jumpers has been in sparkling form with twenty one winners so far and if we can add another four by Chepstow’s first meeting early in October I will be delighted.
Most of our core team of jumpers are now back in training after their holidays and with around 130 horses in so far Team Ditcheat is buzzing. Roll on October .


Tuesday 4th May

The superb success of Clan Des Obeaux in the Punchestown Gold Cup showed that he is as at the peak of his powers at the age of nine.

He was brilliant at Aintree but faced tougher opposition on Tuesday and had to dig deeper than he has ever done before to see of the persistent challenge of the dual Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo.
That was the third time I’ve won the race and it was brilliant to watch, fully justifying our decision to sidestep Cheltenham and keep him for a late spring campaign. We’ve learned that he doesn’t like Cheltenham and so he will not be going there again.
I was keen on Punchestown for Clan if the ground stayed decent and told Sam Twiston-Davies to be positive from the start. They were always handy, led from the sixth fence and kept pulling out more during a sustained duel with the runner up in the closing stages. I thought Sam gave him a great ride at a course which plays to his strengths and Clan returned home right as rain, in A1 condition. We probably won’t run him again until the King George V1 at Kempton which he has already won twice. Then it will be on to Newbury, Aintree and Punchestown.
There was a further boost for the yard when David Maxwell rode his own horse Bob and Co to a famous victory in the valuable Champion Hunter Chase at Punchestown on Friday.
I was thrilled for David who puts so much into our sport, is a proper amateur, has had some nasty injuries and came out best in the tightest possible finish against Billaway ridden by Patrick Mullins who is the most professional of amateur jockeys with hundreds of winners to his credit.
David deserves every success that comes his way because he puts so much time and energy into his riding, loves what he does, gets a lot of stick and keeps bouncing back with a smile on his face. I was so proud of him on Bob and Co and shouted them home as if my life depended on the result. It was wonderful to watch.
Friend Or Foe kept up the great form of the yard by providing our first success of the new season with a fluent victory in the Beginners’ Chase at Uttoxeter on Saturday.
We had two more winners at Kempton on Monday but most of our horses are off on their holidays now and we will be quiet as usual over the summer. If we manage twelve winners by the end of September I will be delighted.
Then we will start getting busy again with the focus on Chepstow’s two day meeting early in October.