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Paul Barber

Jump racing lost one of its greatest supporters with the death of my friend and landlord Paul Barber on Sunday morning at the age of 80.

Everyone involved with Team Ditcheat is feeling his loss deeply because day by day he took such an interest in everything that happened in the yard, on the gallops and on the racecourse.
He loved racing with a fierce passion, enjoyed plenty of success at the highest level and is warmly remembered as a man who helped give so many youngsters a decent start in life.
Paul had a massive influence on my career from the day he chose me from a dozen applicants to train at his stables below his farmhouse in Ditcheat. From the moment Paul gave me the keys to his yard and gallops in October 1991 he backed me to the hilt. What began as a business arrangement swiftly developed into a friendship that grew stronger with the years.
He immediately promised to buy me two horses at the next Doncaster sales and generously added that he would delay my first payment of rent for six months to help me .
See More Indians, a big, scopey sort, was the first horse I bought at public auction. As we both liked him Paul said get on and buy him.
It turned out that we struck lucky with See More Indians who was my first really good horse, quickly developed into a classy chaser, and ran up a sequence of wins including the Grade 1 Feltham Chase my first Grade 1 winner and the Jim Ford Chase at Wincanton.
We felt he was heading to the top and it was a tragedy that we lost him that summer in a freak accident while turned out in the cider orchard beside Paul’s home.
It took us a while to get over that day as I think deep down we both felt our chance of winning a Gold Cup had gone forever.
Paul had this long held dream that he would like to milk 1,000 cows and own a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner. I’m so proud that in time I was able to train him two Gold Cup winners, See More Business and Denman and by then, of course, he was milking more than 2,000 cows.
Over the last few years he was milking 3,000 cows and we were trying so hard to come up with a third Gold Cup winner. We hoped Clan Des Obeaux might be the one but he wasn’t suited by Cheltenham and while we had high hopes of the RSA winner Topofthegame he was so hard to keep sound.
Paul Barber was wise beyond his years in the ways and rhythms of the countryside and fearless in his business dealings as he developed and grew the family’s dairy business in Ditcheat.
From the start he took me under his wing and in some ways treated me like one of his sons. I certainly saw him as something of a father figure. He taught me so much about running a business, especially in the early years.
Having him around when I needed advice was a big plus. His benchmark was always pay and be paid. That was just about the best tip Paul ever gave me. He always maintained any decision was better than no decision and warned me about the pitfalls of owning too many horses myself. ” Dont have your hotel full of your own family ” was another!
Another of his favourite sayings was ‘Delegate my boy. Delegate’.
Looking back now I realise how lucky I was to have such an astute businessman at my side to pass on sound advice from the moment I started training.
I’ve been lucky really that I’ve had two dads. Brian, my father, and Paul who have both played equally important roles in my life.
Owning racehorses gave Paul a release from running such a successful business. He loved his horses who were stabled less than a hundred yards from his house and most evenings he would wander down to the yard to see them.
I know he got enormous pleasure from that daily routine and often he would join Clifford Baker and myself as we walked round evening stables.
We enjoyed so many great days together and even when his health was failing over the last six months he insisted on going racing to watch some of his best prospects. I’m so pleased that he was at Sandown on the final day of the season late in April to cheer his multiple winner Knappers Hill to victory the last day he went racing .
Every big day he shared with me, every big winner he shared with me as if it was his own. He deserved all the success he had because he was such a tremendous enthusiast and put so much into racing and life .
My life will not be the same without Paul Barber. I owe him more than I can ever say. Thank you Paul for giving me the chance . RIP

The funeral for Mr Paul Barber will be held at St Mary’s Church, Ditcheat, Somerset on Wednesday 5th July 2023 at 2pm.


Another successful season and another trainers’ championship

We secured our fourteenth trainers’ championship title and recorded a new high regards prize money on Saturday.

At times during the afternoon at Sandown it seemed that we might fall just short of our previous best tally of £3,646,511 set in 2007-08.

But we cracked it in the end in the very last race of the campaign with Samarrive and Iceo earning enough to set a new record by the slender margin of £74. While it wasn’t a massively important thing it was nice to do it having got so close after a season when our horses have been in consistently good form with a strike rate of just under 28%.

I’ve now finished first or second in the trainers’ championship for the past twenty five years and couldn’t have done it without all my loyal owners and the whole-hearted support of Team Ditcheat led by my long-time head lad Clifford Baker who is such a key player.Harry Cobden has been riding at the top of his game all season supported by our other jockeys. We have missed him in a few races just as Manchester City suffer when Erling Haaland is out of action. Harry knows the horses, has a great temperament and rides with so much confidence.The next ambition is to win another trainers’ title which would match the record of Martin Pipe. We will not be that busy over the summer but as usual will move into top gear from the start of October.

I’m pleased to report that Bravemansgame is A1 after going so close in the Punchestown Gold Cup on Wednesday given a confident ride by Harry Cobden and will soon be on holiday in the field in front of my house with with Pic D’OrhyKnappers Hill proved to be our only winner at Sandown with a few of ours under performing after a long season on ground that was a bit softer than ideal. With Harry stood down for the day after his fall with Enrilo in the bet365 Gold Cup Bryony Frost proved an able substitute.I was a little concerned about him getting the trip on the ground so was keen for her to take her time and let Knappers Hill creep into the race late on and she carried out the tactics to perfection.He has won ten of his sixteen races for Paul Barber and Paul Vogt and will be going over fences in the autumn with the Rising Stars Chase at Wincanton a possible target.McFabulous was sensibly pulled up by Lorcan Williams in the Oaksey Chase after suffering an irregular heartbeat. We ran plenty of tests after it happened the previous time at Newbury and need to investigate further to discover what is causing the problem. The good news is that he was right as rain on Sunday morning.

We ended a memorable season with 163 winners and a total of £3,646,585 prize money, almost £1 million more than the runner up Nicky Henderson.Now we are all back to zero. It’s exciting that we have a lovely collection of horses including a nice bunch of young prospects that we have been buying recently. The future looks as bright as ever.


Monday 24th April

We head into the final week of the season in a buoyant mood following the brilliant news that Bravemansgame can now run in the Punchestown Gold Cup on Wednesday.

That became possible once the FCA and BHA approved a deal for his joint owner Bryan Drew to buy the remaining 50% of the horse from John Dance.

I’m really looking forward to seeing Bravemansgame take on Galopin Des Champs again. He seems in great shape and schooled beautifully this morning ridden by Harry Cobden.

Being forced to by-pass Aintree has to be in his favour as he has had an extra twelve days to get over his race in the Gold Cup. He will travel to Ireland this evening accompanied by Shantou Flyer who will be ridden by my daughter Olive in the Hunter Chase at Punchestown.

It’s encouraging that our horses continue in top form after a brilliant two days at Ayr’s Scottish National Meeting, a fixture I always like to target, and a treble on Friday brought up a half century of winners at the track for Team Ditcheat.

In the paddock on Friday our horses looked amazing, big and strong and well as if it was their first race of the season. I’ve been thrilled with the way they have been ever since we changed to Red Mills supplying our feed. They has been a massive plus for us because it obviously suits the way we train.
All three winners at Ayr were ridden by Harry Cobden who has been at the top of his game all season. He has achieved so much given that he is only 24. Harry is full of confidence, a team player, he’s so good for us and I’m very proud of him.
Afadil gave us a perfect start to Friday’s card with a fluent success in a competitive two mile handicap hurdle. We thought he was still nicely handicapped and it’s possible he might run once more in the Swinton Hurdle at Haydock on May 13.
Hugos New Horse then won for the fifth time this season over hurdles. He is tough, keeps improving and handles all sorts of ground. He finishes his races strongly and has a bright future.
Sabrina brought up the treble with an easy victory in a valuable mares’ handicap hurdle. She is versatile and has given her enthusiastic band of owners a lot of fun.
Harry shone again on Saturday with a flawless ride in the Scottish Champion Hurdle on Rubaud who led all the way, jumping slickly, and had enough in reserve to see off the challenge of Colonel Mustard on the flat.
Rubaud is not an easy horse ride as he is keen and hangs to the right but Harry was more than up to the challenge and his positive tactics paid off handsomely.
It was a dream result for the horse’s joint owner Chris Giles who has always wanted to win this race in the country of his birth.
Rubaud has improved so much, is only five, is better right handed and should make a cracking chaser although I will probably start him off next season in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.
Threeunderthrufive ran very well to finish fourth in the Scottish National and Flash Collonges was unlucky to come down at halfway when he was travelling strongly. Harry said that he jumped the fence fine before stumbling on landing.
This week we have a couple of runners at Kempton on Monday and at Perth on Wednesday, then it will be a case of going to Sandown on Saturday with all guns blazing.
We have a total of eighteen entries at Sandown where our horses need to earn arouns £83,000 to beat our previous record total of prize money £3,646,511 set in 2007-08.
We plan to run Beau Balko, Killaloan and Holetown Hero in the £100,000 opening handicap hurdle while McFabulous and Solo are pencilled in for the Oaksey Chase.
Then it is the turn of Greaneteen in the Celebration Chase before we field four in the bet365 Chase… Frodon, Enrilo, Broken Halo and Switch Hitter.
Knappers Hill goes in the Select Hurdle while Cap du Mathan and Quel Destin are set to run in the novice handicap Chase. We are also intend to have two contenders in the final race of the season, depending on the ground, most likely Samarrive and Silent Revolution.
I’m really looking forward to the last day at Sandown and then we will all be back to zero when the new season begins. We already have a lovely team of horses for the future, have also recently bought some nice prospects and will be shopping for more.