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Monday 18th January

With the vast majority of our horses on the easy list after their mid winter flu vaccinatIons it was good to achieve a double at Warwick on Saturday which took our score for the season to 111.

Next Destination kept on stoutly to win the Grade2 Hampton Novices’ Chase before Gold Bullion readily stretched clear of his rivals on his debut in the bumper. Both ran in the colours of Malcolm Denmark who is a big supporter of jump racing.

Given that the track was sharp enough for Next Destination and that he always seems to hit a flat spot in his races I loved the way he stayed on resolutely to see off Fiddlerontheroof who was in receipt of 5lbs.
He is progressing impressively after such a long spell on the sidelines, jumps soundly, has bags of stamina and there is a lot more to come from him. I’ve left plenty to work on with Next Destination who will have entries in the Festival Novice Chase (formerly the RSA) and the NH Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
While I can’t be sure at this stage I suspect he will run in the shorter race and if the ground came up properly testing he would have a good chance. Monkfish looks the one we all have to beat but you should never be afraid of one horse, especially in a Novice Chase.

I expected Gold Bullion to win the bumper at Warwick and although he ran green when the entire field had to change direction sharply soon after turning for home he then took off in a manner that really impressed Harry Cobden. I’ve no firm plans for Gold Bullion who will improve plenty for the experience.

We will be relatively quiet again this week before a busy day on Saturday when Politologue and Duc de Genievres are both intended starters in the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase at Ascot while we are also sending several runners to Taunton including Yala Enki who bids to repeat his success in the marathon Weatherbys Portman Cup.
Although it is soon enough to be turning Yala Enki out again after his brilliant show in the Coral Welsh National he is a hardy character, as tough as nails, and has only been ticking over since Chepstow with one canter a day.

For all the latest news on my Saturday runners please be sure to check out my regular Betfair bulletin which goes live late on Friday afternoon.


Monday 11th January

A timely lift in temperatures helped deliver a fabulous series of results for Team Ditcheat on Saturday.
We enjoyed seven winners spread across three meetings and owe a big thank you to the hard working staff at all three courses who made sure that racing took place despite big doubts in midweek.

Top marks in particular to Libby O’Flaherty and her team at Chepstow who made a huge effort to cover the whole course early in the week as protection against severe frost.

When the horses are fit and well you want them to perform to the best of their ability and in nearly every case that is what happened on Saturday with seven winners from eighteen runners.

With Flemenstide landing the bumper at Exeter on Sunday we are up to 108 winners for the season. If we can maintain the momentum until the end of April then we ought to get close to our best previous total of 171.

Pozo Emery and Storm Arising scored an early double at Chepstow before Yala Enki ran another cracking race in finishing third under top weight in the Coral Welsh National. He is still improving, stays all day and has now been placed in the race three years running.

At Kempton the stylish success of McFabulous in the Relkeel Hurdle was the cornerstone of an impressive treble for the yard. It was a bonus that the race was transferred from Cheltenham on New Year’s Day when the then deep ground might not have been in his favour.
Harry Cobden came in for some criticism from Mick Fitzgerald among others for going wide for much of the race but he was following my instructions to find plenty of daylight before edging over to the favoured stands rails in the finishing straight.
The obvious target now for McFabulous is the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle in April because I am not convinced I want to take him to Cheltenham for a hard race in the Stayers Hurdle against Thyme White and Paisley Park who both finished in front of him at Newbury.
McFabulous is top class and will be such an exciting chaser next season when I could see him taking part in the Kauto Star Chase over three miles at the track on Boxing Day.

Barbados Buck’s, who is much improved, struck first at Kempton with a clear cut victory in the Class 3 Novice Hurdle despite carrying a double penalty. The plan is to take him straight to Cheltenham for the Albert Bartlett Hurdle.

It was the turn of Master Tommytucker to shine in the Grade 2 Silviniaco Conti Chase over two and a half miles. He jumped great apart from an error at the last fence which he did well to survive. I did suggest to Harry afterwards that I saw a better stride than him going to that fence!
Master Tommytucker is obviously very talented but he has been a challenge from the start and is still lightly raced at the age of ten. He is suited by flat tracks like Kempton and while he will have an entry in the Gold Cup and Ryanair Chase all options are open and I feel he could be awesome in the Grade 1 Chase over two and a half miles at Aintree.

A double by Flash Collonges and Capeland at Wincanton completed a memorable day for Team Ditcheat and congratulations to Capeland’s jockey Daryl Jacob for riding his first five timer.

It’s exciting to have so many lovely young horses coming through the system. Barbados Buck’s, Pozo Emery, Flash Collonges and Storm Arising will all be going chasing next season and we have a particularly smart group of bumper horses to go hurdling in the autumn.

Most of those who ran on Saturday will be on the easy list after their mid winter flu vaccinations today (Monday) but I will probably keep Yala Enki for Taunton’s valuable staying Chase later this month before he gets his jab.
With most of our horses having had their vaccinations a week ago we will be a little quieter over the next two or three weeks. Runners of interest at Warwick at the weekend include Sending Love in the Grade 2 Novice Hurdle and and Next Destination in the Grade 2 Novice Chase.

For the latest news on my runners on Saturday please check out my Betfair column which goes live late on Friday afternoon.


Monday 4th January

The victory of Bravemansgame in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle at Newbury last Tuesday was the highlight of a week when we reached a century of winners for the season on the last day of 2020.

It was a bit too tight for comfort though, with Shearer the one to to take us to three figures at Warwick in the final NH race to be staged in this country on New Year’s Eve.

That is the second fastest century we have ever achieved and comes despite nine weeks of racing being lost at the start of the campaign because of COVID-19 restrictions.

The fact that the horses have been in superb form since the second week in October reflects so well on the many individuals who form Team Ditcheat. Our system is tried and trusted and they all play a part as we continually try to improve things.

I think the world of Bravemansgame, who jumps for fun, won easily, and looks better the further he goes. The plan is to take him straight to the Cheltenham Festival for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
Denman also won the Challow, when it was run at Cheltenham, but my comments comparing the two horses were rather taken out of context in reports that appeared the following day.
What I actually said was that it would be great if Bravemansgame turned out to be as good as Denman who was a superstar. I think that the ratings of the two horses after the Challow may support my view that Bravemansgame is every bit as good at this stage of his career. Bravemansgame is now 150, Denman was 152 after he won the Challow! Now he has to continue to progress and fulfil the promise he shows at the moment.

Earlier at Newbury on Tuesday our recent French three year old recruit Good Ball initiated a treble for the yard with a spectacular winning debut in a decent maiden hurdle. He is a big horse already with bags of scope, looks every inch a chaser and after taking a blow two out finished full of running.
It is not normally my style to run newcomers so quickly after they arrive but Good Ball had been pleasing at home and could be anything given a bit of time.

Today (Monday) we will be giving 75% of our string of horses their usual mid winter flu jabs. That leaves about thirty horses to run over the next couple of weeks before they too are innoculated.

So we have a big weekend ahead with runners at Kempton, Chepstow and Wincanton on Saturday. Full marks to the BHA and the Chepstow executive for re-arranging the Coral Welsh Grand National meeting for Saturday. That is good news for Yala Enki and Truckers Lodge who both ran so well in the National a year ago.

Our runners at Kempton will include McFabulous in the Relkeel Hurdle which was transferred from Cheltenham when their card on New Year’s Day also fell foul of the weather. That is a definitely a bonus for our horse who is at his best on decent ground, while our team at Wincanton will include the exciting five year old Hitman in the re-scheduled Grade 2 Paddy Power Dipper Novices’ Chase.

For all the latest news on my Saturday runners please be sure to check out my Betfair column which goes live late on Friday afternoon.