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.