I feel like the last time I wrote a blog was ages ago just because of how much has gone on since I last updated everyone. Happily it was a great festive period for us with two Grade One victories, loads of winners and plenty of horses running super races.
It is hard to talk about all of them and of course there have been a lot of highlights but for me one of the most exciting would have to be Iceo who, under Bryony, put in a scintillating display at Kempton in the juvenile hurdle.
Originally from France when trained by Guillaume Macaire, he was the winner of his only start at Dieppe in August when sprinting clear of his field nicely. His UK debut was incredibly exciting as he jumped great and pulled well clear of his rivals in a fast time while not asked any serious questions by Bryony who was full of praise for him.
It looks as though Chris Giles has another smart horse on his hands.
There was obviously lots of chat before the eagerly-anticipated rematch in the Kauto Star novice chase with Ahoy Senior and Bravemansgame meeting once again for the first time over fences.
It is well known at this stage that Paul thinks the world of Bravemansgame so it was wonderful to see him put in such a dominant performance under Harry, jumping with his usual pin-point accuracy while travelling smoothly.
It appears to me that Harry is learning more about him every time he rides him, explaining at Kempton how he wasn’t sure how well he was travelling during the race but in reality, his mount was just incredibly relaxed and switched off, a great asset for a staying chaser.
The most exciting bit was when Harry asked his mount for more and within the space of a few strides it was all over. He really is the most exciting horse and hopefully he’ll keep progressing.
There were two huge races over the Christmas period we did not win, but the horses we ran all put in excellent performances.
The King George horses Clan Des Obeaux, Saint Calvados and Frodon all ran brave races on ground that, in the end, was a little too soft for them.
To have a 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the King George was a great effort by all of them and hopefully there will be plenty more to come from all three this season.
The day after Kempton on the 27th there were more excellent efforts in the Welsh National without victory in the shape of Highland Hunter and Truckers Lodge who, in attritional conditions, bravely kept galloping and jumping to fill out second and third places giving the Sam Thomas trained winner 9lb and 10lb respectively.
I thought it was testament to the level of fitness of the horses that, in a race with few finishers, Paul’s runners filled out two of the frame positions.
It was also a brilliant result for old friend Stan Sheppard who is having a very well-deserved great season in the saddle.
Since the start of the season, Paul’s target with talented bumper horse Stage Star if he progressed as we hoped had been the Challow Hurdle.
Following two straight forward victories at Chepstow and Newbury in two ordinary novice hurdles he headed to Newbury last week with hopes high that he could take the next step up the ladder into Grade One company.
The softer ground was some concern for us but our worries proved to be without foundation as he travelled easily, jumped superbly and came home the comfortable winner to record his first Grade One success.
I was at Doncaster saddling a couple of winners for the boss on the day but Paul explained to me how the reception Stage Star received was brilliant.
Owners Group is a syndicate that has enjoyed some wonderful success over a number of years and it looks as though they have another star on their hands.
It is fairly obvious to say that every Grade One success is hugely important but this one was an especially significant victory for Paul and all the team as this was the first “home grown” Grade One winner we have enjoyed since starting a new policy five years ago to invest heavily in store horses.
I have talked many times in my blog about the job Will Biddick does with all of Paul’s youngsters and, after loads of Grade Two victories with Will’s graduates, it was very satisfying to saddle one at the highest level.
I am very confident it will not be the last and looking at next year’s bunch I would suggest the future of Paul’s young horses looks exceedingly bright.
Another real highlight of the Christmas period was a great treble at Taunton with Irish Hill, Brave Kingdom and Rainyday Woman winning under an inspired Harry Cobden. That really was a fantastic day.
Elsewhere on the track, we have enjoyed plenty of success and we currently sit on the 97-winner mark for the season so things are going great.
As regular followers of Paul’s yard will know, the first three weeks of January are always very quiet with us giving all the horses their flu jabs and wormers. Paul and Clifford have always done this mid-season and it has served them incredibly well.
It gives us chance to train and race the horses hard up until Christmas with lots of runners and then give them all two weeks off and freshen them up with the idea of them all enjoying busy and prosperous spring campaigns.
This year is no different so for the next few weeks, but for a couple of runners on Saturdays, we will not be busy at the track.
Having undergone an extremely busy run up to Christmas, these next few weeks give us an excellent chance to get all the things done that require attention at home – from bringing horses back from their winter breaks to some maintenance on the gallops, plenty of tasks need completing.
In reality, Ditcheat never really stops even if we are not competing on the course.
Personally, Christmas was lovely. A very relaxed day at my sister’s house with her partner Mark and my parents. Too many pigs in blankets, not nearly enough chocolate and some pic’n’mix from Amy – what could be better.
It is now under four months until my departure from Paul’s so in this new year I am more determined than ever to enjoy every single day as much as I possibly can do.
I have a few New Year’s ambitions personally, but I have also vowed to make the absolute most of every single day left in this fabulous job. Hopefully the horses will continue to perform as well as they are currently.
I hope that you enjoyed your Christmas and enjoy a happy healthy and successful new year. We will speak very soon.