Eight winners over the past three days have given me fresh hope of retaining the trainers’ title when the season ends on Saturday at Sandown.
I’m under no illusions that Nicky Henderson continues to hold the upper hand and he is understandably long odds on to be be crowned champion.
But it’s not over until it is over and I’ll be having plenty of runners this week, particularly at Sandown, as I keep trying to eat into his lead which stands at around £180,000 this morning.
Whatever the result Team Ditcheat have enjoyed an amazing season with by far the biggest number of winners we’ve ever had (169 so far) and almost £2,500,000 in prize money, the fifteenth time we have achieved over £2,000,000 in a season. If I could do that every year I would be over the moon.
All we lack is a couple of Grade 1 horses who could have made all the difference.
For the second year running Vicente won the Scottish Grand National at Ayr on Saturday. Twelve months ago his success there was the key result in my winning the trainers’ title for the tenth time after a nail biting duel with Willie Mullins. This time I trail Nicky by a much greater margin. But the sight of Vicente snatching a second triumph in the race had everyone involved here leaping up and down with excitement.
He was given a fantastic ride by Sam Twiston-Davies who continues at the top of his form.
Matt Chapman was talking more nonsense than usual when he suggested during an interview with me afterwards on ITV that Sam might not be riding for me next season. What rubbish. I told him Sam is number one in our top team of jockeys, has been with us for a long time and will be here for a long time in the future. But as we celebrated Vicente’s success there was heartache, too, at the loss of Arpege D’Alene after he broke a hind leg when travelling nicely in the Scottish National. Unfortunately the injury was too serious to save the horse, an attractive grey who stayed very well and had a big future. His death is a big loss to everyone, most notably his four owners including Marianne Barber who liked nothing more each evening than to wander down to the yard to see him in his box.
Vicente has finished for the season. As he seems to be at his best in the spring we will train him for another tilt at the Grand National next April.
While it was frustrating to see Zubayr beaten inches in the Scottish Champion it was a tremendous run that offered hope of more to come next season. He is one I am tempted to run on the flat this summer as he has plenty of speed and stays well.
Our extensive team for Sandown on Saturday includes Southfield Theatre and Just A Par in the bet365 Gold Cup while the star of recent weeks San Benedeto runs in the Celebration Chase. Vibrato Valtat is likely to take part in the Oaksey Chase and Dolos and one other could go for the four year old handicap hurdle. Modus and Old Guard are on course for the Select Hurdle and I could have as many as four in the closing handicap hurdle and two or three in the novice handicap chase.
Yes, I am up against it. But I’m giving it a right go as it is the only way I know. Here’s hoping.