It was a pretty miserable day weather wise in Ditcheat yesterday. A heavy November fog did not lift all day but I can assure you that did not dampen spirits after an excellent week of action with eight winners from the last seven days racing.
The first port of call however for this week’s blog can only be Paul’s trip to Windsor to collect his OBE from Prince Charles, an event which represented an incredibly special day for him and the whole family.
Those types of things you never really think are going to happen to people you know, in fact it is generally on the news or social media that you see household names or people that have achieved extraordinary things receiving this type of thing.
To me, Paul collecting his OBE was a reminder of what he has achieved in this great sport and how, even if he never trained another winner, he would retire as one of the greatest to ever train racehorses. Everything Paul has achieved he has done because of an unrivalled work ethic and an unrelenting desire to continue to get better.
He strives for something he won’t ever achieve I guess and that is a pursuit of perfection. I really hope this OBE goes some way to him seeing how incredible his career up until now has been. He also tells me he’s just getting started so God knows where he will end up!
I was incredibly proud as his assistant trainer when he received the award and very proud to be part of his family. I know the whole family were absolutely made up to see him get the award and it meant the world to all of us too.
My Grandfather went along to Windsor with him and is still beaming from ear to ear even now. It was a special day for Paul and I am sure one he will never forget. Your entire family won’t either Paul. You made us extremely proud.
Back to the day job then and once again it has been another busy week. Lots of racing and fortunately some good results.
Lorcan and Celestial Force brought up our 60th winner of the season at Taunton on Thursday in the seller before being purchased by some owners for Christian Williams so best of luck to them with him. Cecil is a nice horse who I’m sure will give his new connections some fun.
I will get into all sort of trouble with the Owners Group massive if I do not mention Calva D’Auge and his heroics at Kempton on Monday courtesy of another great ride from Angus who teams up with this horse so very well.
Calva is the most honest and lovely little horse who must have the heart of a lion and it would look as though he has once again improved to win off 144.
Elsewhere there was a nice novice hurdle win for Le Chiffre d’Or at Hereford while Bryony gave Switch Hitter a beautiful ride to win on his chasing debut for Mr and Mrs Hitchens. They went on to enjoy an excellent week.
Switch Hitter is a beautiful horse who Paul has been very patient with and he is really coming good now. He jumped very well and Bryony produced him with a perfectly-timed run going to the last.
The highlight of Tuesday though without question was Milan Bridge who won in the colours of the late Mr Hemmings at Lingfield under a lovely ride from Harry. Milan Bridge joined us this summer and at no stage has done anything flash. He has just quietly come along in his own time and gone about his business in a no fuss kind of way which you would have to admire in a young racehorse.
I have no shame in admitting that the win came as a complete shock to me as he was barely sharp enough to win on hurdling debut but win he did and I think he looked a fairly nice prospect in the process.
For all racing fans you will be aware we then spent a weekend in the Cotswolds, a place that sadly for the last year had not been the most happy of hunting grounds for team Ditcheat. The cross bar has been hit too many times to mention and, before we knew it, we had gone a calendar year without a winner there.
I thought Lalor ran a superb race in defeat in the Paddy Power Gold Cup to be third, storming up the hill late on to display the fire still burns brightly. I was struck by the reception he got as he returned to the enclosures afterwards, he is clearly a popular horse and people obviously enjoyed seeing him competitive again.
Saturday night featured a brief stay with Johnny Burke in his beautiful new home – With the stay earning five stars on trip advisor courtesy of a wonderful dinner from Johnny’s other half, Frankie.
We knew we had held good chances on Sunday’s card, but you can never expect too much at a racecourse where it is so hard to win so to have a treble was very special.
Threeunderthrufive and Adrian got us off to the best possible start in an eventful opening novice chase courtesy of another excellent round of jumping to get his own back on Does He Know in fine style.
Rambo, as he is affectionately known, is a super horse who just gets on with his job and generally wins plenty of races. He has taken to chasing so well and it was fantastic to get a winner for the McNeill family at Cheltenham, a course Max loves.
It was then the turn of the truly evergreen Yala Enki who received a well-judged ride from Bryony to win under a huge weight and show that age is not by any means dulling powers.
Timeforatune brought the curtain down on a brilliant day under a great ride from Harry in the bumper, he looks an exciting staying novice hurdler for the remainder of the season and it is always lovely to have a winner for the Hales family.
I obviously cannot write this blog without mentioning the one and only Politologue who, even though defeated, ran a gallant race to finish second to Nube Negra, who just has the speedier legs on him on good ground. Guey looked to have his trademark enthusiasm there though and jumped from fence to fence with his ears pricked.
Breaking the one-million-pound barrier for a National Hunt horse is no mean feat so it was fantastic he managed to become a racing millionaire on Sunday. My goodness has he given us some fun.
Two more things for you then I will go.
Point one is that One Journey, who I told you about in my previous blog is doing well, she jumped this morning and continues to love it, I coincidently continue to love her.
Point two is this. There has been loads and loads of chat about field sizes, dwindling numbers in races, and subjects of that nature. There is also a reoccurring theme that prize money in England is sometimes not as good as it could be.
Paul and I talk about this a lot and his viewpoint is that there is simply too much racing. You would be hard pressed to disagree. Surely, if there was slightly less racing, there would be more competitive races, more demand for the product and more prize money to go about.
Currently in the sporting world there is too much of everything. The Premier League is virtually all year round now, cricketers never get any time off and nor does anyone in racing.
As a society we are becoming more and more aware of mental fitness and health and in my opinion that can only be a good thing. Conversations about all of those topics are great and they will be helping people on a daily basis.
So would a break or a rest day benefit racing?
I believe the answer is yes as sometimes less really can be more.
That’s my view anyway.