Hello everyone, I hope you all enjoyed a wonderful festive period and are feeling re-energised for the year ahead.

For us here at Ditcheat, Christmas and the New Year provided a busy couple of weeks for the whole team with the highlight being reaching 100 winners for the season before the 1st of January. The ton of winners was a landmark Paul had his eye on for a while and it was great to achieve it before the turn of the year.

While having dinner the other evening with my closest friends we discussed our highlights of the year just gone by and spoke about our aspirations, aims and predictions for 2017. After an hour or so of chatting I thought it would be fun if I did the same kind of thing for my blog, so I’ve come up with three of my professional highlights from the past year, a year I’m pretty sure has been the best in my life to date.

A Champion effort from Paul and the team

My first highlight was the last day of the season at Sandown when Paul was crowned champion trainer as it was simply an incredible climax to what was a roller-coaster season. The weeks leading up to Sandown were so up and down with the pendulum swinging from one way to another with Mr Mullins often looking likely to come out on top. The atmosphere at Sandown in April was truly amazing and it was a day I’ll never forget. It’s only when I looked back in the summer and really thought about it that I realised the enormity of being the ten times champion. It was a stunning achievement and to play a very small part in a couple of those years made me ridiculously proud.

Ziggy’s Paris heroics a summer highlight

Highlight two happened back in June in Paris and it was a day where PTIT ZIG reigned supreme and dug deeper than imaginable to win the French Champion Hurdle. Ziggy is a wonderful horse who doesn’t have the luxury of bundles of scope, gears to burn or a gorgeous stride, he instead has the heart of a lion and a willingness to give you everything. Many travelled better than him that day, many jumped better than him, but at the death where it really mattered Ptit Zig was quite magnificently the strongest. Winning a Grade One in England isn’t the easiest thing to achieve, so you can imagine how difficult trying to win a French one is. Ziggy has now crossed the channel and done it twice.

To me, Ptit Zig will always be a special horse and he provided us all with a memorable day in France. I will never forget sprinting alongside the track with Andrew Doyle shouting “GO ON ZIGGY” at the top of our voices, it was a truly magical

Ditcheat role one to be treasured

The third and final professional highlight from 2016 is a selfish one so please forgive me. It is, quite simply, becoming assistant trainer. For a 22-year-old guy with a limited set of GSCE’s working in your dream job at an early age is pretty damn cool and something for which I am incredibly grateful. I don’t say this lightly when I say I have a passion for my job and a genuine love for the racehorse as a breed. I get to meet some fascinating people and, since the first of May since I took over from my now close friend Tom Jonason, a day hasn’t gone by where I haven’t learned something new. Whether it is doing the gallops, listening to Paul on how he race plans and enters or learning to work with people in a way that you get the best out of each other.

Life on a daily basis at work presents challenges that I often don’t know the answer to, but I’m learning that if you try your absolute best all the time, listen to those who know better and ask for advice, things suddenly become easier. I love enjoying the honour of calling myself assistant trainer to Paul and hope I can contribute more to the yard over time.

In terms of 2017 and predictions I think it would be foolish of me to making huge statements in terms of what is to come, but I will however give an aim of mine for the coming year and it’s a simple one.

Foggy’s wise words mean so much

It is a piece of advice given to me from Ian Fogg – I could introduce him as director of Ditcheat Thoroughbreds or one of our biggest owners or the funniest man in Ditcheat – but when he gave me this advice he was performing a role he does a brilliantly (as he does with the aforementioned jobs) and that was being a friend of mine.

The advice was this. Life is a gift, one not to be wasted or taken for granted. Don’t pay attention to wealth or status to define someone, focus on them as a person and how they conduct themselves. Get up in the morning, looking forward to what you do and try your best while doing it. Smile and thank people for the simple things. Invest time into people you care about, look forward to the future, never dwell on the past and most of all have fun.

Pretty good advice I thought. So here goes 2017, bring it on . . .