The champion trainer goes into the 2019-20 season with his biggest ever team of horses and here he leads us through his five to follow, dark horses and young guns for the racing to come...
"What we have now is a great team at home with bags of experience, top facilities, a bunch of lovely horses, and lots of promising youngsters so the future looks bright if we can get the best out of them for a very supportive and enthusiastic group of owners."
Quiet summer as we build to Chepstow
Most of our horses came back into training in mid-July but it will be another few weeks before we start to be busy on the racecourse. There is no rush in September with the ground so fast everywhere. A year ago, we had just eight winners by the start of October and then the floodgates opened.
I wasn't confident of winning another championship. In fact, I was totally negative about it with Nicky Henderson long odds-on to top the table.
But we had an unbelievable season with loads of memorable days and big winners including a 10th King George VI Chase which all took me to an 11th trainers' title with prize money in excess of £3.3 million. Along the way I passed a landmark total of 3,000 National Hunt winners in this country and yes, I have already raised my sights to the figure of 4,000.
Once again, we have been quiet over the summer with ten winners from 29 runners. The key starting point for Team Ditcheat as usual is Chepstow's first jumps card which is held on October 11 and 12. If the rain comes we will have plenty of nice horses to run there and given how they are shaping at home I can't wait to get going again.
Our biggest ever team at nearly 200 horses
We start this campaign with 190 horses on the books, the biggest team we have ever had. That wasn't planned. It just happened as we bought lots of youngsters at the sales and were then sent a fair few more. We have built 11 more boxes and installed another horse walker as we expand a little bit. It is all part of improving the team and keeping competitive. Another championship is not the focus, though I will not be complaining if it happens! That is not the reason I am training horses even if I do love winning big races.
Yes, we are in a stronger position this time round, but you only need a few things to go wrong and it all changes.
We have been working flat out over the past few years to improve the quality of the horses and bring on new stars.
What we have now is a great team at home with bags of experience, top facilities, a bunch of lovely horses, and lots of promising youngsters so the future looks bright if we can get the best out of them for a very supportive and enthusiastic group of owners.
It's really encouraging that our flagbearers last season including Cyrname, Clan Des Obeaux, Frodon, Dynamite Dollars and Getaway Trump all have time on their side and should progress again. One superb veteran Pacha Du Polder has been retired but we have a decent bunch of regulars to go hunter chasing this season, over forty novice hurdlers and a tremendous squad of potentially smart types switching to fences.
On paper I'd say we have the strongest team of horses since the days of Kauto Star and Denman and there is an undeniably upbeat mood in the yard every morning. Harry Cobden and Bryony Frost excelled in the saddle for us last season and they will again be supported by Lorcan Williams and Bryan Carver who is now a conditional. In addition, Harry Skelton, Sam Twiston-Davies, Sean Bowen and Brendan Powell all come in to ride out at Ditcheat so I will be supporting them when I can.
The time for waiting is almost over. Let's get it on.
Five stable stars to follow...
Clan Des Obeaux - "stronger than ever"
We needed some new stars last season and he certainly stepped up to the mark, winning the King George VI Chase at Kempton and dotting up in the Denman Chase before running with great credit on rain softened ground in the Gold Cup and the Betway Bowl.
He looks stronger than ever and is arguably more effective going right handed so will possibly head to Down Royal for the Grade 1 Kauto Star Chase on November 2 before attempting to defend his crown in the King George. He will also have an entry in the Betfair Chase.
Cyrname - "is more relaxed now"
He was another flagbearer for the yard and did so brilliantly that he ended up with the lofty official rating of 176. Our decision to change Cyrname's training routine paid rich dividends as he went on to win a competitive handicap at Ascot by twenty one lengths off 150 before an amazing solo effort to land the Grade 1 Ascot Chase by seventeen lengths. Cyrname used to be far too impatient but thankfully he is more relaxed now. He is set to return to Ascot for the Christy 1965 Chase before a crack at the King George VI Chase at Kempton.
Getaway Trump - "made giant strides"
He made giant strides last winter and surprised me by his relentless progress over hurdles which saw him finish the campaign in tremendous style with victories at Ayr and Sandown which earned him a mark of 155.
Getaway Trump won an Irish point from three starts before we bought him and was always going to be a chaser. He is stronger now, a proper horse and has always been a fluent jumper so I am excited at the prospect of seeing him over fences.
Posh Trish - "has never let me down"
I've loved her from the day she walked into the yard and she has never let me down. Posh Trish won four times over hurdles last winter before finding the ground too quick for her liking at the Festival.
Her aggressive, front running tactics and slick jumping make her hard to beat and given the smart nature of her schooling I expect more of the same over fences. She may run at Chepstow before heading to Wincanton.
McFabulous - "can take high rank as a novice"
Has always shown a touch of class in his work at home and fulfilled our expectations with a cracking first campaign by winning three of his four bumpers including the Grade 2 Weatherbys Racing Bank Open race at Aintree.
A resolute galloper, McFabulous has taken to schooling like a natural and I am hopeful that he can take high rank as a novice.
Three dark horses from the yard...
Cap Du Mathan - "bags of promise"
Showed bags of promise in two races at Auteuil as a three year old, finishing fourth on his debut before keeping on strongly to be second in November to Auverne who later franked the form at Chepstow. I am looking forward to seeing Cap Du Mathan in action this season. He has summered well and looks progressive.
Pic D'Orhy - "top class juvenile"
He was a top class juvenile in France last season, winning three times for Francois Nicolle and finishing second in the Grand Course de Haies. He then joined us at the end of January and it was a bit of a rush to get him to Cheltenham for the Triumph Hurdle when he faded late on so I would put a line through that run.
Pic D'Orhy has summered particularly well and looks a picture though we haven't yet decided if he goes chasing or stays over hurdles.
Ecco - "can hopefully kick on"
Took time to get over a gelding operation shortly after he joined us from Germany last autumn. So we had to be patient with him and rather threw him in at the deep end in the spring, first at Kempton and then in the Triumph Hurdle where he was far from disgraced in finishing sixth, only twelve lengths behind the winner Pentland Hills. Ecco has done well over the summer and can hopefully kick on this season.
Three young guns to keep your eyes on...
Bravemansgame - "can't wait to see him"
He is a lovely, scopey prospect who earned a high rating after an impressive debut for Donnachadh Doyle in a 4yo Irish point-to-point at Lingstown. He won easily that day and powered clear, overcoming obvious signs of greenness and one serious mistake. We were delighted to buy him at Cheltenham's Festival sale and can't wait to see him in action.
Fidelio Vallis - "looks a nice prospect"
He was bought in the spring from France and will be running in the colours of John Hales and his daughter Lisa. Fidelio Vallis jumped really nicely on his only start over hurdles at Auteuil, staying on pleasingly in the closing stages. He has settled into our training routine and looks a nice prospect.
Thyme White - "size and scope to make his mark"
He is another recruit from France where he won on the flat before joining us in the summer. He has since been gelded and has the size and scope to make his mark in juvenile hurdles as he adapts to our training routine.