Betfair Ambassador Paul Nicholls reflects on a brilliant season for Team Ditcheat that resulted in him being crowned champion trainer for a remarkable 11th time...
"As it turned out we have had a fantastic season, one that probably ranks as the finest achievement by Team Ditcheat."
Impressive victories by Getaway Trump and Black Corton provided the icing on the cake on Saturday at Sandown where I was crowned champion trainer for the 11th time on the final afternoon of an amazing season.
To end up on top with well over £3.3 million in prize money was quite something when you think that we had only eight winners at the start of October.
At that stage I thought we had no possible chance in the championship because while we were still rebuilding I felt Nicky Henderson had an awesome team of horses. I meant it when I said I was not really thinking about the title because I honestly didn't think I could win.
Nicky was long odds-on to retain the title and at the end of September the name of Nicholls didn't even feature in the standings for the top 20 trainers.
3,000th winner was the main target
When you are not the reigning champion people tend to think that your stable is a bit quiet, that things are not the same as before.
We are always positive and set out as usual to try to do the best we could with the horses in the yard with the main target being to reach the landmark of 3,000 winners over jumps which we did a few weeks ago.
As it turned out we have had a fantastic season, one that probably ranks as the finest achievement by Team Ditcheat.
A lot of our nicer prospects have raised their game, we have won plenty of top races and consistently enjoyed winners across the board. In a way we are back to where we used to be after two or three years of rebuilding while we were lacking Grade 1 horses.
So I'm proud of my record of finishing first or second in the trainers' championship for the last 20 years.
King George win was the best of my Clan
Team Ditcheat has enjoyed so many brilliant days over the last seven months with a number of horses proving to be stars at Grade 1 level. They have made the difference because they carry the rest along with them.
My personal favourite was seeing Clan Des Obeaux justifying my faith in him with a stylish success in the King George V1 Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
That was my 10th triumph in the race and it felt all the better because he runs in the colours of three of my most loyal supporters...Paul Barber, Ged Mason and Sir Alex Ferguson.
Another notable flagbearer was Frodon, a magic little horse who has forged a brilliant partnership with Bryony Frost. Watching them battling to victory in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham was one of the highlights of the season.
Frodon has already achieved so much it is hard to believe he is only seven.
Topofthegame was another to shine at Cheltenham in the RSA Chase and it's fair to say neither he nor Clan Des Obeaux were at their best at Aintree after hard races at the Festival.
Cyrname made such giant strides he is now the top rated chaser in training with a mark of 178. He was unbelievably impressive in beating Waiting Patiently by 17 lengths in the Betfair Ascot Chase in February and will be heading back to that racecourse in November for the Christy 1965 Chase where he could well clash with Altior. That is a confrontation to set the pulse racing.
A great season for my team of jockeys
Other highlights of the season include eight winners on a Saturday in February shortly after all racing was cancelled by the BHA because of the equine flu crisis. I was in bits when Newbury's Betfair meeting was lost and can remember the immense feeling of relief when the decision was taken to resume in time for Ascot to go ahead.
Everyone involved with Team Ditcheat has played a part and I was thrilled to see Harry Cobden reach 100 winners after missing several months in the summer with a serious neck injury. He is only 20, very good already and is bound to improve with more experience.
Bryony was in the wars, too, in the summer but bounced back to become champion conditional with 50 winners. She is a rare talent while Lorcan Williams also had a rewarding campaign.
Squeezed between Cheltenham and Ascot we also had the honour of a visit by the Queen who has a great passion for racing and relished seeing a number of our horses that have been making the headlines
A quiet summer in store but we'll be ready for Chepstow
Now the challenge is to carry all the good work forward into the new campaign. Our focus, as usual, is to hit the ground running early in October in time for the first jumps meeting at Chepstow. Before that we will probably be as quiet as we have ever been over the summer.
You have to keep moving forward and I'm sure our team will be even stronger this time round because we have a classy group of older horses, an exciting bunch of novice chasers, and a really smart collection of bumper horses ready to start over hurdles.
See you all at Chepstow.