We know all about Paul Nicholls, so I thought we would find out more about the team behind the Champion Trainer…. Here I am in Conversation with Paul’s trusted assistant Harry Derham…..
Hi Harry, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to us at 3 Furlongs Out…..
How long have you been working for Paul?
I started working for Paul in July of 2011, first as an amateur jockey, I then turned conditional for three seasons before deciding to stop riding. I then spent 18 months as a pupil assistant and have been assistant trainer since the 1st May 2016. All my working life I’ve been with Paul and have loved all of it, I consider myself very lucky to work with him.
Can you tell us a little about your role ?
It’s pretty varied in all honesty, most days I like to ride out, it’s good to get a feel for the horses and chat to all of our staff, I think it keeps me in touch with what’s going on and the general mood of the yard. There’s loads to see in the saddle and I love that part of it. In the afternoons in generally depends if I’m going racing, if I am then that’s fairly self explanatory, if not then I’ll look round the horses with either Clifford or David, head lads at each yard and make sure all the gallops are up together with our Gallop man Rob. The nice thing is no one day is the same, there’s lots to keep me busy. I generally start at half past six and finish at half past five.
What is the most enjoyable aspect of your job?
There’s plenty I enjoy from riding out to meeting new people involved in the sport, but for me my favourite part is when a horse achieves what we all believe he can. So often we see horses at home going beautifully and not producing it on the track so when they win nice races it’s so satisfying. Everybody works so hard behind the scenes so when the horses achieve their goals it’s really special.
How did you first get into horse racing?
I was pretty young when I was introduced to it, I guess with Paul being my uncle I was always exposed to the sport from an early age. Grandad taught me to ride at local gymkhanas and pony shows and it really developed from there. I owe my parents and grand parents so much as they sacrificed an awful to give me nice ponies, they were never pushy and let me enjoy the fun of just riding. From the age of about 13 it was only ever going to be racing, I love the sport and everything about it, watching Ruby and Paul win all those wonderful races as I grew up had a big influence on what I wanted to do.
If you didn’t get into Racing, what career would you have chosen?
I guess I would of followed my Dad into insurance, he has by miles been the biggest influence in my life and he made a good career from the insurance business, that seems the logical answer. Happily I’ve never really had to think about that as I’ve been lucky enough to always have a good job in racing.
Do you remember your first winner?
Like it was yesterday, Barneys Mate at Milbourne st Andrew point to point. It was an awful day, it didn’t stop raining and by the time the novice riders race came around I think my family were the only ones still watching. There weren’t many runners and we just hacked round in pretty soft ground so I just tried to focus on jumping round, Barney was a good, safe ride and apart from nearly falling off him at the last we didn’t have a scary moment. That was memorable day and I don’t think I’ll ever really forget it.
When the horse’s return for the season, do they all have set seasonal target’s?
It very much depends on their owners and what type of horse they are, if they’re babies or youngsters then it’s all about getting to know them and seeing how they progress through their training. Of course the horses we know well have their targets, for example this season with Frodon we knew he was very forward and hence planned to really kick on with him trying to make his French chasing experience pay. When plans like his come off it’s very satisfying.
With so many horse’s entered at the Festival, you must be very positive for the teams chance’s?
Going into Cheltenham I don’t let my hopes get too high, instead focus on doing my bit to make sure the horses get there in as perfect condition as we can. It’s obviously a very exciting time and even having one chance at the festival is a massive deal. If the chances we have get there in good health then I’ll be hoping that they come home safe and sound and run to the best of their ability, after that it’s just if they are good enough to win or not. You have be realistic enough at Cheltenham to know horses may run a career best and finish third so it’s a place where you have to be sensible and appreciate how high a level the racing is.
Which of your horse’s has impressed you the most this season?
I think if you sit down and study our stable at the moment then our biggest strength is how many progressive horses we have in our care. Paul always says you never stop learning about horses and you always have to pay attention to what they are telling you. There has been plenty to impress me so far, I love Captain Bucks who is an improving young horse, the admirable Le Prezien has hardly put a foot wrong, while Politilogue has been excellent. For me though El Bandit has impressed me the most, he’s now won seven races for us and just keeps improving. I have a lot of faith in El Bandit’s ability and can see him running a big race in the Pertemps at Cheltenham. It’s cliché I know but seeing him at home I believe he could make into a well above average chaser next season so he’s one very much to keep on the right side of.
If you could have one horse at the stable, who would it be?
I’m guilty of loving far too many of our horses, as we are so lucky to have such a nice group of hoses, if I could own one though I’d probably chose Frodon. What he has done for a five year old is remarkable. He is the winner of five chases already and won over £150,000 so as you can see he’d be an amazing horse to own. More than that though he’s an absolute belter to have around the yard, there’s never a dull day when Frodon is involved, he squeals loudly every morning when he comes out of his stable and creates havoc in strings on a daily basis. Holley who rides him everyday has her hands full and he makes me smile every time I see him. I just love him.
Finally, which 3 horse’s should we look towards for the Festival?
If the ground is nice fair spring ground then Capitaine will give a bold showing in the supreme, he’s high class in the right conditions and I know Andrew who rides him everyday believes we are yet to see the best of him.
The JLT is a race in my opinion that could end up not having too many runners, there are a number of horses with multiple entries and for some of them this race may not be their priority, it is for Politilogue however. He is a solid jumper who looks to have a high cruising speed, a quality that should stand him in good stead come Cheltenham. I don’t think he’s done anything wrong this year and envisage him giving a really smart effort.
The final one of the trio for me is Brio Conti, a novice who is going to run in the conditional jockeys race on last day of the festival. Harry Cobden is going to ride him and having a young man with such experience in the boys race will be a big plus. Brio is an exciting horse with a touch of class and a good depth of stamina. I really like Brio and think he’ll be one of our better chances come March.
We would like to wish Harry, Paul & the team all the best for the Festival & going forward for the rest of the year
Rich Williams – 3 Furlongs Out