Top course designer Bob Ellis has been at Hartpury all week, with long days and short nights.
The grand prix on Friday night was all I hoped it’d be. Several horses just stepping up to this grade coped well with the track technicalities. I aimed for eigh to 10 clears for an exciting jump-off for the crowd and got 11.
I thought Sam Hutton [last to go with Astral] was going to do it, but trying to cross a vertical sharply was a question too far. He was up on the clock and it would have made a great finish. All credit, Mark [Bunting on UB One] won it well.
Re-building the track for novice ponies on Saturday was a big contrast, and out came most technicalities to make it rider-friendly. But we asked different questions with turns to slow them down. Great spectator support created a good atmosphere.
We walked out of the arena at 12 midnight, although Wednesday was the worst, we started at 7am and finished the re-build at 11.30pm. But 409 first rounds plus jump-offs in 14 hours is good going. There was no time wasted in course changes thanks to great team-work.
A drink to wind down at night hasn’t happened — apart from Lemsips! It’s unusual, and I hope it won’t last!
Kelvin [Bywater] puts on a professional event, so different from a normal indoor show. The drapes, flowers and spotlights all add to the sense of theatre and makes the Blue Chip winter championships special. Full-to-capacity seating and full hospitality gallery all makes for a great Gala night atmosphere.
Mind you, changing the course during presentations can be perilous. One horse in the line-up kicked the railings and shot forward straight at us. They were a few nasty smells, I have to admit!
I’ve got a few days at home recovering before I fly out to South Africa to build for the South African president’s Cup. And fingers crossed, the cold will be gone and the whisky will be restored.