The 2014 SEIB Insurance Brokers Racehorse to Riding Horse Championship reached a thrilling conclusion in the International Arena at Horse of the Year Show on Sunday, with the top spot going to Flaygray who put in a foot perfect performance for owner and rider, Faye Hesketh. The runner-up was Claire Oliver and former Nicky Henderson trained, Chouxdamour.
Faye, 28, of Much Hoole, near Preston, Lancashire, has owned the 10 year old grey gelding Flaygray since February, having been persuaded to have a look at him by her partner, Richard Helliwell, a farrier, who shod the horse for his former owner and breeder, Alison Lee. “He had been at home with Alison for 12 months since retiring from racing, and Richard persuaded her that he needed another job so she agreed to let me have him to show”, said a delighted Faye. Flaygray, by Terimon out of I’ll Skin Them (IRE), ran 12 times during his racing career and won twice over hurdles and once in a National Hunt Bumper, trained by ex-national hunt jockey, Chris Grant.
Since arriving with Faye he has shown that he has a future in the showring, winning supreme at the Area NPS shown as a hack, was first in the RoR class at the North of England show, qualifying for Hickstead, won the SEIB HOYS qualifier at Osbaldeston and the RoR at Winsor. “He has not put a foot wrong”, added Faye, who was a previous finalist in the SEIB Racehorse to Riding Horse championship in 2008 riding Animated. “I had looked for another ex-racehorse but had not seen anything I liked. Grazie is such a nice person and very good to do”, she said.
The pair excelled in the international arena and did not put a foot wrong. “He likes indoors, he switches off and enjoys it and is more focussed”, explained Faye, who had asked Danielle Heath for help in preparing for HOYS. “I just wanted him to give a more flowing ride and set him up for the judge to ride”, she explained. “He is amazing, he listens and he is so comfortable. He will make a fabulous Hack. The more he does, the more he thrives, and I have really enjoyed working with him”, said Danielle. “Next year I shall go for open hack classes”, said Faye.
The reserve spot went to Chouxdamour, owned by Willie Reardon and ridden by Claire Oliver. Chouxdamour qualified in the large main arena at Burghley and it was a very different atmosphere to that at HOYS. But the 11 year old chestnut gelding, by Murmure (FR) out of Choucouli (FR), took it all in his stride. “Chouxdamour is a great hunter and has done two seasons with the Ledbury and in Leicestershire with his owner, but he is proving very capable in the show ring”, said Claire, a former winner of the SEIB Racehorse to Riding Horse Championship in 2008 with Another Man.
Chouxdamour was not successful as a racehorse, but his former trainer and former National Hunt Champion Trainer, Nicky Henderson, was at HOYS to witness his success in the show ring. He also trained Jack the Giant, who was 4th in the class with Allister Hood and would have trained 3 out of the 12 but sadly Barber’s Shop was unable compete.
“It is lovely to see them doing this. Whole thing is an enormous success. It is such a pity Barbers Shop did not compete as 3 out of 12 would have been quite something. I must have been a good judge when I bought Chouxdamour, because he was not a lot of money, but he was not a brilliant racehorse, whereas Jack was a very good horse. I don’t think the arena quite suited him, he likes the big open spaces”, said Nicky Henderson. “This is the first time I have been to see them, although I judged the ex-racehorse class in Dublin. There were some really nice horses in there today, and they are very good at [producing them]. I am really impressed with how beautifully mannered they are. I didn’t realise what a high level they have brought them to – this was a very high standard of showing and any one of them could have gone in an open class. I am extremely impressed. I am already spotting horses for next year! Of course they have to be correct and good movers. You have to pick high class horses and then teach them how to go in a show ring. I think this is an excellent thing, and it needs supporting”, Nicky Henderson said.
Third place went to Clare Pool from Westbury-on-Severn, with the bay gelding, Buckingham Boys, called “Lovely” at home. Claire has had the 12 year old for 4 years and got him straight out of racing. He had been in training with Paul Webber under rules, and then went to Claudia and Mark Wilesmith who trained him for point to points, winning his last race in April 2010. He went to Clare in May of that year and they started showing, qualifying for HOYS in SFAS as a hunter and have since taken Reserve Champion at the TARA final at Equifest and competed at Windsor in the ROR showing and the ROR Challenge classes, qualifying for the Hickstead finals. “I am really chuffed with him, it’s been a journey”, said Claire. In March last year, during Cheltenham Festival week, the horse got loose as Clare was leading him in from the field and kicked her in the face, smashing her cheek and eye socket. It was pinned and plated and, just two weeks later, they were out competing again at the Ponies UK Malvern show. “Retraining an ex-racehorse is different from any other horse, it is hard work but it is special”, enthused Clare.
The 12 finalists, who have all been in training and raced in the UK, came before the judges, Jean Walsh and Adele Hanson. Several horses had illustrious racing careers, including Midnight Chase who was placed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Purple Moon who has earned over a million pounds in prize money.
1st Flaygray owned and ridden by Faye Hesketh from Preston, Lancashire
2nd Chouxdamour owned by Willie Reardon and ridden by Claire Oliver from Upleadon, Gloucestershire
3rd Buckingham Boys owned and ridden by Clare Poole from Westbury-on-Severn, Gloucestershire
4th Jack The Giant owned by The Jackpots and ridden by Allister Hood from Diss, Norfolk
5th Astrobrava owned by Rebecca Lowe and ridden by Katie Jerram from Great Dunmow, Essex
6th Valentine Jak owned by Gill Bolt and ridden by Donna Bamonte from Cullompton, Devon
7th Decimate owned by Baileys Horse Feeds and ridden by Lynn Russelll from Dunsfold, Surrey
8th Ingleby Hill owned and ridden by Shelley Heywood from Worksop, Nottinghamshire
9th Midnight Chase owned and ridden by Sally Hayward from Acton Bridge, Cheshire