Team chas­ing Bices­ter with

The Re­lent­less quar­tet pull off a win­ning round de­spite a few hairy mo­ments, while Team Ride­away II put a string of un­lucky runs be­hind them to fill sec­ond place

Horse & Hound - - On The Cover - By JANE CAR­LEY

Whad­den Chase

A SWASH­BUCK­LING round from Re­lent­less claimed the Skin­ner’s Pet Foods open qualifier over a twist­ing, flat track.

De­spite two speedy runs from their arch-ri­vals — the Team Ride­away squads — Rowan Cope, rid­ing Arthur, led Re­lent­less rapidly through the early fences and thun­dered on through the wa­ter. See­ing a long stride at the first of the switch­backs, the pair crashed through the top of the fence be­fore Dickie Bar­rett and the in­ex­pe­ri­enced Mo mir­rored them — Mo pitch­ing on to his nose af­ter the fence.

Matt Mack­ley had to sit tight aboard Dig­ger at the next but they cracked on, with team debu­tant Ge­orge Hen­der­son keep­ing pace in fourth on Mon­ster. Big leaps at the first hedge ate up the ground and the team sealed their vic­tory with great turns at the tricky 180-de­gree hedges away from the lorry park.

“It was hairy for a minute,” ad­mit­ted Dickie. “Mo tried to go on the same stride as Arthur and I ended up on his neck with no reins or stir­rups. Bless him, he kept straight, which saved me and I had to jump the next be­fore get­ting my stir­rups back.”

Team-mate Ge­orge added: “Matt asked me if I could fill a gap in the team with Mon­ster, who has done hunt rides be­fore. It was great to sit be­hind Rowan and fol­low his lines.”

OPEN RE­TURN

TEAM RIDE­AWAY II fi­nally got on the podium af­ter some un­lucky runs, with He­len Swad­dle and Si­mon giv­ing them a su­perb lead to take sec­ond in the open. They all jumped the cen­tral switch­back of hedges with ease and an­gled two hedges across the corner of the field neatly.

Lind­say Harrison’s Fugly — run­ning in fourth — was un­sighted by the oth­ers head­ing back to the hedge­line close to home be­fore stop­ping. Once she saw her team-mates were safely over the line she pulled up.

“I haven’t rid­den in an open team chase since we won here in 2014,” ex­plained He­len.

“Si­mon sprained a sus­pen­sory and the vets said he’d prob­a­bly do no more than hack, then I had my son, Sid­ney. Of all the team chases to make a come­back, I had to choose one of the big­gest. How­ever, it was great to beat our first team and qual­ify for the na­tional cham­pi­onship.”

Less than two sec­onds sep­a­rated the run­ners-up from Team Ride­away I, with Joe Steven­son lay­ing down the gaunt­let with Slim. Char­lotte Alexan­der and He­len Day kept close or­der with Greg Wright fol­low­ing on be­fore the turn­back from the lorry park ac­counted for him.

He­len, who has bounced back from a cou­ple of crunch­ing falls this sea­son, said: “Joe and Char­lotte go at the per­fect pace for my horse One­four­fun and give such a great lead. He was re­spect­ful of the big hedges, which helped. He’s an ex-race­horse and Bryan Allen, who found him for me, al­ways said he was an open team chaser in the mak­ing.”

‘HE’S A QUICK LEARNER’

WISH­FUL THINKERS TOO put up an­other great per­for­mance for fourth, de­spite los­ing Dom GwynJones at the wa­ter. Si­mon Coady and Sharon Rob­bins kicked on, with Roddy Stan­ning jump­ing the last fence with no stir­rups af­ter Ted climbed the penul­ti­mate — a mas­sive black­thorn.

“We were tightly bunched into

the wa­ter and then Si­mon’s horse jinked so Dom’s just didn’t see it. He did a proper face-plant into the wa­ter and went un­der, so I knew I had to cling on af­ter my horse made a mis­take. But he’s an ex-race­horse and only did his first hunter trial a year ago, so he’s learning quickly,” said Roddy.

Berke­ley Balls went well with just three rid­ers to take fifth — their bold and scopey horses mak­ing noth­ing of the big hedges.

Cun­ning Stunts also pro­vided some en­ter­tain­ment when both Su­san­nah An­drew and Harry McLeod got pinged off as their horses ducked out at the Brazil­ian rails. Harry quickly re­mounted to catch up with Emma Fox and Sarah Coles for an oth­er­wise tidy round — sixth place giv­ing them the sec­ond qual­i­fy­ing slot for the cham­pi­onship.

“I’ve hardly rid­den Beau in three weeks as I in­jured my shoul­der on my other horse at the Ather­stone,” ex­plained Emma. “He was a bit sharp last night so I thought he’d run well, and this is the best we’ve ever jumped round these big hedges.”

Eter­nal Op­ti­mists continued their white­wash in the in­ter­me­di­ate, fin­ish­ing more than one minute ahead of Team Ride­away IV. Af­ter Re­nee Tuck got left be­hind in the cen­tre of the course, Sharon Rob­bins brushed the flags sev­eral times on Still Cove Wa­ter to make the tight­est of turns and give them their fin­ish­ing times.

Rowan Cope (Arthur) leads the Re­lent­less team to vic­tory in the open, de­spite some ‘hairy’ mo­ments

He­len Swad­dle leads from Char­lotte Alexan­der as Team Ride Away II head for sec­ond in the open

Edited by Han­nah Lemieux han­nah.lemieux@timeinc.com

@han­nah_lemieux1

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