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
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.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org @hannah_lemieux1