RoR Awards Celebrates Successful Careers of Retrained Racehorses

13-year-old retrained racehorse Liverpool was revealed as The Jockey Club RoR Horse of the Year Champion at the RoR Awards Ceremony held in Newmarket (Monday 16th November). The RoR Awards night, which was hosted by guest presenter and RoR Patron Clare Balding, recognises the achievements of former racehorses adapting and excelling in their new careers with the presentation of prizes totalling £17,500 to each of the 2015 RoR Elite Series’ Champions in dressage, showjumping, showing, eventing, polo and endurance.

Winning The Jockey Club RoR Horse of the Year Champion Award was a genuine surprise to Liverpool’s owner Susan Mason and her daughter Joanna.  The perpetual RoR Horse of the Year Champion’s Trophy, as well as VIP tickets to the opening day of 2016 Cheltenham Festival were presented by Stephen Wallis, Group Director of International and Racing Relations for The Jockey Club, the sponsors of this prestigious RoR award to Susan and Joanna Mason. 

RoR Chief Executive, Di Arbuthnot said; “We chose to recognise Liverpool as this talented horse is a great all-rounder in hunting, showing, jumping and side-saddle. He epitomises the adaptability and versatility of so many retrained racehorses in their new careers.”

Liverpool was trained under rules by Joanna’s Grandfather renowned racehorse trainer Mick Easterby and won two point to points and had numerous places before retiring to the hunting field with Ian Mason, Joanne’s father, in 2010. Joanna, an amateur jockey who rides in point to points and amateur races under rules, has also been showing for two seasons with Liverpool during the summer months. Joanna and Liverpool have enjoyed success in several of the RoR Series of competitions including the RoR Hunting Series final and the RoR Elite Series finals at both Hickstead and Windsor. 

In March, 25-year-old Joanna crushed and fractured vertebrae in a fall in a Point to Point, she has made a remarkable recovery to return to competition, both race riding and showing. It was whilst she was recovering from her operation, that she had the idea of trying side-saddle with Liverpool.

Joanna was back out competing on Liverpool and they entered their first side-saddle class, a HOYS qualifier, at the Great Yorkshire Show (12 July), where they came fourth.  A month later, Liverpool competed at the RoR National Championship Show at Aintree International Equestrian Centre (29 August), where they won RoR/TARRA Ridden Qualifier class and finished third in the side-saddle class. Joanna won the amateur rider’s race on her grandfathers horse Felix De Vega the previous evening riding at Redcar (28 August).

The RoR Elite Dressage Champion was won by 7-year-old bay gelding Green Warrior and owner Linda Davis from Durham. Green Warrior ran a total of 28 races on the flat and was trained by Richard Guest and latterly by Ann Duffield. Linda, a British Horse Society Instructor has been retraining with ‘Sam’ at her livery yard in Durham since 2013 and they began by competing in unaffiliated competitions in dressage and jumping. In 2015, he has enjoyed a terrific season with British Dressage gaining a total of 104 points to win the RoR Elite Dressage Championship. Success this season has included 2nd places in the Prelim and Novice classes and a 1st place in the Elementary class at Dressage UK’s Winter Championships.  They also competed at the RoR Racehorses to Riding Dressage Championship Finals finishing in 2nd place in the Novice and 6th in the Elementary classes.  Linda said; “Sam is like a small pony on long legs, he is very short, fitting in 5’9 rugs but has long legs to make 16hh, so he is very powerful.  It’s been a great season for us.”

Hartpury College student 18-year-old Charlotte Gibbens from Chippenham in Wiltshire and owner father, Craig Gibbens were delighted that Bluegrass Hopper was crowned RoR Elite Showjumping Champion. The 16-year-old mare ran a total of 3 times with trainer Michael Madgwick before going to Charlotte in 2011 to retrain for showjumping.  After two years competing in unaffiliated level competitions, Charlotte joined British Showjumping Association (BSJA) in 2013. During that year, they made tremendous progress in affiliated competitions gaining double clears, placings and numerous qualifications.  However, in 2014 Hop had a bad field accident when she fractured her face and was out for most of the season. Despite this setback, they returned in 2015 and Charlotte is proud of how much they have achieved since his recovery. Highlights this year have included qualifying and competing at the Blue Chip National Winter Championships, being selected to jump as part of the Wiltshire team in National Team Jumping qualifier and qualifying to take part in the Bronze League Semi-Final at The Horse of the Year Show. 

RoR Elite Eventing Champion was awarded to top International eventing rider Paul Tapner and Counterparty.  The 7-year-old mare who was raced 5 times under rules, is now part-owned by her former racing trainer Alan King and former co-owner Nigel Bunter in a newly formed partnership with Paul and Georgina Tapner and Jules Sigler. This new partnership they hope ‘will help to secure her future as a top eventing horse’. This year Counterparty returned to her race training home Barbury Castle, to compete in the RoR Eventing Championship and finished a credible 8th place.  Counterparty has been competing at the highest level allowed for her age in eventing and in 2014 she contested the Eventing World Championships for 6-year-old horses at Le Lion D’Angers in France. Paul is a previous winner of the RoR Elite Eventing Award with former racehorse Inishmor in 2011.

It was the culmination of another successful year for Norfolk’s top rider Allister Hood and 13 year-old Jack the Giant as they won the RoR Elite Show Series Supreme Champion. The talented showing partnership took the Championship title in the final at the inaugural RoR National Championship Show at Aintree International Equestrian Centre in August. Jack the Giant amassed nearly a quarter of a million pounds with nine wins Continued and seven places from 26 starts on the flat and over fences. He was trained by Barry Hills on the flat, and latterly was with Nicky Henderson for his jumping career. Jack is owned by The Jackpots a syndicate made up from seven ladies, who have known each other since being in the Pony Club. The syndicate have enjoyed great success with Jack, when rider Allister won the 2014 RoR Elite Show Series Champion at Hickstead.

The RoR Elite Polo Champion was awarded to England International polo player and owner Ollie Cudmore from Gloucestershire for his retrained racehorse Costa Lotta. Formerly trained by Ed Dunlop, when she ran 4 times on the flat as a 2 year old, Ollie bought her from Ollie Tuthill in August 2015 to continue her rise to stardom as a polo pony and has since played her in the Queens Cup and Gold Cup matches.  In July 2015, Ollie and Costs Lotta also won the RoR high goal pony prize of £1,000.

14-year-old Beths Choice owned and ridden by Lynn Harvey from Dorset was named as RoR Elite Endurance Champion. Trained by Milton Bradley Beths Choice ran a total of 15 races on the flat and over jumps winning one race in his career before retiring. Lynn, who has worked in racing yards for most of her life and now works for Harry Fry, is ‘hooked’ on endurance, said;  “Over the past 5 years Harry has surpassed anything I could have dreamt of and he shows just what former racehorses are capable of. He has completed four 80km and five 60 plus km rides, winning two of the 80km rides. We have often been out over varied terrain, ground conditions and in appalling weather but this makes it all so worthwhile.”

Wild West and owner/rider Lizzie Harris triumphed to win the RoR Elite Show Series Champion title at the world-famous Hickstead showground’s two-day Derby meeting. Lizzie, a former amateur jockey who is now a point-to-point trainer, took on ‘Westy’ straight out of training from Jonjo O’Neil’s yard in 2013. A son of Galileo, the 7-year old gelding was often ridden by A P McCoy during his racing career and ran a total of seven races for his former owner J P McManus. Lizzie said; “Westy has proved just how versatile former racehorses are adapting to a life after racing. He taken so well to retraining and already he has evented, team chased and hunted. Winning the RoR Championship at Hickstead was such an amazing experience for us.”