An “absolute saint” has taken the £2,500 top prize in the first Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) racing to hunting challenge.

Melanie Duff’s Brumous, who hunts with the Vale of the White Horse, was named the winner at the competition final at Aintree on Sunday (29 October).

The 17-year-old gelding was given to Melanie by his former trainer Oliver Sherwood in 2009 and has not missed a season in the field since.

“I’m thrilled to have won and couldn’t have done it without real teamwork,” Melanie said.

“I am privileged to have him, he’s an absolute saint and as good as hunter anyone could wish for. He’s a pleasure to do in all ways; he’s been half-asleep all day, which is a testament to his incredible nature.”

The competition was aimed at showcasing the versatility of thoroughbreds, and judges were looking for a horse who “really made a contribution to a day’s hunting as well as jumping big hedges; one who is well-mannered enough to be on gate duty, for example”.

From the first 30 nominations received, a judging panel including Mike Tucker, Joey Newton, The Hon Lucinda Cavendish, Sir Jonathan Clark and Marcus Armytage reviewed the submissions.

The judges then asked for video footage, or visited the horses in action during the early part of the current season, and the five finalists were invited to Aintree for Sunday’s final.

Each combination had a short warm-up, after which a hunting horn announced the start of their round. They were required to jump two “sizeable” fences, open a hunting gate and jump one final fence.

The second part of the final was a hound parade with the Holcombe Harriers in front of the judges.

RoR chief executive Di Arbuthnot said: “Congratulations to the five finalists, especially to Melanie and Brumous, they have set an extremely high standard for this challenge going forward.

“The horses were a credit to their connections and this was a tremendous start to this inaugural racing to hunting challenge. Thank you to all involved especially Aintree Racecourse and our fantastic team of judges.”

Former equestrian commentator and challenge chairman Mike Tucker announced the winner, with The Hon Lucinda Cavendish presenting the £2,500 cheque and winner’s rug to Melanie Duff and Brumous.

Each of the four runners-up won an RoR decanter and two glasses.

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“Thank you to RoR for running this fantastic challenge,” Melanie added. “None of us really knew what today would hold, but it’s been great fun and a real pleasure.”

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