‘Once in a lifetime opportunity’: applications open for Champions Willberry charity race

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  • Applications to ride in the Pertemps Champions Willberry Charity Derby are now open.

    After the success of the 2017 race held at Cheltenham, which raised over £120,000 for The Bob Champion Cancer Trust and Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony Charity, this year the race will be run over the same course and distance as the Epsom Derby on Monday 27 August (Bank Holiday Monday).

    Eight members of the public, selected from the applicants, will ride alongside four celebrities. It was Hannah Francis’s wish, expressed before she died in August 2016, to have a race in aid of her Willberry Wonder Pony Charity.

    The 2017 jockeys picture with Hannah Francis’ parents. Credit: David Betteridge

    Confirmed celebrity jockeys include Lissa Green and Lara Prior-Palmer, winner of the 2013 Mongol Derby, who has also been suffering with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

    Lissa said: “I am in awe of what Hannah Francis has achieved with Willberry. She was an extraordinary girl. It is so exciting that her charity has teamed up with the Bob Champion Cancer Trust for this exciting event at Epsom and I feel honoured to be a part of it.”

    Bob Champion, the Grand National-winning jockey who has also recovered from cancer said: “The Cheltenham race was such a success and we’re absolutely delighted to now be going to Epsom, home of the greatest Flat race in the world.

    “With more than 600 people applying to ride in last year’s race and with so much support for both charities, I’m sure we’ll have another amazing line-up. I would quite like a grand prix dressage rider to take their place alongside our celebrity eventers this time – so come on and apply!”

    Last year’s winner, Ben Moore. Credit: David Betteridge

    “We are delighted to host the Pertemps Champions Willberry Charity Derby race at Epsom Downs racecourse,” said racecourse general manager Simon Durrant.

    “Run over the Derby course and distance, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for these riders to experience the unique contours and undulations of the world-famous Epsom Downs.”

    Last year’s line-up included Sir Mark Todd, Tina Cook and Ben Hobday as well as TV presenter, Alice Fox-Pitt. It was won by soldier Ben Moore, himself a cancer victim and particularly special to him and his family as his daughter has leukaemia.

    Entries are open via the Champions Willberry website and close on 21 February. Applicants must be under 12 stone, over 18, competent riders, can pledge to raise over £5,000 and are able to source their own racehorses.

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