Jumping a chase fence during a hurdle race — without reins — was not exactly conditional jockey Harry Bannister’s plan when he was legged up onto Vif Argent at Kempton Park.
However, the jockey’s skills in the saddle were tested to the limit when he found himself reinless after the first hurdle, during the eight-runner race.
“I was coming down to the first hurdle and he took off way too early and dived through the hurdle. His head hit the floor and I was thrown forward on to his ears, it was at that point I lost my reins,” said Harry, who was riding the Andrew Reid-trained gelding for the first time. “I grabbed the buckle of the reins before realising both reins were on the right-hand side of his neck and the bridle was now just over one ear.”
With no means of pulling the seven-year-old to the left, the horse veered right, away from the field, and on to the chase course, with a brush fence — approximately 4’6″ in height — fast approaching them.
“I didn’t actually think he would take the jump on — I thought he might slow down. I was trying to reach down and get the reins back over his head, but I think that just made him go faster,” Harry told H&H.
“When I realised he was going to take the jump on, I stopped trying to get the reins back and just grabbed hold of his mane. He jumped the fence beautifully!”
With the chase and hurdle courses at Kempton sharing bends, horse and jockey — with the reins now wrapped around Vif Argent’s front leg — re-joined the field.
“About five strides before the next hurdle, the reins snapped. At this point I wasn’t really panicking, I was just focusing on staying balanced and keeping ourselves out of trouble as much as possible,” recalled Harry, who is conditional jockey for Lambourn-based trainer Warren Greatrex.
“We carried on for near enough a full circuit with the rest of the field before the bend coming round to the grandstand, where we broke away from the field again. This time he went straight for the white rail, which he tried to jump,’ said Harry. “But about a stride off he jibbed slightly and lost momentum, which meant we both ended up on the floor.
“During the race, I was more worried about how I was going to stop him and also about not getting in the way of the other runners — it could have been really nasty, but thankfully we both got up from it absolutely fine.”