The intermediate and inter-hunt national team chase took some riding. The event ran concurrently with the open championship at the Fernie over a track including many of the same fences.
There was less carnage at the hedges than in previous years, but speed seemed to prevail over planning, with copious runouts at a drop palisade that caused few problems in the open.
After a run round the open at their home event the previous week in the guise of FighttheBan, the Heythrop Hackers were more than ready. After some hairy jumps over the early hedges, they settled into a rhythm, with Dom White galloping on to get on terms with his team-mates. Tom Gittins and Ben Pauling, both on new rides, made the most of their mounts’ growing confidence to share the lead and set a time of 4.02, which not only secured the hunt prize, but also took the overall award for both hunt and intermediate sections.
“Ben and I started with these horses at the beginning of the year and we’ve only ridden together once, but this event was our goal,” explained Tom Gittins. “My horse is the first Thoroughbred I’ve team chased and he was evented by William Fox Pitt before retiring at the age of 14. He seems to love it, so we will be back to full strength as Fighttheban next year.”
The first prize of £1,000 is awarded to the hunt rather than the team, but Tom, who has recently taken over as course designer for the Heythrop event, had an idea how it might be spent.
“The hunt’s fencing man helped build the team chase course and he has to hire in a trailer. He would like to purchase one, so that would be a good use for the prize money,” he said.
Second place went to the Cottesmore Chasers, also best adjacent hunt. Led by hunt secretary Clare Bell, they got off to a great start, making nothing of the stiff early hedges. They made rapid passage through the water and on to the twists and turns at the end of the course to finish 8sec behind the Heythrop Hackers.
A great effort in third place came from the Mid Surrey Farmers Dragoons, defying the efforts of captain George Goring to take his team-mates out at the drop palisade. George’s new horse, Jock, is a great find — having given his vintage owner an enjoyable hunting season, he galloped on gamely up the hill for one of the most popular results of the day.
An intermediate win for the Wishful Thinkers provided some consolation for core members Simon Coady and Lissie Siddel after a miserable run in the championship. They showed their true form with a fast run through the early hedges and tight turns at the top of the course.
Some satisfaction came for the Tigers Too, also disappointed in the championship, with second place for Sarah Myhill, Andrew Bronwin, Chrissie Furness and Bryan Allen. A fast start was marred by being held on course, but they quickly regained their composure for a tidy finish.
Wacky Racers took third, living up to their name with a run out at the palisade before gathering themselves together on the second half.
For full report of the open championship, see today’s issue of Horse&Hound magazine (5 April, ‘07)