Rowan Cope enjoys a “dream ride” to take the top spot, with Becky Smith hot on his heels on her hunt ride debut
ROWAN COPE and Arthur triumphed in the first hunt race of the 2020/21 season, making all the running over the Wynnstay hedges to see off 22 other competitors.
It was an eighth victory in these races over natural obstacles for ex-chaser Arthur, now 12, whose form figures since joining the Cope family read 111211F1121.
“He was foot-perfect; it was the dream ride,” said Rowan, joint-master of the Quorn.
Arthur’s last run was in this three-mile race 13 months ago when, returning from time off with a leg injury, he was pipped at the post by Alex Vaughan-Jones. Rowan’s wife Lydia rode him that day as Rowan was recovering from a bad head injury.
“This season I hunted him and field mastered off him, but when we went into lockdown again he was turned away in a barn,” Rowan said. “Then, when it looked likely we would get going again, I had six weeks to get him fit. I rang [point-to-point trainer] Alan Hill and asked him if it was possible, and he said it definitely was, and he hasn’t missed a day since!
“I knew he was in terrific form coming here, and when we walked the course on Thursday, I decided to bounce him out and make the pace. He measured every fence and travelled on the bridle; I quickened it up five out, but the others came with me. I winged the last, and then I could hear someone coming up behind, so I gave him a bit of encouragement!”
Becky Smith came with a flying late run; there is no minimum weight in this race, and Rowan estimates he and Arthur were giving her three stone, but she finished half a length behind.
“I’m so delighted; he is the most wonderful horse,” said Rowan. “And his legs felt A1 the next day, so we will aim for the new Quorn race in three weeks and Lydia will ride him there.”
“A GREAT RACE”
RUN a month later than usual, the ground was drier than it often is here, which was appreciated by competitors.
“It is a great race, especially for first-timers and as a first run of the season, and deserves more runners than it often gets,” said Rowan, who expressed his gratitude to the organisers for their efforts in preparing the track.
It was indeed a first hunt race for the Fernie’s Becky Smith and Important Moment (pictured near side), a Milan 11-year-old she bought from trainer Dale Peters two years ago.
“He’s a really sweet horse and dead easy – a dope on a rope at home, but he lights up when you take him out,” said Becky. “My plan was to find ourselves a space mid-field and get a confidence-giving round. However, when we set off he was so full of life that we were in the first five all the way round – he was mega, and when I let him go after the last, he flew.”
Becky has had a difficult winter, losing one horse in a “freak accident” in the field and with a second one injured, so this result was a special one for her and her sister Penny, “my biggest fan and supporter”, and both shed tears at the finish.
“I’d like to say how helpful Paul Ikin [who finished sixth] has been – helping me train for this and walking the course with me,” said Becky, who was first under-25, first lady and first novice.
Important Moment and Arthur will meet again in the Quorn race on 23 April.
The Beaufort’s Doug White finished third on his former Yeomanry Ride winner Oscar’s Delight, with Henry Chamberlain from the Warwickshire fourth with Aboukir Bay. Will Bishop and Bishop Hill Jack from the Fernie were fifth, and behind sixth-placed Quorn joint-master Paul Ikin and Battle Of Shiloh were James Thompson and Chippy, first of the Wynnstay posse.
This report is also available to read in this Thursday’s H&H magazine (15 April, 2021)
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