RoR held its annual awards ceremony at the historic Jockey Club Rooms on Saturday 21st January recognising the achievements of former racehorses in their new careers across a range of disciplines and concluding with the announcement of the winner of The Jockey Club RoR Horse of the Year.
Over 150 guests from the racing and equestrian worlds joined RoR Elite Series Champions and winners for the RoR Awards ceremony hosted by RoR Patron Clare Balding and racehorse trainer Richard Phillips. The stories of the winners made for an emotional evening for the audience, especially those of the three finalists for The Jockey Club RoR Horse of the Year: Grand National legend 20-year-old Pineau De Re, the multi-talented retrained racehorse and social media star 17-year-old Skipper Robin, and the highly accomplished 16-year-old racehorse First Fandango who has showed great versatility ever since his retirement from racing.
Judging the winner Clare Balding said: ”What an impossible choice! I was very torn but I chose First Fandango because he’s so versatile and not altogether straightforward but Hannah’s hard work with him has clearly paid off. It’s great to see how much happiness these horses are bringing and how well they adapt.”
First Fandango enjoyed a nine-year career as a racehorse and ran 50 times with trainer Tim Vaughan, winning £69,000 in prize money and running at four consecutive Cheltenham Festivals. Following his retirement from the track in 2017, ‘Fredstar’ has been competing and enjoying success beyond their wildest dreams with Worcestershire based rider, Hannah Chisman, who works full-time in racing as Travelling Head Girl for racehorse trainer John Spearing.
Following the announcement and presentation of the award by Sulekha Varma, of The Jockey Club, an emotional Hannah said: “I honestly can’t believe it! Fredstar is my absolute world. He is part of the family and has given me some of the best days of my life. I honestly can’t believe it! Just doing what I do every day with him is already a win for me and we all love him.”
Over the past five years, First Fandango has shown incredible versatility and enjoyed great success in team chasing, hunting, dressage, showing, and at affiliated British Showjumping and British Eventing competitions. Hannah says that he has also flourished in the show ring winning the Tattersalls RoR Amateur Special Series at the RoR National Championship Show two years running and the Tattersalls RoR Amateur Series at Hickstead in 2021, as well as being placed twice at the Horse of the Year Show.
Hannah says with great admiration that her horse is the ultimate retrained racehorse; “He can show one day, then event the next, and he has even taught my six-year-old old boy how to ride! He’s always given me his all in everything we do – from herding cows to showing off at the Horse of the Year!”
The two worthy and close runners-up for The Jockey Club RoR Horse of the Year Pineau De Re and Skipper Robin undoubtedly came very close. The 2014 Aintree Grand National Champion Pineau De Re retired in 2017 to retrain with Worcestershire rider Lizzie Brunt and at 20-years-young she says: “He is still so young, supple and fit, and willing to learn.” Also highlighting versatility and great athleticism is the remarkable Skipper Robin who with Wiltshire based owner William Fox Grant and his team has excelled in ten plus disciplines over the last 11 years.
The Jockey Club RoR Horse of the Year Award was the final award on a glittering evening during which a total of seven RoR Elite Awards were presented.
David Catlow, Managing Director of RoR said; “The presentation of the Awards to the RoR Elite Champions and the Horse of the Year, provides a focus for the charity to celebrate the achievements of the thousands of former racehorses competing successfully in equestrian disciplines and highlights their adaptability and versatility retraining for life after racing in new careers.”
The full list of 2022 RoR Elite Award winners is as follows:
RoR Elite Dressage Champion – MY DISS SIRE owned and ridden by Judith Barker
RoR Elite Polo Champion – FAR SONG, owned and ridden by Hazel Jackson-Genoa
RoR Elite Endurance Champion – LILBOURNE PRINCE, ridden and owned by Sam Tomlinson
RoR Elite Supreme Show Series Champion – RICH MAN POOR MAN, owned by Morean Hamilton and ridden by Kirstine Douglas
RoR Tattersalls Elite Show Series Champion – TIME DOWN UNDER, owned and ridden by Justine Armstrong-Small
RoR Elite Eventing Champion – FINCH FANCY, owned by Ben Liles, Phil Ainsworth and Charlie May Ainsworth and ridden by Ben Liles
RoR Racing to Hunting Champion – TRIBUNEL, owned and ridden by Vicky Heal.
The ultimate goal is to maintain a balance between the number of horses leaving racing and the number of enthusiastic, and suitable, new homes. For more information visit RoR’s website.