Beware Chalk Pit strikes gold to win Horse of the Year

  • Jockey Club sponsored award provides the perfect climax to gelding’s showing career

  • Just one of many heartwarming stories on a night that celebrated RoR’s elite champions

The story of the former racehorse who took his amateur rider to the heights of the showing world has earned Beware Chalk Pit the title of 2017 RoR Horse of the Year. This year’s winner of the prestigious title was announced at last night’s RoR Awards, held at The Jockey Club Rooms in Newmarket.

The 13-year-old gelding enjoyed a seven-year career as a racehorse, but since his retirement from the track in 2015 Beware Chalk Pit has been on different journey, rapidly climbing the ranks in the show ring, competing and enjoying success at venues beyond the wildest dreams of his rider, Rebecca Court, who works full-time as an Art Tutor at Birmingham University.

Luck and circumstance led to Court taking responsibility for the retraining of Beware Chalk Pit and she says of their shared journey:

“Beware Chalk Pit and I have achieved so many things together; ‘first time’ experiences for both of us. Before ‘Pete’ I had never driven a horsebox, never ridden in the main ring at Hickstead, never won a series final – of any sort, never ridden in a Supreme Championship – let alone won one! Never qualified for Horse of the Year Show, never beaten a Professional Rider and certainly never ridden at Cheltenham – what a once in a lifetime experience that parade at the Festival was! Together we have done all those things and more. This special horse owes me nothing, I owe him everything. He is my horse of a lifetime.”

The judging panel of Sir Anthony McCoy, Luke Harvey and RoR Chief Executive, Di Arbuthnot, agreed, choosing Beware Chalk Pit as the winner of the 2017 RoR Horse of the Year Award, sponsored by The Jockey Club, with Right You Are and Wild West as honourable joint runners-up.

During his three-year-career in the show ring, Beware Chalk Pit’s RoR successes included 2016 Hickstead Champion and Supreme Champion at the RoR National Championships. This year Beware Chalk Pit has won eleven times and has been one of the most successful retrained racehorses to compete in open showing classes. He and Rebecca Court rounded off their season with victory at the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) being crowned Racehorse to Riding Horse Champion.

Andrew Merriam, Chairman of Jockey Club Estates, presents ROR Horse of the Year 2017 award to Beware Chalk Pit’s owner Anne Leftley, Rebecca Court (rider) and Justine Armstrong-Small.

Beware Chalk Pit has now retired from competitive showing and returned to his owner, Ann Leftley, and Jonathan Geake, who trained him to win two races in his racing career. Court added: “He has nothing left to prove in showing. He has had an outstanding showing career over the past three years and he has been a great advert for the retrained racehorse. I could not be more proud of him.”

The Horse of the Year Award was the final award on a glittering evening, hosted by RoR Patron, Clare Balding, and ITV Racing’s, Luke Harvey, during which a total of ten awards were given.

The RoR awards celebrate the versatility and adaptability of former racehorses with trophies and total prize money of over £17,000 going to the year’s elite champions in dressage, endurance, eventing, polo, showing, showjumping and hunting.

Among the evening’s award winners, there were some wonderful stories of former racehorses that have only found their true niche once tried in a different discipline.

One of the most exciting prospects celebrated last night was the RoR Elite Eventing Champion, Gold Nugget. A 7-year-old gelding by Elusive City, now owned by Jane Moss and ridden by Andrew Downes, Gold Nugget has his sights set on graduating to Advanced level. On the racecourse Gold Nugget ran three times unplaced for Richard Hannon Snr in the familiar red and green colours of Julie Wood.

The award for RoR Elite Dressage Champion went for the second year running to Jimmy Hay, who has been retrained by Jenny Bulmer. Jimmy Hay showed next to nothing in four starts on the racecourse but Bulmer says the horse has never been fitter or better as he nears his seventeenth birthday.

RoR Chief Executive, Di Arbuthnot said: “In 2017, RoR held 298 classes in 25 separate series across ten different disciplines. We also staged 141 educational events helping owners and riders to get to get the best out of their former racehorses. And these awards showcase the benefits of these initiatives. Horses who often showed precious little ability on the racecourse, subsequently finding their niche with riders from a range of different backgrounds and experience.

Seeing the delight on the faces of the award winners and hearing their backstories and their triumphs over adversity is not only very heart-warming, it is also reassuring in terms of the strategy we have undertaken in recent years. The disciplines are becoming more competitive and the quality of winner keeps on improving.”

The 2017 RoR Awards winners:

RoR Elite Dressage Champion, in association with British Dressage

Jimmy Hay 16-y.o g by Bluegrass Prince, owned and ridden by Jenny Bulman

RoR Elite Polo Champion & winner of the Gerald Balding Cup

Harmony Wold 9-y.o m by Ishiguru, owned and ridden by Jack Richardson

RoR Elite Eventing Champion, in association with British Eventing

Gold Nugget 7-y.o g by Elusive City, owned by Jane Moss, ridden by Andrew Downes

RoR Elite Endurance Champion, in association with Endurance GB

Karactacus Potts 10-y.o g by Kings Theatre, owned and ridden by Anna Collins

RoR Elite Performance Award for Showing

Wild West 9-y.o g by Galileo, owned and ridden by Lizzie Harris

RoR Show Series Champion, sponsored by Tattersalls

Imperial Ruby 8-y.o g by Imperial Dancer, owned by Sar Cassidy-Hill, ridden by Southerly Roberts

RoR Elite Showjumping Award, in association with British Showjumping

Quel Ange 15-y.o g by Tel Quel, owned and ridden by Jane Gregory

RoR Racing to Hunting Challenge and the Meriel Tufnell Trophy

Brumous 17-y.o g by Glacial Storm, Owned and ridden by Melanie Duff

RoR Special Recognition Award

Barbers Shop 15-y.o g by Saddlers’ Hall, owned by The Queen and ridden by Katie Jerram-Hunnable

RoR Horse of the Year, sponsored by The Jockey Club

Beware Chalk Pit 13-y.o g by Anshan, owned by Ann Leftley, ridden by Rebecca Court