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South Herefordshire
Sunday 6th March 2011
by Stella Havard


The South Herefordshire Hunt were hoping that their final point-to-point in the picturesque parkland of Garnons Estate would be something special, but they could never have dreamed that it would have been such an historic occasion.

As if scripted, the sky cleared and the afternoon's racing was gilded with fierce gold as Richard Burton rode a spirited finish on The Rucker family's That's Ben, trained by Sheila Crow, in the Restricted Race to best Findlay's Find (John Mathias) by a neck. Suddenly, the attention of the spectators sharpened, as the seemingly impossible task of equalling – or bettering - Julian Pritchard's marvellous record of 384 winners became feasible.

And for his next two rides, all were treated to Richard Burton at his very best. He sat very still on Jo Priest's relatively unfancied 13 year-old, Heavy Weather in a field of cracking Men's Open horses who set a strong pace. Four fences from home, it looked as if Liam Payter had slipped the field with Shouldhavehadthat, but still Richard did not panic, jumping the last in second place. Meeting the long incline of the finishing straight, the game Heavy Weather responded to his urgings and galloped clear by two lengths. Fully appreciative of the magnificence of an amateur rider equalling the British record, the pair were given a rousing reception.

Expectation was tangible during the first division of the two and half mile maiden, with Richard partnering David Weaver's Sin E An Capaill (loosely pronounced Shan-on Cefell), but it was clear that John Mathias and Cilrhiwron were keen to spoil the party, and had an advantage jumping the last fence, where Sin E En Capaill made a mistake. It was a glorious battle up the run in, with two brilliant jockeys at their best, but Sin E An Capfaill had enough in hand to sweep by on the outside and make history.

Both were given the reception they deserved, and all present felt privileged to witness the momentous achievement of Richard Burton's record-breaking 385th winner.

"It hasn't sunk in yet," admitted Richard, "it's an honour to equal, and break, the record of my friend and role model, Julian Pritchard. I've never really gone out to break records – it's just good to ride nice horses for nice people, and I hope to go on doing that for a while yet if Hannah (Richard's wife) is happy about it!"

The meeting may have been a momentous milestone for Richard Burton, but it was also a memorable day for others, including Major Patrick Darling, the joint master of the hosting South Herefordshire Hunt. He presented a bottle of champagne to Richard to mark his 385th winner, but earlier he had been in the winner's enclosure to greet Elm School Story, the winner of the Members Race. "It is real story!" he related. "She was gifted to my daughter Dreda, by her headmaster, Clive Ashby, who bred her. And she's certainly fairly hunted!" Dreda, who is only 13, does all the schooling on the five year old, who is trained by Caroline Griffiths at Sellack. The victory was a useful tonic for Caroline who is recovering from emergency surgery on her knee.

Sarah Jayne Davies made her weekend complete with an exciting double, riding Upton Springs to victory herself in the AGA Ladies Open. The 10 year-old mare, owned jointly by Peter Corbett and Sarah-Jayne, gave a vibrant performance, making much of the running, getting a breather and then taking charge again approaching the last fence. "She was really up for it!" said her rider, "She caught hold and said 'hang on Sarah-Jayne!" This was the second AGA triumph for Sarah-Jayne so far this season. "I don't have an Aga cooker yet, but I certainly want one!" she agreed. Turn Card, who took the event for Novice Riders with 19 year-old Rob Jarrett was the other winner for the Davies yard. This was the 4th career win for Rob, who works for Alan King. The nine year-old Turn Card is owned jointly by Helen Taylor and Sarah-Jayne, and on seeing the size of the trophy, Jeremy Mahot advised Helen to invest in a larger mantelpiece!

The Confined Race looked as if Ice Cool Benny (Tom Weston) was going to score for the first time since fracturing his pedal bone a year ago, but Liam Payter galvanised Lorikarad at the last to overhaul him. The seven year-old is the only horse trained by Worcestershire-based Charlotte Jones at present, and she joint owns him with Ron Tolley. "He just loves anywhere with a hill – he has the engine for it!" said Ron.

The second division of the Brightwells/PPA Sponsorship Scheme two and a half mile Maiden was a popular victory for the Dymock-based Wilesmith family with the seven year-old Shesolovely, ridden by Jeremy Mahot. "It sounds such a naff name," said Emma Wilesmith, "but she really IS lovely. Anyone can ride her – she's just....LOVELY."

The mare was offered to the family by Debbie Ewing, who thought a lot of her, but didn't want to take her when moving to Ireland. "At first we said no, we didn't want another!" said Emma, " but when she offered her again, we luckily agreed!"

This historic day at Garnons will be etched on the memories of all who witnessed an exceptionally talented rider doing what he does best, and to whom the term 'gentleman rider' really does apply.

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