Bob Champion at Shetland pony showBy David Wright
June 11, 2012
Bob Champion MBE, the courageous jockey who battled against cancer before winning the Grand National at Aintree in 1981, was guest of honour at the Shetland pony show and Highland Fair held in the grounds of the Sue Ryder hospice at Nettlebed.
A large crowd turned up to watch a packed day of Shetland classes, culminating in an exciting Grand National race over small fences.
The 12 ponies were named after the winners of the world-famous Aintree steeplechase.
The names and colours worn by the riders were the same as when the first grand national was held at the hospice in 1980.
Champion supported the show all those years ago and was delighted to be invited back when the event was revived last Sunday.
“It is nice to be here again,” he said. “I have had a very enjoyable day. The young riders did well; it’s a good way to start for them.”
Champion, whose life story was made into a film starring John Hurt, rode Aldaniti when he won the National, but Tilehurst rider Morgan Bradford wasn’t able to repeat the win on her pony, which carried the name of that horse on the day.
Instead, victory went to Specify ridden by Phoebe Anderson.
L’Escargot, with Bella Bride on board, was second past the post with Highland Wedding, ridden by Conor Fletcher, taking third place.
Specify was also judged the best turned-out pony for the race, which was sponsored by The Tree Barn from Christmas Common.
In addition to 15 Shetland classes, there was a dog agility show, music from the Dagenham Girl Pipers, local band Lucky To Be Alive and roaming bagpiper Billy Wardrope, as well as display from the St Andrew’s Scottish Dancing Society.
There were several stalls offering a wide range of goods and food.
Among the hundreds of visitors were former top Flat jockey Joe Mercer and his wife Anne.
The event was organised by Sarah Buckner, whose mother Marlene Simpson organised the first Shetland Grand National at Sue Ryder in 1980, and Charlotte Snowden, whose sister Sophie was cared for in the home until 1995.
Mrs Snowden said: “The day was a tremendous success and we know we have raised a lot of money.
“We would like to thank the many sponsors, stallholders, numerous helpers, all those involved with the Shetland ponies and the hundreds of spectators who came along.”