Wesko and Tim Price at Pau (Photo by Libby Law - copyright Libby Law Photography)Eventing horse Wesko - one of New Zealanders Jonelle and Tim Price's string of eventers based at Mere Farm, Mildenhall - has just been named Horse of the Year for the 2015 season by British Eventing.
A 12-year-old Dutch bred gelding, Wesko - also known as Dash - notched up 415 points over the 2015 season to beat Sir Mark Todd's Leonidas II - the long-time points leader. Wesko is owned by Christina Knudsen and the Wesko Syndicate.
Last weekend Tim Price and Wesko capped their 2015 successes with third place at the CCI4* at Les Etoiles de Pau - the final four star competition of the season.
It was an exciting finish: Tim Price and Wesko added no faults to their dressage score. But with German star Michael Jung in first and second place, he had to withdraw his leading horse before the show jumping. Jung's second horse had one jump down leaving French contestant Astier Nicolas to win - an understandably popular result with the Pau crowds - with Price in third place.
In 2011 Wesko made a great start to his career winning from pre-novice to CIC** and keeping safely in the top three places through the season. Tim Price forgave Dash for dumping him into the water at Badminton and they won the Luhmuhlen for star in 2014.
The 2015 season started on a high when the pair came second at the prestigious Lexington four star in April. The Prices are Key Riders and use exclusively Keyflow Feeds for their team of horses.
Wesko getting taste of Kentucky grassNext target for Tim Price and Wesko will be the 2016 Rio Olympics. With his Lexington performance Wesko has proved he does not mind air travel.
The highest placed British-bred horse in the British Eventing rankings was Jonelle Price’s eventing partner Classic Moet owned by Trish Rickards. Following many success including recent fifth place at Burghley, the mare ended the season on 318 points - taking fifth place in the overall rankings.
Notable in the riders' rankings was British eventer Oliver Townend's first place both overall and for British riders. Townend won by a huge margin from New Zealanders Andrew Nicholson (who is still recovering from a fall earlier in the season) and Tim Price.
Nineteen-year-old Emily King from Devon was named leading under-21 rider. She finished fourth at Pau on Brookleigh - her first ever four star competition.
FOOTNOTE: The former eventing world number one and British Olympic team member William Fox-Pitt remains in hospital after falling at the World Young Horse Championships in France.
The latest news from the hospital came on Monday (October 26): "William has made progress over the weekend; today he is conscious, breathing on his own and communicating with his family and doctors, however he is still very ill...Further progress is going to take time..."
His horse, Reinstated, was uninjured in the incident but Fox-Pitt (pictured left) was treated for over an hour at the scene before being heavily sedated in hospital.
[Our thanks to Libby Law for use of her photo of Tim Price and Wesko at Pau.]
Laura Collett walking the course at Barbury (July 2015)British eventer Laura Collett, who used to be based at Membury and is now at Lambourn, and the Holsteiner gelding Mr Bass have won the title for seven-year-old horses in the FEI World Breeding Federation Eventing Championships for Young Horses 2015 at Le Lion d’Angers in France. But after a fall in the competition, William Fox-Pitt remains in hospital with head injuries.
The top German rider, Michael Jung on Fischerincantas - another Holsteiner - won the gold medal in the competition for six-year-old horses.
These Championships have been held annually since 1992, and this year 103 horses were entered representing a wide range of studbooks.
Collett was in seventh place after the dressage and had moved up to fourth by the end of the cross-country phase. She clinched the title with a perfect show jumping round.
The cross-country course proved tricky for the seven-year-olds. But 34 of the 67 starters went clear - adding no penalties to their dressage scores. Two combinations retired on the course and 12 were eliminated.
William Fox-Pitt at Barbury (2015) Among the latter was Britain's most successful eventer, William Fox-Pitt who was thrown when his horse Reinstated hit the Owl Hole obstacle towards the end of the course.
He was taken to Angers hospital with head injuries.
Forty-six year old Fox-Pitt, who has four children and is married to Channel 4 racing presenter Alice Plunkett, was said to be in a stable condition.
The Wednesday afternoon update (at 4.24 pm, October 21) on the eventer's official website said: "We have this afternoon received the update that William’s condition remains the same with no change overnight. He is still sedated and under constant observation."
Regulation The jump season 'proper' is about to begin, but already during the 'summer jump season' Neil King's Upper Herdswick Farm yard - by Barbury Castle - has sent out sixteen winners. In his latest newsletter, King admits that while it is 'a little early' to be looking at statistics 'it is pleasing to be in the top echelons of the trainers table.'
Sixteen winners - all over hurdles - eleven seconds and ten thirds makes for a tidy total of £88,000 in prize money for his owners. And some of those winners have been startling successes.
Last month Lizzie Kelly rode the six year-old bay gelding Regulation to win by a length in a two mile novices hurdle at Warwick. And twelve days later she brought him home in second place to the favoured Maputo at Huntingdon.
This is what they call an 'improving horse' - for on Friday (October 16) King's stable jockey Trevor Whelan rode Regulation to a scorching ten length win at Wincanton.
The Racing Post summary of the race reads like a trainer's dream: 'Regulation rout: there was a sound gallop in this competitive-looking handicap, but it was one-way traffic...Regulation absolutely routed his rivals...A winter break is probably on the cards and a flat two mile looks best for him, so targeting Aintree next April would appeal."
Regulation was entered for a two mile novice hurdle at Kempton on Sunday (October 18) - but was declared as a non-runner. The spring will no doubt see him back to form after his winter rest.
Ballyvoneen at Neil King's Open Day in September 2015Success in horseracing often lies close to tragedy. Neil King's newsletter pays an emotional tribute to ten year old bay gelding Ballyvoneen who had to be put down after a fall in the conditional jockeys' handicap chase at Chepstow the previous weekend (October 10.)
"Trainers', King writes, "are not supposed to have favourites but Ballyvoneen was a horse that gave me so much pleasure and who I looked forward to riding out every morning."
King had spotted this Irish bred horse while buying horses in Ireland - he could not find an owner for him and had to wait for the horse's second sales appearance to buy him for 20,000 guineas. He was not an easy horse and finding the right jockey for him took, says King, a while.
"Once Trevor [Whelan] had got the hang of him there was no better person for him, he knew how to kid him along and let Ballyvoneen do the jumping and then once he had persuaded him into contention he was then strong enough to get the best out of him."
Then, with 56 chase runs, nine wins, seven seconds, ten thirds and £40,000 in prize money to Ballyvoneen's credit, came the Chepstow October weekend meeting:
"Saturday turned into the most awful day for us all, after absolutely winging his way over the first three fences which would have given him and Lizzie such a buzz, so sadly he made a dreadful mistake putting down into the open ditch and paid the ultimate price."
"I made it down the track in time to him to see him and hold him whilst the vet dealt with him and tearfully thanked him for being such a fabulous horse to me and for all the pleasure he had given others. Lizzie and [stable girl] Rosie were both terribly upset, but thankfully Lizzie was not hurt any more than badly bruised and battered."
He was racing in the colours of the stables Ridgeway Racing for Fun Partnership. Neil King has received many messages from fans of the horse. And sums up: "I'm so glad that so many other people had the respect and got enjoyment from our mere 105 rated three mile chaser, like I did and I hope you did."
The full jumps season should, with some real prospects in the yard, hold many more successes for Neil King, his jockeys and staff. And, one hopes, no more tragedies.
Frankie Dettori with Greatwood fans Friday (October 9) was the first day of the Dubai Future Champions Festival at Newmarket - and it was certainly an occasion to remember for an excited party of students and staff from Greatwood who had been invited to spend the day there.
Greatwood is the charity just south of Marlborough at Clench Common, which looks after retired racehorses and uses them to help disadvantaged young people.
Thanks to the generosity of Al Basti Equiworld (a Greatwood sponsor), Newmarket Racecourse and the National Stud, the students and staff were given a tour of the National Stud, followed by lunch and an afternoon of superb racing.
One of the highlights of the day was a meeting with jockey of the moment Frankie Dettori.
Montendre and friends The students were able to tell Frankie how Montendre was doing since he retired to Greatwood in 2000. In 1989 Frankie rode Montendre to victory in the Dewhirst Rockingham Stakes at York.
Yes, that really is 1989 - he came second in his first race, then won at Brighton under Dettori and then, eleven days later, won that prestige, listed race at York winning just over £11,000 - good prize money in those days.
The bay gelding Montendre - known as Monty - is now 28 years-old. During his career he ran 104 races under rules - and Frankie Dettori rode him eight times. Monty notched up 11 wins and 32 places - and he is still being used daily at Greatwood by the young people who take part in Greatwood's educational programmes. And he's a bit of racing history.
Close your eyes and imagine you've won the Derby: One of Greatwood’s younger students with Potentate (USA) (now 24 years old) - winner of the 1997, 1998 & 1999 Welsh Champion Hurdle. Trained by Martin Pipe, ridden by A P McCoy and owned by the late Jim Weeden