Yvonne Goss had already become the first dual winner of the Complete Utilities Golden Button Challenge in 2018 and she won the race again for good measure!
As was the case last year, Goss – who also landed the inaugural running in 2006 – was on board her ex-racehorse Untilla Legend (otherwise known as Jaffa) and the partnership made most of the running to see off a bumper field of 61 rivals.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for 56-year-old Goss, who also won the Best Veteran Rider as well as Best Lady, as she explains: “I forgot the course three times but this horse is such a dude, a real front runner and got me out of trouble! I just couldn’t see the flag. I looked to the side and thought “they’re all going down there” but this horse just jumps and jumps. The first horse I won the race on, Perry, was one I had given to me as a yearling but my dad bred Jaffa, my son broke him in and here we are! He’s 11 now but you just have to do it his way – I’m just a passenger. I knew someone was on me because every time they kept coming up he just dug in harder – he’s got no gears but has a hell of a cruising speed and he’s so determined. We’ll be back next year!”
Runner-up Alex Vaughan-Jones (Best Man) had been up at 4am to start his journey to the course but certainly wasn’t feeling tired as he said: “It was chaos everywhere with the loose horses – Yvonne went the wrong way a couple of times – so we just had to sit in behind but we couldn’t quite outpace her over the last two fences. Three of four of us did overtake Yvonne at the ditch as she got carried out but she was soon back in front. My horse Gorran Haven was an ex-chaser, Caroline Bailey used to train him, and I’ve had him to hunt this year – we actually did the Melton last Sunday but were only really in the race until halfway so I had to hang onto him for a bit longer today!”
Vaughan-Jones led home two more riders having their first goes at The Golden Button, with 17-year-old Milo Herbert taking third, as well as the Best Young Rider (Under 21) prize. He said: “That was some thrill! I went through most of them but he’s an awesome horse [Rivage d’Or]; he won the Cheltenham Cross-Country Chase in 2015 and he’s been with Ollie Finnegan who sold him to us cheaply, so we’ve only had him in the yard for two weeks. I point-to-point but this is my first ever hunt ride – I just want to get as many point winners as a I can, though I need to get through the running race first!”
In fourth was Fingal Harriers’ Dave Bennett, also the Best Overseas/Heavyweight Rider and part of the traditional large contingent from Ireland. He said: “That was excellent, an unbelievable spin! I didn’t think I was going to do it but I’m delighted with the horse [Huntsman] as we’ve only had him a month because he’s just come off the track. I am on dialysis three days a week waiting for a kidney transplant so to do this is a big achievement for me. I’ve been on the treatment for the last year and six months and I have to go three days a week for a total of 15 hours, but the horses keep me right, so I don’t get depressed. I have a year and a half to go for a donor but things are looking good.”
Fifth was Larry Brown, from the Worcestershire and Farmers Bloodhounds, sixth was 2015 winner Dominic Gwynn-Jones, seventh and eighth were Caroline Woods and Diarmuid Ryan (both late replacements), ninth was Stan Sheppard (who’d ridden a winner under Rules the day before and was the First Ledbury Rider) and completing the top ten was event rider India Vaughan-Jones. Eleventh-placed William Fox Grant was Best Military Rider.
Another to complete the course was jump jockey Kielan Woods who said: “It was brilliant, some buzz. There was a right bit of carnage early on but I managed to weave my way around that. I got held up at one fence and I might have been a little bit closer otherwise. My horse is just my hunter – we’ve had him a year now and he’s a grand old boy. I think he’s definitely staying with us now anyway! He’s a great jumper and really enjoyed himself. If I can have him a little bit fitter next year we might have a chance. Now it’s back to the day job for tomorrow and the rest of the week!”