Yvonne Goss riding Untilla Legend – aka Jaffa – won the 2018 Complete Utilities Golden Button Challenge, becoming the first dual winner of the race.
Goss, who landed the inaugural running in 2006, partnered her ex-racehorse to victory over point-to-point riders Rowan Cope, Peter Bull and Ed Bailey, who filled the next three places. All 45 horses and riders who came under orders were reported unscathed.
Two other former winners were less fortunate than Goss and failed to complete the course. Dominic Gwyn-Jones, who won the 2015 edition on Another Puzzle, was taken out by a loose horse – he said: “I thought it was going to run left, and at the last minute it turned right and I had nowhere to go,” while former jockey Paul Carberry, who won the event in 2009, said: “I was going well in about fourth when J D Moore’s horse went down and it put my fellow off and he landed on top of a hedge. I was getting a lovely run off him until then.”
For Goss, who works as a groom for racehorse trainer Claire Dyson, it was a case of go like the wind and hope to hold off her rivals – only Cope could go with her and he had to give best near the finish. Goss said: “The flag went down and my horse took off – I’m just a passenger. He’s a front runner and I led most of the way – Rowan caught me up about seven out and led until the third-last where I went on again. You could tell we both do team chasing. My horse winged everything – he doesn’t like to touch timber or hedges.
“Jaffa is very much like Perry, the horse I won the first Golden Button on. They have the same mentality and they love the job. He’s thoroughly spoiled – I look after him and he looks after me.”
Runner-up Rowan Cope from Northants, rode Arthur. Cope said: “That was brilliant, and probably the best spin I’ve had apart from not winning. I know Yvonne well because we team chase together – she was on a free-running horse and that suited me by giving me a lead. I took it up at the ditch seven out, and then had a great ding-dong over the next three fences, but then she got back in front and the best horse on the day won.”
Peter Bull from East Sussex, third on River Finch, said: “I was surprised how strong my horse was because I’ve been hunting him and he’s not been like that, but the ground was good and he got wound up. How I stayed on over the first three I don’t know because he was going so fast. He was very bold, stood off at so many hedges and gave me a great ride. That’s the first time I’ve done something this big – the first two stayed better than I did and took sharper turns than me because mine was running too freely. I would love to come back again.”
Ed Bailey, who was fourth and first Ledbury Hunt finisher, said: “It was unreal, and all over so quickly – I was half asleep early on and just out for a bit of fun. The fences are smaller than in point-to-points because you can spot gaps and holes, but it requires more horsemanship – in points you just point and go. I got a lead off Paul Carberry until he fell and then made my way home. I was lucky to avoid loose horses and at one point jumped a loose horse. My horse is a racehorse called Handsome Sam who was fourth in a race recently at Leicester and is now for sale as a pointer or team chaser.”
Susie Bird, born and bred in the Ledbury Hunt country, finished in the first ten and said: “I’ve always wanted to do this and never had the horse, but this year I was offered Ed, who is owned by my sister [Nicky Sheppard]. I was a bit worried about fence three, which was a big hedge and ditch but he was awesome there and jumped really well the whole way. He’s not a thoroughbred and we were near the back early, but just worked our way through. I took a couple of holes in hedges to get a breather but he hardly needed them.”
Former Jump jockey Brian Harding travelled down from the north of England to ride hunter Rolling Stones. He finished just outside of the places, and said: “That was good – a little bit crazy, but good fun. A bit like riding in the Grand National all over again. It was a big buzz and my horse looked after me, but he has missed a bit of hunting and might have been fitter. Having said that after a mile and a half I was in a great position feeling grand, but he got a little tired towards the finish. He jumped really well. I’d love to do it again, but I expect I’ll be jocked off next time by my girlfriend, Kelly Gale.”
Flat jockey Gary Carroll, part of a large contingent of Irish visitors who took part, said: “I schooled my horse once beforehand, and knew he could do the job and today he hardly put a foot wrong. When Paul Carberry’s horse stopped my fellow had to jump it from a standstill, he landed awkwardly and I popped off the side, but I remounted. But for that I reckon I would have been placed. It was an unbelievable experience.”
Ciaron Maher, who flew in from Australia for the event, also completed the course on a hireling. Maher said: “I had a great spin on a lovely horse. I call him Lieutenant, but today he more like a General, or even a bodyguard. I was going well in about eighth or ninth and could see Paul Carberry in the distance. Then when he went down I passed him and thought ‘beautiful, we’re doing well,’ and then we slipped on the flat and I lost a stirrup. I had great fun and would love to do it again.”
Rob Bowery, who lives in Tewkesbury, won the running race which followed the Complete Utilities Golden Button. George Daly finished second, Ed Bailey third, and Gary Carroll fourth.