Emma aiming to ensure ancient race continues to run

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“WOW what a ride. It was exhilarating, crazy and probably the best race my horse has run in his life.”

That is the verdict of Emma Herbert-Davies on last week’s Kiplingcotes Derby, where she and her horse Blue were placed second for the second year running.

England’s oldest Flat race takes place over farm tracks and grass verges on the Wolds near Market Weighton. The race usually involves crossing the main A163 road but because of heavy fog, police would not allow the road to be closed. Rather than cancelling the race, the riders agreed among themselves that the first one to reach the main road would be the winner.

John Thirsk, from Market Weighton, riding Bob, won the race for a fourth time. But Emma was still delighted with second, particularly as she and Blue had only completed the gruelling Melton Hunt Club Ride in Leicestershire on the Sunday.

The Melton is a tough race, known as a ride, which takes place over three-and-a-half miles of hunting country and includes some massive hedges. This year it was the turn of the Belvoir Hunt to host the ride.

Emma, who lives in Otley and hunts with the Badsworth and Bramham Moor, had high hopes of succeeding this year with her 17hh Irish hunter Blue. In the event, a poor start held them back. “There were rather a lot of empty saddles and bodies on the floor by fence seven,” said Emma. “Trying to zigzag my way around them rather than over them put me out of contention, which goes to show that you have to start up front and stay up front to win this race.

“The briefest of checks and you look up to see the leaders are flying into the distance without you. The race winner was Zoe Gibson yet again, a very accomplished rider and winner of multiple hunt rides.”

Emma says she learnt a lot this year and she hopes to be back on the start line again next year.

She was not sure if Blue would be fit enough to compete in the Kiplingcotes Derby just a few days later but he proved to be in fine form.

“From the start it was a two horse race between myself and John Thirsk,” said Emma. “We fought tooth and nail the whole way, constantly changing leads and fighting to keep the horses on the better ground. At the very last, John’s horse found the strength to pull into the lead.

“Perhaps Blue finally felt his run in the Melton a few days before but he still gave it his all and never stopped trying to win.”

Emma is concerned that the future of this ancient race, first run in 1519, may be under threat. As well as public liability insurance, the organisers may have to provide their own stewards to close the three roads that are crossed during the race, as police are finding this a strain on their resources.

“It would be a travesty to lose this unique Yorkshire tradition and I’m hoping to help recruit some sponsorship next year,” said Emma. “We must keep the Kiplingcotes Derby going as part of our country’s heritage.”

Jack Greenall and Sheriff Hutton-based trainer David Easterby teamed up for a double at the South Wold point-to-point at Brocklesby Park.

The first part of the double came in the Open Maiden where the eight-year old Quilver Tatou won by half-a-length in the run-in from Mark Barthorpe’s Anamcqueen and Johnny Bailey.

The pair only had to wait 35 minutes for their second winner. This time it was the turn of odds-on favourite Oedipe in the Members’ race for novice riders.

Don’t miss Jill Armstrong’s Equestrian Post in Country Week inside Saturday’s Yorkshire Post.