Over the stable door: Triumph against the odds after 11th hour mess

Some of the jockeys who took part in the Candlelighters Race.

Some of the jockeys who took part in the Candlelighters Race.

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It’s been one hell of a week. At times I’ve not known whether to cry, laugh or throttle someone but fortunately I’m not yet wanted for murder.

Skipton races proved a testing day. The early rain clouds cleared leaving us with beautiful ground, a cloudless sky and 19 nervous jockeys as the Candlelighters Charity Race start time approached.

The two races proved a great spectacle. Some set off at a blistering gallop not realising how harsh the Pendle hill was and were virtually walking by the time they neared the top. The finishes were surprisingly competitive as beaming faces pulled up to raucous cheers from the crowd. It offered a rare opportunity for regular riders to taste the adrenalin rush of race riding without the red tape of industry regulations. I sincerely hope more meetings follow our lead and run them in the future.

As the main races were due off at 2pm the secretary Louise was getting slightly edgy when, at 1.30pm, the second ambulance we needed had not arrived. She called and called the hospital in question which had been paid to send it. At first she was told it was on its way, then it was stuck in traffic. At 2pm Louise asked for the NHS manager in charge who admitted the booking had accidently been placed in the wrong file.

The first race had already been delayed. If we didn’t find another ambulance fast we would have to abandon with the risk of bankrupting the hunt.

We called an emergency gathering. Everyone including medical staff, jockeys and owners got on their phones to help track down what was needed to continue. Together 16 different paramedic companies were contacted. Anxious officials kept peering round the marquee with worried faces.

I was less than five minutes from calling it off when suddenly one of the doctors struck it lucky. His friend had located an ambulance just a few miles away which could get to us in 15 minutes. I hugged him, Louise was virtually crying. Oh the joy, the relief. The hunt was saved.

All went reasonably smoothly for the rest of the day - just some minor issues one steward wouldn’t drop almost led to further delays but were swiftly overruled by our medical team.

A day that could so easily have ended in utter disaster for everyone concerned had been pulled from the precipice by volunteers who worked tirelessly to defy the odds. A huge thank you to all involved. What has since proved utterly soul destroying is to see negative comments from armchair spectators spewed out across social media from those whom you would never catch offering a hand to assist.

In order that point to pointing and all traditional country events might continue for future generations to enjoy volunteers are absolutely vital.

With precious few about it would be wiser to stop criticising and start helping.

On a positive note it was a wonderful day for fundraising. The 19 jockeys raised £10,000 for Candlelighters, an amount they should be proud of. The charity has been dedicated to helping children with cancer and their families since 1976.

My son Felix raised £320 running his tombola and by raffling a 25-year-old gallon bottle of whiskey generously donated by farmer John Byas. The proceeds went to Jack Berry House in Malton.

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