When Vicky Hesford claimed the hack honours at Horse of the Year Show on Thursday night with the former Royal International champion Whalton Forgery, it was the beginning of a remarkable run for her and her connections. Forgery, an elegant large hack by Kilvington Scoundrel, claimed the accolade at Hickstead as a five-year-old in 2012, ridden by Hesford’s brother-in-law, Robert Walker.
On Friday afternoon at HOYS, Walker had the final say in the season-long battle of the maxi cobs, when Starry Night (Basil) bested arch rival Hallmark IX to take the title. And for good measure, Walker added the hunter title on Friday evening with Jill Day’s lightweight Vantage Point. It was, as the showman commented, a “red-letter day”.
It is safe to say that the celebrations would have gone on long into the night, because Basil was retired from the show ring after his historic victory. Walker dismounted, ran the stirrups up, and led Camilla Neame’s grand 11-year-old from the arena.
The cob had measured out last year, hence the change to maxi classes, but has an excellent HOYS record, winning the heavyweight section five years on the trot. He was reserve (to Hallmark, then campaigning as a lightweight) in 2010, going one better the following year to stand champion. He stood reserve in 2013 and 2014.
His performance at HOYS this time was sublime, including a superb extended trot and stirring gallop — exactly what you would expect from a maxi cob. But who’s to say — after the battle royal all summer with Hallmark — that a little luck wasn’t involved? Walker, a joint-master of the Cheshire Foxhounds, was riding in a borrowed coat and remarked: “Note to the Cheshire masters, you can buy Shayne Francis [huntsman] another hunt coat. Thanks for lending it to me but you are not getting it back!”
Reserve in the hacks went to Jordan Cook’s Fleetwater Xecutive, who had so impressed at the BSHA National Championships the previous month, while Jayne Ross took the hunter reserve with Carol Bardo’s 2014 Dublin purchase, Bloomfield Tetrarch.
Image by E.S. Photography, courtesy of the Horse of the Year Show