Charity pony race to raise cancer funds

WEST Sussex event rider and Olympc silver medallist Tina Cook will be taking part in a charity race run to raise funds for the Willberry Wonder Pony Charity.

This idea was established by Hannah Francis before she died, asking that the race should be run to raise funds for this charity which she had founded.

A talented horse rider, Hannah Francis, was diagnosed with aggressive bone cancer in 2015. She was just 17 years old. In the year and half that followed Hannah, always aided by her mascot toy pony, Willberry Wonder Pony, amazed the equestrian community and people all over the world with her drive and determination.

She continued to ride, even riding internationally under GB colours, and fulfilled many of her ‘bucket list’ wishes.Even more remarkably, she turned her sights to what she could do to help people in her position in the future.

In constant pain and undergoing relentless rounds of treatment, she and her dedicated family and friends set up Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony Charity, registered in March 2016 (reg charity no 1166416). The charity funds bone cancer research, especially into osteosarcoma, and grants equine related wishes to seriously ill people.

The race has been organised in conjunction with one of racing’s most famous cancer survivors, Bob Champion and the Bob Champion Cancer Trust. The Bob Champion Cancer Trust was established by Bob Champion in 1983 and has so far raised over £14 million.  Cheltenham Racecourse has kindly agreed to stage this one-off Flat race, to be called the Champions Willberry Charity Race, at the Home of Jump Racing on Thursday, April 20, 2017 during the April meeting next year.

Kristina Cook and Star Witness: Photo: Mike Bain

Kristina Cook and Star Witness: Photo: Mike Bain

Six celebrities will ride in the event including Tina,  Olympic gold medallist Nick Skelton, and top eventer Ben Hobday, who himself battled cancer at the same time as Hannah. Either William or Alice Fox-Pitt will also take part.

The celebrities will be joined by six riders from the wider equestrian community. Applications have been invited from riders  with a closing date of Monday, December 5, 2016.
Forms and application guidelines can be found and downloaded  from: www.championswillberry.org.uk

Key criteria will be that riders must be over 18, a competent rider, can pledge to raise over £2,500 and are able to source their own horse.There will be an official lunch on the day with a range of fund-raising activities to raise money for the two charities. Ian Peters, Trustee of the Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony Charity, said: “The equestrian community has been overwhelming in its support for Hannah’s legacy and to share this day with the Bob Champion Cancer Trust is the highest honour. We hope people will generously support the heroes riding, and those inspiring their efforts.

Bob Champion commented: “Hannah Francis was a brave and inspirational person and I was fortunate enough to have met her. I feel honoured that the Bob Champion Cancer Trust can celebrate her life with the Champions Willberry Charity race, linking the charity she set up as her legacy with the Bob Champion Cancer Trust.

“I hope that everyone gets behind supporting us whether this is by applying to ride, attending the lunch, sponsorship, donations or prizes, so we can raise much needed funds for both charities.”Ian Renton, Regional Director Cheltenham and the South West, Jockey Club Racecourse, said:”We are delighted to be able to host this charity race in honour of two such rewarding charities.
“Hannah’s story touched all of those in the equine world and the race will hopefully be a fitting tribute to her. I am delighted that Nick, Ben, Tina and William or Alice have already joined up and I am sure that many members of the public will be keen to do so as well.”

Please go to www.championswillberry.org.uk for all details of how to apply, how to get involved in sponsorship of the race and the jockeys riding, how to attend the race and lunch on the day and how to donate.The April meeting at Cheltenham Racecourse takes place on Wednesday, April 19 and Thursday, April 20, 2017.

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