RoR Patron Clare Balding choose the “versatile” retrained racehorse First Fandango as The Jockey Club RoR Horse of the Year on Saturday (21 Janaury).

The RoR held its annual awards ceremony at the historic Jockey Club Rooms, recognising the achievements of former racehorses in their new careers across a range of disciplines. Over 150 guests from the racing and equestrian worlds joined RoR Elite Series Champions and winners for the RoR Awards ceremony hosted by Clare and  trainer Richard Phillips.

The three finalists for The Jockey Club RoR Horse of the Year were Grand National legend 20-year-old Pineau De Re, the multitalented retrained racehorse and social media star 17-year-old Skipper Robin, and the highly accomplished 16-year-old racehorse First Fandango who has showed great versatility ever since his retirement from racing.

Judging the winner Clare said: ”What an impossible choice! I was very torn but I chose First Fandango because he’s so versatile and not altogether straightforward but Hannah’s hard work with him has clearly paid off. It’s great to see how much happiness these horses are bringing and how well they adapt.”

First Fandango enjoyed a nine-year career as a racehorse and ran 50 times with trainer Tim Vaughan, winning £69,000 in prize money and running at four consecutive Cheltenham Festivals. Following his retirement from the track in 2017, ‘Fredstar’ has been competing and enjoying success beyond their wildest dreams with Worcestershire based rider, Hannah Chisman, who works full-time in racing as Travelling Head Girl for racehorse trainer John Spearing.

Following the announcement and presentation of the award by Sulekha Varma, of The Jockey Club, Hannah said: “I honestly can’t believe it! Fredstar is my absolute world. He is part of the family and has given me some of the best days of my life. I honestly can’t believe it! Just doing what I do every day with him is already a win for me and we all love him.”

Over the past five years, First Fandango has shown incredible versatility and enjoyed great success in team chasing, hunting, dressage, showing, and at affiliated British Showjumping and British Eventing competitions. Hannah says that he has also flourished in the show ring winning the Tattersalls RoR Amateur Special Series at the RoR National Championship Show two years running and the Tattersalls RoR Amateur Series at Hickstead in 2021, as well as being placed twice at the Horse of the Year Show.

Hannah said he is the ultimate retrained racehorse.

“He can show one day, then event the next, and he has even taught my six-year-old boy how to ride,” she added. “He’s always given me his all in everything we do – from herding cows to showing off at the Horse of the Year!”

Lead image: Sulekha Varma presents Hannah Chisman (left) with the Horse of the Year Award