Before she died, Hannah Francis expressed a wish to have a charity race which has received support from one of racing’s most famous cancer survivors, Bob Champion and The Bob Champion Cancer Trust. In response to this, Cheltenham Racecourse has kindly agreed to stage a one-off flat race – The Champions Willberry Charity Race – on Thursday 20 April 2017.
Six celebrities will ride in the event including Olympic gold medallist Nick Skelton, Olympic silver medallist Tina Cook and top eventer Ben Hobday, who himself battled cancer at the same time as Hannah, alongside either William or Alice Fox-Pitt. The celebrities will be joined by six riders from the wider equestrian community.
Applications are invited from riders wishing to take part, with a closing date of Monday 5 December 2017. 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 says: “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 and Hannah. The fight against cancer needs heroes and we know the equestrian community will stand shoulder to shoulder with ours.”
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, from Cheltenham Racecourse added: “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 hopefully 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.”
Forms and application guidelines are available at www.championswillberry.org.uk . The key criteria to take part are riders must be over 18, are a competent rider, can pledge to raise over £2,500 and are able to source their own horse.