SARAH COOKE CROWNED SCURRY DRIVER OF THE YEAR
She may have had her first HOYS win back in 1992, but taking the Scurry Driver of the Year title in front of a capacity crowd in Birmingham was extra special for Sarah Cooke.
Sarah raced her mother Pat’s pair of chestnut ponies, Bow and Arrow, to a last-gasp victory in an astonishing time of 46.30 seconds that had the crowd of 8,000 leaping to their feet and cheering to the rafters.
Her amazing run of wins began on Wednesday night when she beat the field to take the under 122cm class in just 48.38 seconds, almost three seconds ahead of Jeff Osborne with Gavin & Stacey in second spot.
In the large class on Thursday with Black & Tan, she came second to Jeff Osborne with Zig & Zag who notched up the second best time of the whole tournament of 47.02 seconds.
On Friday afternoon, Sarah, with ‘Disco’ Dave Renham on the back, steered Bow & Arrow to another clear-round win in 48.12 seconds, ahead of Alison Millman with Branston & Pickle in 49.42sec.
So, on paper, with not one ball knocked down, Sarah looked the favourite but she had come second for the last two years to Jemma Millman. In 2008 she had been in the lead only to hit a cone at the penultimate obstacle.
For three years Sarah’s mum, Pat, had trained and raced Bow & Arrow – Henry & Max – before he her daughter took them over the reins three years ago.
Sarah says: “During the other races at HOYS Mum couldn’t watch, she just walked slowly down to the arena just in time to see me come through the cones at 11 & 12.
On Saturday my sister Jen persuaded her to watch the whole competition.”
She saw Charlotte Adams-Lane’s Rhubarb and Custard, a pair that were due to be retired bag fifth spot with a clear in 52.62 seconds.
Keith Day, driving in his first ever HOYS, navigated the experienced Lady & The Tramp around the testing course, knocked down two and six before Jeff Osborne’s Gavin & Stacey – in their first season – went into the lead with 50.81secs.
Last year’s winner Jemma Millman had two down which left Sally Mawer and Sarah Cooke as the last two to go.
Former HOYS winner Sally powered her large pair, Whistle & Flute, clear in 47.08 seconds. An amazing feat made even more remarkable because Flute – Dirty Gerty at home – was seriously ill just before Edenbridge & Oxted Show at the end of August.
Sarah Cooke said: “I’d been convinced all week that it was a course that suited bigger pairs and, as the curtain opened, I thought that’s it, Sally’s got it.”
But Bow & Arrow had other plans in mind…they shaved milliseconds powering left-hand from two to three, went straight as arrows through the chicane and powered into the box at nine before screaming clear through 10, 11 and 12 to finish to rapturous applause in 46.30secs.
Sarah, from Bedfordshire, who has won the title five times, has never managed to win Scurry Driver of the Year since the Horse of the Year Show moved to Birmingham’s NEC.
*The annual Sunday night fun Hurry Scurry race, where a scurry driver, show jumper and jockey take part in a team was even more chaotic than usual after a mix up with security meant the jockeys arrived at the arena with just moments to spare.
The race was won by Alison Millman, Roelf Bril and Sam Thomas, with Su Ridley, Ellen Whitaker and Mark Bradburne in second and Jeff Osborne, John Whitaker and Carl Llewelyn third.
Pictures by Robbie Nisbet