To win Wincanton’s historic Stewart Tory Memorial Open Hunters’ Chase next Thursday would be a dream come true for Percy Tory, with the race run in memory of his late father.
The racecourse is celebrating the 30th year of running the hunter chase which is held in the fondest regard by the region’s racing stalwarts, and to coincide with the anniversary, Percy and his family have a horse to run in the race.
He goes by the name of Apple’s Queen, a name Percy admits was given to the gelding before they purchased him! Two years ago, he won four point-to-points, and finished second in the Grassroots Hunter Chase for the Dick Woodhouse Trophy. This year they hope he will go one better and win their own race.
Percy said: “We have him in a partnership and he runs in Nicky Turner’s name. He was off all last season as he had a slight leg and he’s fine again now. He was second at Larkhill in the open race in December and he hasn’t run since as the ground hasn’t been right. Sally Alner trains him and we hope that Paul Nicholls’ amateur Bryan Carver will ride. Of course we’d love him to win, but we never like to jinx it.”
The late Stewart Tory was a leading amateur rider in the 1920s, winning over one hundred point-to-point races. He also served as a steward at Wincanton for many years. Stewart’s three children, Percy, Michael and Bridget were all successful as amateur jockeys. Michael booted home more than 150 winners, served as a steward at Wincanton for 28 years, was second to the late Lord Oaksey in the amateur championships and was seventh in the 1957 Grand National on Sydney Jones. Percy rode future Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Four Ten in point-to-points before injury curtailed his career, and Bridget was successful in 25 point-to-points, which was an incredible achievement at a time when opportunities for lady jockeys were very limited.
In 1989 the race was run for the first time as an amateur riders race, with Percy’s nephew Anthony winning the inaugural Stewart Tory Memorial Trophy before he turned professional.
On Thursday, close friends and family of the Torys will be in the box cheering home Apple’s Queen. “My family all enjoy it at Wincanton. With the race now a hunters’ chase it is very popular with all the local people as well as the point-to-pointers who are able to run in it.
“We very much enjoy Wincanton where the fences are well made and they work hard to get the ground right. It’s our local track and we have a lot of friends there and of course, my parents always used to go. We’ve never won the race before as we haven’t had a horse good enough, and I’m not sure that this one is, but it would be wonderful to win the race run in memory of my father.”