IN blazing sunshine on a crisp winter’s morning, hundreds of friends and the extended family of Tiggy Hancock gathered at Cheltenham Racecourse last Friday to celebrate her life and to officially launch Tiggy’s Trust.
What was most evident upon entering the mecca of National Hunt racing was that every facet of the equestrian and thoroughbred industries had ensured they had a presence on a very special day when Tiggy’s Trust did succeed in turning Cheltenham yellow.
Racing heroes and heroines Sir A.P. McCoy, Ruby Walsh and Rachael Blackmore, equestrian Olympic gold medallist Laura Collet, Irish Olympians Sam Watson, Sarah Ennis, Austin O’Connor and television pundits Alice Plunkett and Ed Chamberlin, to name a few, all devoted large parts of their day to Tiggy’s Trust, to emphasise what a wonderful legacy this will be for the funny, inclusive and talented daughter, sister and friend that Tiggy was.
Yellow was apparent from the moment you laid eyes on the enclosure with the big screens showing clips of a morning spent at Willie Mullins’ yard and 40 riders all bedecked in some form of yellow, including the legendary trainer himself looking like ‘Big Bird’, as one prominent member of his team commented!
The racecard cover was movingly dedicated to Tiggy and the cover of Tattersalls Cheltenham December Sale catalogue was designed especially in yellow, with the Tiggy’s Trust logo on the front, to mark the occasion.
Gradually as the enclosures and marquees filled, it was impossible not to be struck by the breadth and reach of this yellowing of Cheltenham.
Cheltenham staff wore yellow masks. Yellow hats, scarves, ribbons, shoes and bags were visible on racegoers throughout.
However, what was particularly impressive was seeing the jockeys emerge from the weighroom for the Tiggy’s Trust Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase wearing yellow breeches emblazoned with the Tiggy’s Trust logo, the jockeys having generously waived their sponsorship commitments for the race.
When Derek Fox returned victorious aboard Corach Rambler, he reappeared in the parade ring waving a Tiggy’s Trust flag. And shortly afterwards the amphitheatre that surrounds the Cheltenham winner’s enclosure erupted in applause for the Hancock family as they stood with Corach Rambler’s proud groom facing the affectionate crowd.
Tiggy’s Tent saw 450 guests sit down to a sumptuous lunch. Right next door, hundreds more Tiggy friends enjoyed a carefree day of racing and rolling images from Tiggy’s short life.
The mood was a celebratory one, something that the Hancock family was at pains to ensure was the case.
Impressionist Rory Bremner treated everyone to 10 minutes of hilarity while Tattersalls auctioneer Alastair Pim timed a live seven-lot auction to precision between races. In this short space of time, a whopping £85,000 was added to Tiggy’s Trust and the Injured Jockeys Fund.
Meanwhile, in the weighroom, jockeys were swapping yellow breeches and many Irish jockeys wore them in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Race, proud as punch to play their part for Tiggy’s Trust.
As the curtains came down on one of the most heartening and brightest of days at Cheltenham, the Tigmeisters Band, renamed by Tiggy’s friends for the day, were playing some of her favourite songs.
Racegoers were filing out of the racecourse with bags full of Tiggy’s Trust merchandise purchases.
Santa Claus, aka Shark Hanlon, was sweeping the sales ring and collecting even more generous donations to the Trust.
This was a truly memorable day and a celebration of Tiggy’s life, above all else. In excess of £200,000 was raised from the event by the close of business on Friday last but - with a continual flow of donations as the warmth of the event reached far and wide - this is a figure that is still growing.
What followers and friends of Tiggy’s Trust can be sure of is their invaluable contribution is certain to bring a smile as broad as Tiggy’s to many young equestrians in the future.
And we very much look forward to the capturing those moments with a ray of sunshine sure to be nearby.
Thank you all, not forgetting The Irish Field for its unwavering support for Tiggy’s Trust on this most heartening of journeys.