Biddick and Funnell share the spoils in Hickstead Derby Trial
Two of the leading Al Shira’aa Derby contenders shared victory in today’s qualifying class, the Hickstead Derby Trial.
Thirty-three horses came forward for the class, with clear rounds proving very hard to come by. It was until William Funnell came in on Billy Diamo, drawn 20th to go, that the crowd got to see their first penalty-free round.
Harriet Biddick (nee Nuttall) then added a second clear with the ultra-consistent campaigner, A Touch Imperious, who is now 18-years-old. But with both riders hoping to win Sunday afternoon’s showcase Al Shira’aa Derby, they agreed not to jump-off against the clock and to share the first prize.
If William can win on Sunday, he would set a new record as the only five-time winner of the Al Shira’aa Derby. Victory would be especially poignant for the Surrey-based showjumper, who very sadly lost his mother shortly before the show. “My mother was looking forward to coming this week, but unfortunately she died last week. She would have loved to have been here, and hopefully she’ll be there with me in spirit on Sunday and help me to get it done.”
The 12-year-old Billy Diamo will be making his Derby debut on Sunday, but he proved himself to be very capable of jumping Hickstead’s iconic fences in today’s class. “He’s a big, honest horse, and today it was nice to go and get a bit of confidence for Sunday. I actually jumped the Derby Trial on him as an eight-year-old, when he had the gate down but otherwise had a great round. Then I was on Nations Cup duty with him, and I was on the shortlist with him for the Olympic Games last year, so he’s a good Grand Prix horse in his own right.”
Harriet, meanwhile, is really hoping to land her first Derby title after finishing runner up four times with A Touch Imperious. The horse has had some time off through injury during the last few years, while Harriet also had a spell out of the saddle with the arrival of her baby son. But now the pair are back and looking as good as ever.
“He’s exceeding my expectations, because he was clear yesterday in the Stoner Jewellers Vase and then he jumped a cracking round today,” said Harriet. “I didn’t feel I gave him the best ride, and I thought he was very genuine. Hopefully on Sunday I’ll kick myself into shape a bit more! It would mean a lot to win the Derby, but actually, he owes me nothing – as a horse he’s achieved far more than I could ever have imagined, and I’ve had an amazing career on him. He’s 18 years old now, and from here on out, what will be will be.”
In the Hickstead Derby Two Phase, riders had to jump clear round the first section of the course in order to go straight through to the timed second section. James Whitaker set the pace from early on in the class, producing a fast clear on Caloro Ex Z to cross the finish in a time of 33.14sec.
Olympic rider Holly Smith was second quickest with Kimba Castello (34.72sec), with Ireland’s David Simpson third on the talented Foudre F.
“To be honest, I had a plan and I executed it well,” said James, who also won the latest renewal of this class in 2019. “I’ve won this class twice, and Holly was second both times – if that happens every year, I don’t mind. You always know you’re doing well when you’ve beaten Holly Smith!”
Earlier in the day, Louise Simpson (Pjotr van de Kruishoeve) won the ICE Horseboxes Beethoven 7 & 8 Year Old Championship, Ronnie Jones took the Mochara 1.25m Open Championship aboard Cruso J RS, and Arianna Kuligowski and Ivascalle were victorious in the Hy Equestrian Hickstead 1.10m Amateur Championship.
Results are available here.