Leading ladies line up for the Al Shira’aa Derby

Could Harriet Nuttall and A Touch Imperious win this year's Al Shira'aa Derby at Hickstead? (c) Craig Payne

Leading ladies line up for the Al Shira’aa Derby

Harriet Nuttall is among the leading contenders in the bid to become only the sixth woman to win this year’s Al Shira’aa Derby at Hickstead.

Harriet, 27, has produced two four-fault rounds to finish joint-second in the Derby in both 2015 and 2016, making her one of the strongest competitors for this year’s Al Shira’aa Derby.

She was unlucky not to win last year, when her rangy Irish gelding, A Touch Imperious, jumping clear until the very last fence. But while the crowd thought they were about to witness a historic clear, Harriet thought she’d already picked up faults earlier on course.

“I thought I had a foot in the water jump and had just finished on 4 faults, so I was just really happy to have had another good round. When I circled after the last fence, it was only then I realised I’d had it down,” she says. “The Derby is so difficult to win, you have to have so much luck on your side and everything has to be right on the day, and last year it just wasn’t my day.”

Riders who wish to compete in the Al Shira’aa Derby must qualify in the Bunn Leisure Derby Trial (Friday 23 June), with the top 35 combinations going through to Sunday’s showcase.

Other lady riders who are entered for the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting – and who could have a good chance in the Derby itself – include Esib Power, Ellen Whitaker and Jessie Drea.

Ellen Whitaker, whose cousin William is the reigning Hickstead Derby champion, came very close to winning the class in 2004 with Locarno. In the end, she had to settle for second place behind her uncle John and his catch ride, Buddy Bunn. Ellen has two horses entered at the show, and could well be one to look out for in the Bunn Leisure Derby Trial.

Jessica Drea is one of Britain’s fastest rising stars. Having been travelling reserve for Great Britain and the FEI World Equestrian Games, she then took some time out of the sport to have her first child. She also has two horses entered at the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting, including the talented Mullaghdrin Touch the Stars.

Showjumping, like the other Olympic equestrian discplines, is a sport where women and men compete on an equal footing, and it would be no big surprise were a lady rider to take this year’s Derby title.

Tickets for the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting (22-25 June) are on sale now at www.hickstead.co.uk.

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