The feature international classes on the second day of Hickstead’s British Jumping Derby Meeting were both won by members of the famous Whitaker family, with William and Steven taking a class each.
William Whitaker won the Bunn Leisure Derby Tankard aboard his nine-year-old dark bay Fandango.
“It’s always fantastic to win at Hickstead. It’s my first time jumping here since the upgrade work – I thought the arena was good before, but it’s fantastic out there now,” he said.
William has had the ride on Fandango for just under a year, and the gelding is owned by hiss girlfriend’s parents. “He has a lot of potential, and the assets to go a long way,” he said.
The 22-year-old will jump Fandango again in the Bunn Leisure Derby Trial, along with his other ride Animation, who he will ride in this year’s Carpetright Derby.
William’s uncle Steven was earlier victorious in the Stoner Jewellers Vase. It was the second year in a row that Steven had won the class on board Royal Rose, a 14-year-old chestnut stallion.
“He’s been on good form and has had a couple of international wins recently, so I expected him to go well. But you never know how the rest of the field is going to perform – he’s a stallion and a feisty little horse,” Steven said.
He has qualified for Saturday’s Bunn Leisure Speed Derby on Lolita, and will compete Locarno, formerly his daughter Ellen’s ride, in the Bunn Leisure Derby Trial.
• All five of last year’s runners up are coming back to Hickstead with the hope of winning the Carpetright Derby, and any one of them could be in with a shot.
Britain’s Ronnie Healy, who left all the fences standing in the 2011 Derby but received four faults when his horse Carlow Cruiser napped and reared at the entrance to the International Arena, is no doubt hoping to make amends this year and take the £35,000 top prize.
Ireland fielded two of the four-faulters in 2011 – David O’Brien on Mo Chroi, and Shane Breen, who is based at the All England Jumping Course and married to Chloe, the daughter of Hickstead founder Douglas Bunn. Shane has three horses entered at the Derby Meeting – Balloon and KEC Alicante. He’s won the Bunn Leisure Speed Derby twice .
One of the favourites to win is Guy Williams, whose record in the class is hugely impressive. He was second last year on Richi Rich III, and won the year before on Skip Two Ramiro – both horses are entered at the meeting, so he is definitely one to watch.
The British Jumping Derby Meeting has attracted a strong field of British and international riders across all four days of the show. Nick Skelton, Britain’s number one, is due to bring his Olympic prospect Big Star to the All England Jumping Course, while Britain’s number two Ben Maher – also a likelihood for the Olympic squad – is also entered. Entries also include Olympian Geoff Billington.
The international entries feature riders from Brazil, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Sweden, Portugal and Ireland.