Showjumper Loughnatousa WB will return to the All England Jumping Course next month in a bid to become one of the elite band of horses who have won the Hickstead Derby more than once.
Despite being first drawn last year, Loughnatousa WB jumped double clear for Irish rider Paul Beecher to beat former three-time Derby winner William Funnell in a jump-off.
Soon afterwards, the ride on Patricia Brown’s gelding ‘WB’ passed to Michael Lonsdale, and four months later the partnership pulled off a remarkable double by finishing joint-first in the Puissance at the Horse of the Year Show. The pair are now hoping to continue their run of success in this year’s British Jumping Derby.
With their Derby victory last June, Beecher and Loughnatousa WB joined a winners’ roll call that reads like a Who’s Who of the sport.
Indeed, three out of the four members of the gold medal-winning British showjumping team at London 2012 are previous winners of the Hickstead Derby. Nick Skelton won three years in a row, on J Nick in 1987 and then twice on the great Apollo, in 1988 and 89. Peter Charles emulated his feat with the superb mare Corrada, who won every year from 2001-2003, while Ben Maher, then 22, scored his victory in 2005 with Alfredo, making him the second-youngest winner of this class.
Winning the Derby remains a highlight for many showjumpers’ careers, but before any rider can attempt to go clear round the long, difficult course, they must qualify during Friday’s Bunn Leisure Derby Trial. This 1.60m class often throws up useful pointers as to who might win Sunday’s main event.
In the LED Sport Europe Speed Derby, the bravest and fastest horses will prevail as riders race round the International Arena jumping some of the fixed obstacles, including the Irish Bank and the main Derby bank (albeit the less steep side slope). Last year, Irish international showjumper Trevor Breen took the honours, beginning a remarkable Hickstead season in which he also won the Amlin Plus Eventing Grand Prix and the All England Grand Prix.
As well as the major international classes, the Hickstead Derby has a huge range of novice and young horse competitions in the outer rings. This summer, a new all-weather Ring 4 will ensure foot-perfect going for competitors, with the Bunn family investing a further £200,000 to maintain Hickstead’s position as one of the premier showgrounds in the UK. Constructed by Andrews Bowen, the new arena will incorporate the stone and all-weather surface from the London Olympics in Greenwich Park.
“After last year’s unseasonal weather, we felt we needed to put in another all-weather arena as an insurance against wet years. We have built it with many permanent features on the perimeter such as a water splash, a Devil’s Dyke, banks and steps so that it can also be used for Derbies or working hunter classes if the need arises,” said Hickstead Director, Lizzie Bunn.
Showing classes are a big feature of Hickstead’s June show, with championships for cobs, riding horses, hunters, mountain and moorlands and coloured horses. The final judging of the Tattersalls and Retraining of Racehorses Thoroughbred Show Horse Championship – a popular series for ex-racehorses – will take place in the International Arena, shortly before the Derby. There’s also scurry and private driving classes, plus the Hickstead Derby Polo Challenge, held on the Saturday night.
• LED Sport Europe has taken on the title sponsorship of the Speed Derby, the feature class on the Saturday of the British Jumping Derby Meeting.
The company, which sponsored the Hickstead Master’s Challenge in 2012, has stepped up its support of the show to take on this fast and furious class, which includes many of the International Arena’s permanent obstacles.
The company will also be supplying big screens and LED perimeter boards – a first for Hickstead. This will allow the showground to showcase a range of electronic adverts – similar to other major sporting venues.
As no title sponsor has yet been found for the British Jumping Derby, held on the Sunday afternoon, the organisers have taken steps to finance the class for one year only, though the search continues for a new sponsor to safeguard its future.
One company that has continued to support Hickstead for several years is Amlin Plus insurance. They have signed a deal to sponsor the Amlin Plus Eventing Grand Prix, held on the Friday of the Longines Royal International Horse Show, for a further three years.
Horseware Ireland has formed an agreement with the AEJC to provide all of the rugs presented to class winners.
As well as top class international classes, Hickstead has always been seen as an important fixture for grassroots riders as well as young horses. This year, equine clothing and accessories company Selwood Equine will sponsor every Novice class at the British Jumping Derby (19-23 June) and the Longines Royal International Horse Show (30 July – 4 August), culminating in the Selwood Equine All England Novice Championships at Hickstead’s national show, the All England Jumping Championships (5-8 September).