Europe Ramps Up Showjumping in Paris, Knokke & Hickstead as Irish Derby is Run

The past week saw the ramping up of show jumping events across Europe as the Olympic Games comes ever closer, now only four weeks away. In Paris, another round of the Global Champions Tours took place At Hickstead, which should have hosted their famous Derby meeting, instead held a full national showjumping event together with several important showing classes as qualifiers for the Horse of the Year show to be held later in the year; sadly though behind closed doors. Finally, at the Curragh in Ireland, the Irish Derby took place with eleven runners.

The Longines Global Tour

Ben Maher takes the Paris leg of the Longines Global Tour

The next leg of this prestigious competition for showjumping was held in Paris over the weekend. Like with all these Longines Global Champion Tour classes, there were 13 obstacles with 16 jumping efforts required. This time the course builders and designers were a French team led by Gregory Bodo. Individuals from 12 different nations took part. The time was tight for the first round with some ending with a clear round but with 1 time fault which only left three to go through to the jump off. It was particularly pleasing for Great Britain as two of the three were British, Ben Maher riding Ginger-Blue and Jodie Hall-McTeer riding Salt’n Pepper, the pair being split by Sameh El Dahan riding WKD Aimez-Moi for Egypt. Ben Maher was the only one of the three to get a double clear which meant he won with time becoming an irrelevance with Sameh El Dahan coming second with 4 faults and on 8 was Jodie Hall-McTeer.

5 Star Show Jumping at the Seaside.

Jerome Guery win the CSI Grand Prix

The final 5 star CSI was held by the seaside in Belgium at Knokke – just near the border with The Netherlands. There were 48 to start in this Rolex Grand Prix designed by Uliano Vezzani from Italy. There were representatives from 15 nations taking on the 16 jump effort first round course with many the top riders in the world in the class. This was clearly a class to win with the first two be given an Audi car each. Nine collected no faults in the first round, but when it came to the jump off, only two achieved a double clear. The first of those was Kevin Staut for France riding a Selle Francais 10 year old mare Bulgarie d’Engandou. The pair went round in a time of 45.26 seconds, which was quite slow in comparison with some others, but he rode a careful clear rather than trying to beat the clock as well. He came second, earning himself an Audi A3 worth a mere 35,000 Euros as well as his prize money. He was beaten by Belgium’s Jerome Guery riding a 15 year old stallion Quel Homme de Hus in a much quicker time of 38.98 seconds. Jerome was only the third quickest round the course and both Max Kuhner from Austria and Scott Brash from Great Britain were quicker but had a pole or two down despite being quicker round the course. Not only did Jerome Guery collect 40,000 Euros, but also an Audi Electric E Tron worth 125,000 Euros! Max Kuhner ended up in third place with 4 faults in the jump off with Scott Brash coming fourth with two poles down.

Hickstead National Show

Sign of the times as Hickstead has to be run behind closed doors

For the second year running, sadly, the Corona virus put paid to the running of the Hickstead Derby which was started in 1961 by Douglas Bunn, a well-known showjumper of the time, Although Douglas Bunn passed away a few years ago the Bunn family still own and run the iconic show ground and have continued to run and keep the traditions of ‘The Master of Hickstead’. While he was alive, The Hickstead Derby took place every year through fair weather and storms. (Douglas Bunn was not one to be inconvenienced by anything.) However, although the Bunn family were again forced to abandon the Hickstead Derby Meeting as an international event, but in true Bunn style, there would be a National Show to replace it.

The Derby cancellation must have also been a great disappointment for the sponsors, Al Shira.aa. However, they did step up and sponsor the main class of the weekend together with many other classes during the new look four day Hickstead meeting. The whole event was held behind closed doors which resulted in virtually no trade stands and the whole show was much quieter than normal, but there were plenty of grooms, owners and riders to make some appreciative noise as each jumping round was completed. The entry lists for each class were colossal, with one class actually having 246 entries! The four day show saw well over 1500 entries.

Guy Williams takes the Al Shira aa Grand Prix on Rouge de Ravel. (seen here on Mr Blue Sky)

All the early classes for the first couple of days were qualifiers for the main classes held over the weekend, both for professional and amateur riders alike. The top class held was the Al Shira aa Grand Prix Trophy over a height of 1.40m. The course designer Kelvin Bywater set a yet another challenging course which he has been doing all week, including using for the first time for this event, the huge Hickstead water jump. Like all the other classes, this had an extraordinary number of entries – 88 of them! Although there were few current top drawer riders competing, there were plenty of good combinations taking part including a large contingent from the ever growing Whitaker family. On a rather dull and drizzly day with some heavy showers, the 88 combinations found clear rounds in rather short supply. In fact, only nine and one of whom was the winner of both of the qualifiers for this class earlier in the week, Guy Williams riding his own 16 year old stallion Rouge de Ravel. Guy, known for being quick in jump offs made this occasion no exception as he blitzed around the course and took the win. In second was David Simpson riding an 11 year old gelding Foudre F and in third was Jack Ryan.

Adam Botham takes 7 year old Championship and has a great week at Hickstead

Possibly, the best class of the week was the Al Shira aa 7 Year Old Championship. The top 31 7 year olds from the previous two qualifiers competed to take the coveted prize. Kelvin Bywater set a difficult course, particularly with a single fence followed by a double going downhill and away from the collecting ring. Many combinations came unstuck here as many riders found it difficult to stop their steeds running away and therefore unable to get the right distance away from the fence to jump it. If they didn’t hit the single, they were very likely to clout the double! The highest fence on the course was 1m 35. Apart from one clear, half of the whole class jumped when the winner of the 5 and 6 year old championships came in and was expected to add to his tally, Ronnie Jones, but he too had a run out at the by now infamous double. Finally, towards the end of the class, the word had gone round the riders as to how to take care of the problem fences and there were seven to take on the jump off. Three of them cleared the jumps second time round including Adam Botham riding Ebanking who took the class with a fine performance and a lovely horse to boot!

By comparison, the final class of Saturday, the E Q Horseboxes 1m 30 championship was a rather ordinary class – it has to be said. There were again 31 starters tackling a much kinder course this time and there were 17 first round clears, with Adam Botham having a terrific time with four clears from the four horses he had in the class. He ended up winning second and third places, but failed to beat the time of the winner, Helen Rees riding her own Bart VI.

Polyanna Gredley takes Amateur 1m20 in fine style from front

In the ICE Horsebox 1m 20 Amateur Championship, there were 30 to face the judges. At jump off stage, there were five left to go through. The winner was Pollyanna Gredley riding Unex Arantos a 16 year old gelding by Concorde with Georgina Wood coming second on a huge and as a result well named horse – Warhorse.

While it was obviously a great disappointment that the usual Derby could not take place, Hickstead did a fantastic job in putting on a unique show designed in a way that as many as possible with showing and showjumping horses could take part. It was just a shame that the whole show had to be conducted behind closed doors.

The Irish Derby

William Buick takes Irish Derby on Hurrican Lane. 

Of the 11 runners in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh, five came from the Bally Doyle stables with Aidan O’Brien at the helm, including the 9/4 hot favourite, High Definition, and there was one from Donnacha O’Brien.  On good going, the 11 left the stalls in a fairly even break although the favourite did stumble quite badly shortly after, which put Ryan Moore and his steed in last place. Another of the O’Brien quintet took the lead, Matchless, obviously in the race as pacemaker for the other four runners. The first three home were all prominent throughout the race with Frankie Dettori riding Lane Eagle taking the lead in the last part of the race. However, always there or thereabouts was the subsequent winner Hurricane Lane trained by Charlie Appleby for Godolphin and ridden by William Buick. This was another fantastic result for the stallion Frankel, as he has now sired both the English and Irish Derby winners this year. Charlie Appleby must be quite chuffed as well!!! In second was Frankie on Lane eagle trained by Kevin Ryan and third was the best of the Aidan O’Brien runners, Wordsworth. The expected hot shot – High Definition beat home just one, one of his stable mates and early leader Matchless.

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