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Three Derby contenders share honours in Trial run at Hickstead

Saturday, 22 June 2024
CSI4* Al Shira'aa Hickstead Derby Meeting 2024

Photo © Boots and Hooves Photography. Three riders shared the honours in Friday's Agria Derby Trial at Hickstead. Photo © Boots and Hooves Photography.


Edited press release from Hickstead Press Office



Last year’s Agria Derby Trial winners Robert Whitaker and Carlos Ribas once again shared the honours in Friday’s class at the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting – and they were joined by 2022 winner William Funnell in a three-way split for first place.

Theirs were the only clear rounds of the 26 starters, but the three riders all decided to split the honours in order to save their horses for Sunday’s Al Shira’aa Derby. The Agria Derby Trial is a world ranking class, with 19 jumping efforts comprising a mix of complex lines and some of the traditional fences that horses will face in the Derby itself.

“This class is built ideally for the horses to get in the ring and get used to the natural fences,” said Brazil’s Carlos Ribas, whose win came courtesy of the 15-year-old Juan Van’t Arkelhof (Diamant de Semilly x Ahorn Z). “It gives them confidence, despite it being a 1.60m class so the fences are very big. I was really pleased with my round,” he added.

Robert Whitaker was riding the same horse that he won on 12 months ago, Evert (Amadeus x Indoctro). Having now claimed back-to-back Agria Derby Trial victories, Robert now has his sights set on winning the Al Shira’aa Derby for the first time.

“The Derby is more about power jumping than speed jumping, so we want to keep the horses fresh so they have a good chance,” explained Robert, who is based close to the showground in West Sussex. “I was really happy with my horse – he jumped fantastic. I’ve never jumped him in the Derby before, but I think he can do it. He’s jumped Grands Prix, and he’s very brave. He’s jumped the King George before and he likes this ring, so I think he’s ready for Sunday.”

For William Funnell, it was the ideal preparation for his record-breaking attempt on Sunday, when he will bid to become the first rider to lift the Boomerang Trophy five times. He jumped an impressive clear on last year’s Al Shira’aa Derby runner-up Dublon (Centauer Z x Up to Date).

“This was my first show with this horse this time last year, and he jumped a decent enough round in the Trial and went clear in the Derby. I know him a bit better now and he feels much fresher. I’ll definitely settle for another clear on Sunday!” he said. “I’ve probably only got a few more Derbies left in me, so I put pressure on myself – I’ve more or less kept this horse to try to have another bash this year. I haven’t had as much time for riding because I’m the chef d’equipe for the UAE team for the Paris Olympics."

In fourth place was Ellen Whitaker and her Derby hopeful Demi Luovo (Vigo Cece x Starsky de Brix), fifth was France’s Emeric George with Dune Du Ru (Vagabond de la Pomme x Apache d'Adriers) and in sixth was Guy Williams and Mr Blue Sky UK (Chacco-Blue x Cento), all with one fence down.

Riders will have one more chance to qualify for Sunday’s Derby in Saturday’s Hickstead Master’s Trophy.

A huge class came forward for the Plumpton Racecourse Derby Two Phase for the Tom Hudson Trophy, with 64 horses and riders competing for honours. Prolific Hickstead winner – and speed queen – Nicole Lockhead Anderson produced the fastest time of all with Mecoblue PS, crossing the finish in 33.03sec. In runner-up spot was Sally Goding and Spring Willow with a time of 33.81sec. 


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