Matthew Sampson & Topflight True Carlo. Ph. via Hickstead
Yorkshire rider Matthew Sampson had his name added to the roll of honour in the British Speed Derby at Hickstead CSI4* in Great Britain.
You may remember Sampson as the effervescent rider who earned an entry to last week’s Bolesworth International by literally singing for his ticket. He went on to post strong results at Bolesworth.
This week, the 26-year-old was drawn 11th out of 30 riders in the Saturday, June 24, 2017 feature class, but he set a blisteringly quick time of 92.73 seconds on Topflight True Carlo to put pressure on his later rivals.
Sampson then had a nervous wait right until the very end of the class, with the 2014 and 2015 winner Guy Williams aboard Caspar De Muze and last year’s Speed Derby victor Harriet Nuttall and Silver Lift the last riders to go.
When Williams felt his dual champion horse tiring round the lengthy, twisty course he eased up a bit, finishing clear in 95.59sec. Only Nuttall could stop Sampson from lifting the trophy, and she set off meaning business with the grey gelding Silver Lift.
She ended up producing the second quickest time of the day in 90.75 seconds, but a four-second penalty for knocking down a fence relegated her to 2nd place.
It was a first major international win at Hickstead for Sampson, who picked up the ride on Topflight True Carlo at the last minute when the horse’s regular rider couldn’t compete in the class.
“I’ve been coming here to Hickstead since I was a little kid and watching it on television – this class is one that everyone wants to win,” said Sampson, who previously rode the horse a few years back and came 3rd in this class behind Williams and Nuttall in 2014. “Everything came together today, and he loves that arena.”
The horse’s owner Christine Spanner added: “I’m speechless. I’ve watched this class since I was a young child – I can’t thank Matt enough for what he’s done. I’ve had the horse since he was five months old, and he’s 13 now. I still ride him every day, and competed him in showjumping, eventing, hunting, team chasing – you name it.”
Williams did have cause for celebration earlier on in the day when he won the Tom Hudson Derby Trophy with new ride Rouge De Ravel.
Guy has only had the ride on the 12-year-old stallion since April, but already they’ve picked up some superb results and Guy ranks him as “one of the best horses I’ve had”.
“He’s only ever jumped 1.35m and 1.40m classes so this was the biggest course he’s seen, but he’s brave, he’s competitive, he jumps the biggest things and just keeps winning. He doesn’t spook but he’s quite feisty which I think helps,” Williams added.
He plans to bring Rouge De Ravel back to Hickstead next month for the Longines King George V Gold Cup, the Grand Prix finale of the Longines Royal International Horse Show (25-30 July).
On Sunday, attention turns to the famous Al Shira’aa Derby, in which riders have to tackle the notoriously difficult course that includes the 10ft 6in slope of the Derby Bank, the Devil’s Dyke, the Open Ditch and one of the widest water jumps in the world.
Last year’s winners William Whitaker and Glenavadra Brilliant will start as favourites for this year’s Hickstead showcase, but they’ll face plenty of strong rivals. These include former winners Williams, William Funnell, Michael Whitaker and Phillip Miller, plus Billy Twomey and Nuttall, who were both runners-up 12 months ago.
But nothing is guaranteed in the Hickstead Derby, and any one of the 28 starters could be lifting the Boomerang Trophy on Sunday afternoon.
Tickets for the Al Shira’aa Derby are available at www.hickstead.co.uk as well as on the gate, while the action will also be broadcast worldwide via Hickstead.TV.
For results, click here.