The opening international day of this year’s Hickstead Derby meeting produced top-class jumping and close finishes.

The top prize of £1,500 in the Derby Tankard was won from the front of the 12-horse jump-off by Mark Armstrong, who flew round on his forthcoming Aachen ride, the nine-year-old Thesaura. Many others came close, but no one could overtake the man from Hampshire, whose closest rival, Robert Whitaker, was only 0.06sec behind after almost overshooting the sharp turn to the final vertical.

“I thought my time was beatable, but Thesaura is a naturally quick mare,” said Mark.

The Whitakers also had to settle for second place in the opening International Arena class when Robert’s father, John, produced a great round on Lactic Two, only to lose out to the next to go, Lancashire-based Robert Maguire, 25, with Two Mills Showtime.

There was a Whitaker victory on the day, however, after Michael and Renzerin VD Rampaarden shrugged off the handicap of an early draw in ring two’s Speed Derby qualifier to take the honours by more than 3sec.

Robert Maguire this time finished runner-up on Retreats Oakie Doakie, although he would have won had the Dutch-bred bay not picked up a 4sec penalty for a lowered pole.