Matt Sampson: The standard is getting higher *H&H VIP*

Opinion

Hickstead is always a good show, and this year, it was really good.

It always helps when the weather is good but the two main classes were amazing. It’s not often you have a jump-off in the Derby, especially with three people in it, and it was impressive to watch.

It was heartbreaking for Harriet Nuttall, and unbelievable she’s been second so many times. It was quite a shock as Harriet and Shane Breen were among the favourites, and especially because Michael Pender’s horse was far less experienced and it was his first time in the Derby. To win from that was incredible.

The best meeting in the world

The crowd and atmosphere over the weekend were brilliant. There’s so much history behind the Derby and the Speed Derby and the riders who have won them over the years are the ones you looked up to as a kid — to be able to compete in the classes you’ve grown up watching is an incredible feeling.

The Hickstead Derby meeting is absolutely as relevant now as it ever has been. There are so many five-star shows on every week, but still none of them mean anything like Hickstead; it has the best classes in the world.

This year’s Derby field was the strongest I’ve ever seen. There were 10 or 12 horses who could have won it, whereas it’s usually four or five — the standard is getting higher and people are getting better at it.

It was great sport. That’s what’s wonderful about Hickstead; these feature classes don’t change, so spectators can understand and follow them. For example, in the speed Derby there’s the time record to look out for, past winners of the class to watch and horses in form in the qualifier go near the end, so it’s always a good finish.

A personal favourite

Lizzie Bunn and the whole organising team are so generous and helpful, nothing’s too much for them. They’ve also improved so much at the venue, such as the new all-weather arenas in the back rings.

They don’t change the historic elements of the show but they’re always improving the things that need it. It’s my favourite show.

Ref Horse & Hound; 27 June 2019