60 years of Hickstead — 18 moments we won’t forget

  • To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the famous All England Jumping Course, Hickstead, we decided to pick out just 18 unforgettable moments in the venue’s illustrious history. Established in 1960 by Douglas Bunn and now run by his family, the showground has hosted some thrilling Hickstead Derby finishes, battles for the Nations Cup, lightning-quick jump-offs and some highly decorated championships. Let’s hope the grandstands are full to bursting once again next year.

    1. Harvey Smith’s famous V sign

    Having won the Hickstead Derby in 1970 on Mattie Brown, Harvey returned the following year without the trophy. He claims to have forgotten it but organisers felt Harvey had defied instructions, being so confident he’d repeat his win. Eventually the trophy was retrieved from Yorkshire and after a jump-off against Steve Hadley on Prospero, Harvey and Mattie Brown crossed the line as victors. BBC viewers saw him stick two fingers up in the direction of the members’ stand and the directors’ box, which Harvey claims was the V-for-victory sign, but Hickstead founder Douglas Bunn saw it otherwise and it was decided Harvey would be eliminated, forfeiting his first prize of £2,000. The story made headline news the following day while the incident was referred to the BSJA stewards in London. Eventually Harvey Smith was reinstated but the episode has become Hickstead legend.

    2. Mondriaan’s poignant retirement

    William Funnell’s great partner Mondriaan will always be remembered as one of the all-time Derby greats, having taken the title in 2006, 2008 and 2009, recording the class’s 50th clear round. His retirement ceremony in the international arena in 2011 remains one of the most poignant moments in the showground’s history as the 17-year-old gelding left the scene of some of his greatest triumphs for one last time.

    3. The Boss rules at Hickstead

    One of the most memorable moments at the Royal International was when Susie Eddis and 13hh worker Beat The Boss took the 2015 supreme pony title. His brilliant paces, self-carriage, great gallop and wonderful manners made him the stand-out choice for the judges.

    4. Geoff Billington wins the Hickstead Derby for the first time at 52

    Battling through heavy rain in 2007, Geoff Billington and the grey Cassabachus skipped round the Derby track with just a time-fault to give Geoff his first victory at the age of 52.

    5. Lucinda Fredericks’ Hickstead success

    The rider’s victory in the 2004 running of the Eventing Grand Prix riding the then still up-and-coming 11-year-old Headley Britannia was special as it was one of the first steps to her tremendous wins at Badminton (2006), Burghley (2007) and Kentucky (2009). Nicky Boulter was best of the showjumpers that year with Magna Carta

    6. Ladies first

    Tina Fletcher (Promised Land) became the latest woman to lift the trophy in 2011, following in the footsteps of Pat Smythe, Alison Westwood (later Dawes), Marion Coakes and Anneli Drummond-Hay.

    7. John Whitaker’s fourth win

    John’s first Hickstead Derby win came in 1983 with the great Ryan’s Son and he went on to claim victory with the 21-year-old Gammon in 1998, 20-year-old Welham in 2000, before joining the elite group of four-time winners in 2004 with catch-ride Buddy Bunn, Douglas Bunn’s home-bred. John took over from an injured William Funnell, sitting on Buddy Bunn for the first time the day before the class, and beating his niece Ellen Whitaker in a jump-off (John Whitaker and Ryan’s son, pictured).

    8. Boomerang and Eddie Macken’s four-in-a-row

    The record four-timer set by the Irishman and the heroic Boomerang between 1976 and 1979 allowed him to keep the original gold Derby trophy and a new bronze trophy was commissioned in their honour, the Boomerang Trophy.

    9. The pony who cleared the Derby fences

    Marion Coakes (later Mould) jumped an amazing three clear rounds in the Derby with the 14.2hh Stroller but only won once, in 1967, when Marion was 20 years old.

    10. A new Chapter for showing

    The Supreme Ridden Pony Championship was first introduced at the Royal International in 2002 and that inaugural title went to Mrs Michael Coates’ Yealand Chapter. Prior to that year, the pony champions competed against the horses for the supreme ridden title and two ponies lifted the overall – Royal Bronze in 1993 and Trelawn Playboy in 2001.

    11. Trick rider takes the trophy

    In 1990, Joe Turi — a trick rider from Hungary — rode the stallion Vital to victory in the Derby after a nail-biting jump-off with Nick Skelton, denying the Warwickshire rider a fourth consecutive win. The year before, Joe had ridden Mill Ruby to victory in the Speed Derby, the third running of the class.

    12. Guy Williams goes high speed

    Guy Williams won the fast and furious Speed Derby for a record fourth time in 2015, breaking the course record in the process with the lightning-quick Casper De Muze. His first win in the class came 13 years previously with his two-time victor Be Precise.

    13. Beezie Madden’s historic King George

    In 2015, US rider Beezie Madden became the first woman to win the King George V Gold Cup, first run in 1911 and restricted to men only until 2008. Beezie followed up 12 months later with her second success on the occasion-loving Cortes C — it was more than 50 years since any rider had achieved back-to-back victories.

    14. A winning debut

    Making her Hickstead internatonal debut in 2015, Chloe Winchester landed one of the most prestigious titles in the national sport, the Queen Elizabeth II Cup, at the age of 21 with the brilliant mare Avoca Valkyrie.

    15. The only horse to rack up five showcase wins

    Trevor Breen’s Adventure De Kannan boasted a tremendous record in the international arena. The one-eyed wonder horse “Addy” showed incredible versatility by winning the 2009 Speed Derby, the 2012 Eventing Grand Prix and the All England grand prix at the national show in September, then in 2014 the pair landed the big one itself, the Derby, by jumping 0.02sec faster than Phillip Miller in the jump-off. A month later they returned to Hickstead to triumph in the Queen’s Cup. What a horse.

    16. Ben Maher’s Derby double

    In 2005, just a year after his Hickstead debut, Ben became the first rider since John Ledingham to win the Speed Derby (on Mercurius) and the Derby (Alfredo) in the same year, returning to top the Speed Derby again in 2006 on Mercurius.

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    17. Home team glory

    It’s been a decade since Great Britain last won the Nations Cup on home soil at Hickstead, but as a nation there have been some great triumphs in the series. Great Britain’s greatest run came between 1949 and 1954 with six wins on the trot.

    18. From the Grand National to the Speed Derby

    Only Robbie Power can claim to have won a Grand National, a Cheltenham Gold Cup and a Hickstead Speed Derby. The former junior showjumper turned leading jump jockey took time away from the racecourse to jump in the 2012 Eventing Grand Prix, finishing third, returning the next year to win the Speed Derby with Doonaveragh O One.

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