Showjumper eyes up a unique Epsom and Hickstead Derby double

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  • Olympic showjumping team hopeful Tim Gredley has a busy June ahead of him as he attempts to pull off a unique Derby double.

    On Saturday (1 June) after fulfilling his previous day’s League Of Nations team duties in St Gallen, Switzerland, the Newmarket-based showjumper is travelling to Epsom Racecourse in Surrey where his family’s racehorse Ambiente Friendly lines up as one of the favourites for the historic Flat race, the Betfred Derby.

    Three weeks later, at the world famous Hickstead Derby, Tim is hoping his showjumping stable jockey Joe Clayton can triumph with his Unex Competition Yard-owned Gentlemen VH Veldhof, with whom Tim finished 15th in last year’s contest.

    “It certainly would be an odd double,” smiles Tim. “But that’s the aim!”

    Tim Gredley: “We took his shoes off and let him enjoy some time in the field”

    Ambiente Friendly was bought last year by Tim’s father Bill Gredley with former jockey Freddy Tylicki. The family’s patience and vision with the “tearaway” two-year-old have been richly rewarded with a three-year-old colt who now heads to the Epsom Classic as second favourite behind the Aidan O’Brien-trained City Of Troy.

    “We sent him into training with James Fanshawe straight from the breeze-ups last year. I went to watch him one morning and he was lathered in sweat, just not ready to be doing what he was doing,” Tim tells H&H. “So we took the decision to take his shoes off and let him enjoy some time in the field for three months over the summer to grow and develop, and just let his mind get a bit better.”

    Ambiente Friendly, who is by the Coolmore stallion Gleneagles out of Fastnet Rock mare Roxity, returned to Newmarket trainer James Fanshawe in July and won his first race at Leicester over seven furlongs “quite easily”.

    “Everybody obviously hopes they have a potential Derby horse but he showed that day he had an engine, it just needed a bit of managing,” recalls Tim. “We wanted to see what we really had after that, so we ran him in a Group Three at Newmarket and we got the tactics all wrong – we should have begun to teach him to settle then, rather than letting him bowl along.

    “We were all a bit annoyed with ourselves, but we learnt from that and we took the decision that he wasn’t going to be a Guineas horse – his mind wasn’t right for it – and instead the Fanshawes did a brilliant job spending the whole winter teaching him to settle in behind horses and canter slowly.”

    “It’s just nice to be involved in the Derby conversation”

    Ambiente Friendly finished fourth in his seasonal reappearance in a Listed race at Newmarket for new jockey Callum Shepherd, before stepping up in distance for Lingfield’s Derby Trial on 11 May, which he won with devastating ease, beating the Aidan O’Brien-trained Illinois. The Betfred Derby, part of the QIPCO British Champions series, is now the ultimate goal in this remarkable journey and experienced jockey Rab Havlin has been booked to ride Ambiente Friendly in the race.

    “The plan came off and it’s very exciting now,” says Tim. “It’s lucky that we’ve managed him right, because he could very easily not be where he is now if we’d carried on with him as a two-year-old.

    “It looks like it’s an open Derby this year – obviously you have to be realistic when you’re up against those big guys and we’re very aware they won’t be letting anyone have any sort of advantage or easy ride! We’d be delighted to be up among the top three or four. Really it’s just nice to be involved in the conversation.”

    Tim Gredley and Gentlemen VH Veldhof competing in the Hickstead Derby

    Tim Gredley (GBR) riding Gentlemen VH Veldhof during the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby. Credit: Sport In Pictures/Alamy Live News

    On to the Hickstead Derby…

    After Derby day at Epsom, Tim Gredley will return to St Gallen to jump in Sunday’s five-star grand prix.

    “With this new rule you can only jump two horses in the League Of Nations shows anyway, so there wouldn’t be anything for me to jump in on the Saturday – so I hope it’s doable to make it to Epsom on the Saturday for the Derby, then get back to St Gallen on the Sunday for the grand prix,” he says. “It’s not very often you get a runner in the Derby, let alone one with a real chance, so I’m not going to miss it!”

    According to Tim, Hickstead’s Al Shira’aa Derby has also been the long-term plan for Joe Clayton and the 18-year-old Gentlemen VH Veldhof.

    “I’m letting Joe and Gentlemen give it a go this year – I can’t do everything at the moment!” he says. “I think he’ll have a really good chance – the horse has never been fitter or looked healthier and has been round a couple of times with me.

    “Joe’s been on flying form with him recently and really that’s been the plan since the beginning of the year, for Joe to go and win the Hickstead Derby.”

    Can they pull it off? Watch this space!

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