‘Such bad timing’: 19-year-old Hickstead Derby hero ruled out for 2023

  • The brilliant 19-year-old gelding A Touch Imperious, who has finished second in the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby an incredible five times, has been ruled out of this year’s competition with a minor “ongoing injury”.

    His rider Harriet Biddick told H&H that it was “nothing major” and just “bad timing”. However, there are high hopes that he’ll be back to contest the Hickstead Derby again next year, when the gallant veteran will be 20 years old.

    “It’s just an ongoing injury and it’s nothing major – but he needs to rest for three weeks which means I can’t do the work and the fitness needed for Hickstead, so it’s just bad timing, but it means that, sadly, he’s not going,” said Harriet, who just missed out again last year when a heel in the water prevented her and “Henry” from joining victor Shane Breen in a jump-off.

    But, emphasised Harriet of her “horse of a lifetime”, “There’s no plan of retirement!”

    The team are really positive and “pushing for next year”.

    “We’ll see how he comes back from this,” explained Harriet, who won’t therefore have a ride in this year’s Derby, which takes place on Sunday 25 June.

    “Another horse wasn’t really in the pipeline as it was all about A Touch Imperious, so I’d love to do it on something else at some point, but not this year.”

    Going for a Hickstead record

    Former national champion Harriet is instead focusing on bidding for a record fourth Hickstead speed Derby victory for another senior equine, the 18-year-old Silver Lift.

    “All’s good with him – he had a win at Bath & West on the grass there last week and he was second in another class, so he feels good, all positive and ready to go with him this year,” she said.

    “With him automatically qualifying because we won the speed Derby last year, that record to become the first horse to be a four-time winner is really my goal.

    “Silver Lift and A Touch Imperious love an atmosphere and they have a reason to be there – it’s just something they enjoy now. It gives them a real buzz,” explained Harriet, who also has another of her great partners, Galway Bay Jed, back in action after a potentially career-ending injury 18 months ago.

    Another veteran ruled out of this year’s Hickstead Derby

    Harriet shared second in last year’s Hickstead Derby with Shane Breen on his second ride Golden Hawk and the now 19-year-old stallion will also be absent from this year’s competition.

    “The plan was to try to get to some shows with him, but he’s been so busy with breeding that it hasn’t worked into the system for his fitness work and to have him ready for Derby day,” Shane told H&H. “He’s producing so well as a breeding stallion, so I decided I’d rather get more of his progeny on the ground, than get him ready for just one day. When I have Can Ya Makan, too, it’s great.

    “It’s unfortunate because I think it’s well within Golden Hawk’s capabilities and he should have won a King George and a Derby already, but that’s just the way it goes. He’s a wonderful horse, he’s 18 this year, and it’s hard for them to do everything.”

    As well as the 17-year-old Can Ya Makan, Shane will instead also ride his 10-year-old home-bred Scarteen in this year’s Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby, who has recently been bought back for his stable.

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