Until now this prestigious and historic grand prix was one of the major showjumping titles that had eluded the Olympic gold medallist.
A delighted Ben said: “There are a few big classes that every showjumper wants to win — the Hickstead Derby and the King’s Cup are two of them. I’ve come close to winning this a couple of times so it feels great to have finally done it.”
Coming into the competition following a disappointing performance in the Nations Cup on Friday, Tripple X III was far from favourite among the 49 starters.
“After Friday’s performance, I didn’t even know if I should be in the class today,” admitted Ben. “He had been jumping well prior to the FEI Nations Cup, so I didn’t know where [the disappointing performance] came from.
“I went home scratching my head, and decided to change his bit for today. I wouldn’t normally change it before such an important competition, but I know every hair on his body and I knew it was right for him. He enjoyed his job today and I felt like I had my horse back.”
Only three riders jumped clear around tricky 1.60m first round, with Germany’s Marcus Ehning (Copin van de Broy) and Ukraine’s Ulrich Kirchhoff (Carlina) joining Ben in the jump-off.
First to go, Ben went clear in 48.88sec — a time which looked potentially beatable. A fence down knocked Ulrich out of contention. Marcus set off determinedly and stopped the clock with a faster time than Ben, but also picked up 4 faults, handing the win to the British rider.
Full report on all the showjumping and showing action from Hickstead, plus dressage from Dressage at Hickstead, in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 8 August