The Hickstead speed Derby is one of the highlights of the showjumping calendar but this year Olympic eventer Gemma Tattersall will be targeting the class with her talented eight-year-old event horse Johan-Some.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Gemma, who combines her top-level eventing career with plenty of success in pure showjumping.
At the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby meeting (23-26 June) she and the Dutch-bred son of Lexicon, owned by Linda Allen, will jump in Thursday’s qualifier from which the top 25 combinations go through to the British speed Derby on Saturday.
“Johan-Some is a real talent and has been jumping some 1.40m showjumping classes, so he combines the experience of eventing with an amazing jump, and a brilliant brain — he’s just not fazed by anything,” said Gemma, who rode the gelding to seventh place in his first four-star at Chatsworth last weekend.
“So I know he’ll just love going into that big arena at Hickstead and doing something like the speed Derby. He’ll probably think the whole show has been put on just for him anyway, that’s his kind of mentality!
“He has a lovely, big, scopey jump, he’s careful and he’s really brave. So all the ditches and banks on the course will hopefully not be a problem.”
Gemma has competed in jumping classes in Hickstead’s world-famous international arena, but she says she will be watching old videos of the speed Derby to help familiarise herself with the snaking 1.50m track which features the “easy” side of the Derby bank and a mix of ditches, the Irish bank, coloured rails, the wall and the famous Hickstead planks — all against the clock.
“I haven’t done any specific training — I’m just going to go for it!” Gemma told H&H. “I’ve watched the class before but probably not as much as the Hickstead Derby itself, which I could tell you the exact course off the top of my head. So I’ll watch some videos to get familiar with the speed Derby course and work out just how fast I need to go!
“Of course I always want to be competitive because that’s my nature, but we’re just going to compete and have a good time and the owners are really excited. So if we win a prize it’s a bonus.”
Gemma Tattersall: first the Hickstead speed Derby – then maybe Paris
This is all part of the bigger picture for the talented young Johan-Some, for whom Gemma has high hopes.
“We think an awful lot of him,” said Gemma, who won team gold at the 2018 world championships. “He’ll do Hickstead then he’ll have a break over the summer, then hopefully he’ll do the prestigious eight- and nine-year-old class at Blenheim.
“Then we’ll aim to do something pretty smart with him next year — the distant dream is to campaign him for championships and maybe even the Paris Olympics. You’ve always got to have an aim and if he wins the speed Derby along the way that would be awesome!”
It is not the first time a rider best known from another discipline has targeted the speed Derby – National Hunt jockey Robbie Power won the class in 2013. Other recent winners include Harriet Nuttall, Matt Sampson and Guy Williams. Ben Maher, Michael Whitaker and Capt John Ledingham are some of the other big names to have their names etched on the Hickstead speed Derby silverware.
So will the Hickstead Derby itself be on Gemma’s agenda eventually?
“One day maybe, we’re not there quite yet!” said Gemma, who will also be getting married to fiance Gary Stevens in less than a fortnight.
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