British showjumper Holly Smith admitted that she had barely had time to practise before heading to La Baule, France, where she and her 11-year-old Derby debutant Fruselli claimed an impressive victory with the only clear in Saturday’s (12 June) class.
The pair scorched round the snaking 21-fence Derby track, which features an unusual mix of coloured poles and rustic obstacles including a traditional bank and a splash through open water, to win.
“That was his first Derby but all our horses have a lifetime of experience over jumps like that at home — we do lots of bits and pieces with them to keep them interested,” Holly told H&H.
“It was an ideal class for him; he has loads of endurance, he’s obviously a good speed horse as that’s his job most of the time, and he’s bold.
“Over that course they have to be careful and quick, too, so it was just perfect for him.”
The open water was particularly influential and while La Baule’s distinctive Derby bank doesn’t quite boast the gradient of some Derby tracks, it still requires skilful riding.
“It’s nothing like Hickstead or Hamburg, but it still takes a special type of horse to win the class,” said Holly, who finished second to William Funnell in the 2018 Hickstead Derby riding Quality Old Joker.
“I wasn’t able to practise either — we have a walk-through water at home which I did once quickly before we came, but he’s one of those horses that if you ask him to do it, he’ll give you his best shot.”
Taking second for France was the fastest of the four-faulters, Nicolas Delmotte riding the nine-year-old Citadin Du Chatellier, with Martin Fuchs third for Switzerland on Tam Tam Du Valon. Great Britain’s Emily Moffitt finished in fourth with just once fence down on her 16-year-old stallion Copain Du Perchet CH.
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Holly was also part of the Great Britain squad which finished just off the podium in fourth position in Friday’s Nations Cup. She and Ian Dowie’s Denver, with whom she is shortlisted for the Olympics, jumped clear in round one, just picking up four faults in round two.
“The last two weeks, he’s been incredibly consistent,” said Holly. “He was really just the speed horse to Hearts Destiny before, so he’s actually not done much of this type of thing. He can be quite strong and in a hurry a lot of the time, but all of a sudden he’s stopped being like that and in our last grand prix round, he felt like a proper grand prix horse.
“We’ve just had a few four-fault rounds which were very nearly clear rounds. I always want to jump clear or double clear, but it’s impossible to be disappointed with the horse.”
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