Horse and rider become the most successful Hickstead speed derby combination in history

  • After a two-year hiatus, Harriet Biddick and the gallant 17-year-old Silver Lift picked up where they left off to claim their third Hickstead speed derby victory.

    The reigning champions from the class’s last edition in 2019 took the win from last to jump, using all of their experience to find 0.62sec of headway.

    Their three wins as a combination put them on a level with record-setters David Bowen and Delsey, who landed three consecutive victories between 1990 and 1992, and Captain John Ledingham and Castlepollard, who repeated the feat between 1993 and 1995.

    But the partnership go down in history for their enduring consistency, as they have also landed second place on three further occasions.

    “It seems a little surreal at the moment but I am over the moon really,” Harriet said.

    A few things have changed for Harriet in the two years since she last claimed this title: she has got married to jockey Will Biddick and had son Archie, now 16 months old.

    “Mickey”, meanwhile, has spent two years being ridden by 15-year-old Joss Phillips.

    “My dad [Rupert Nuttall] had a great plan to ask if we could have him back in June this year for the speed derby and thank God he did,” Harriet said. “He goes back to them in two weeks time. I hope we will be back again though.”

    There was a high percentage of inexperienced combinations in this year’s field, with Harriet’s greatest rivals in recent years Matt Sampson and Top flight True Carlo not competing, while Guy William’s double victor Casper De Muze has now retired.

    The greatest threat looked like it might come from Guy’s new ride this year, the stallion Triomphe Kervec, only for the partnership to drop out of contention when they were eliminated at the second fence.

    Two very quick mares were also in the running, having performed well in the back ring speed derby qualifier. Jess Hewitt and Hot Bluebird, winners of last year’s winter B&C championship at the July meeting, started strongly but the mare was reluctant to drop down the bank and was eliminated after ducking out at the treble of planks.

    Jackson Reed Stephenson and Muna VD Bisschop, winners of the qualifier, also ended up retiring.

    By the time 16 of 23 competitors had jumped, pathfinder Charlene Bastone was lying in first and second place. She had produced a solid clear with the green mare Halina HL from first-to-go and followed up with a round that edged 0.34 sec ahead on her more experienced second ride Fyberlinus H, who was fast but lowered two of the three planks.

    But it was Brazillian Carlos Eduardo Mota Ribas, a regular Hickstead competitor who first came here in 1998, who challenged Harriet by breaking the 100sec barrier — the marker of a round in true contention.

    While a Brazilian has won the Derby before — Nelson Pessoa in 1996 — no Brazillian has ever won the speed derby, but Carlos came close. He set a time of 97.23 aboard John and Clare Whitaker’s eight-year-old Trix, who was tacking the course for the first time.

    “I knew a 97sec round is a winning time in the speed derby so my plan going in was to go in and go for it,” Harriet said. “I thought if I have a fence, I need to be a bit more cautious as I would only have another fence in hand before Charlene’s time.

    “When I went in though I went too slow at the start, so I was in a bit of a panic at end, cutting it fine.”

    Carlos took the ride on Trix following a conversation with Robert Whitaker at a show in Belgium in December and realised recently that he could be a contender for this class.

    “I started riding him and we very much clicked together. A month ago we tried some natural fences and he didn’t hesitate. In my mind I knew we could have a good round here,” he said.

    “To win I knew I would have to beat madame here [Harriet] and the top riders who are specialists in these kind of classes, but you never know what will happen. I jumped the trial yesterday and a two-phase to show him the way.

    “I had my plan and I know the course very well — I fell off at the Irish bank before. I have had so much misery in this ring, but also so much happiness.

    “I know exactly how I lost this though,” he added. “I jumped the white gate and saw the Irish bank and saw a straight line on a long stride long distance. I thought I’d prefer to go to the BBQ tonight rather than hospital, so I knew Harriet would be winning!”

    You may like...