William Whitaker takes Hickstead Derby catch ride as rider broke thigh in three places — after trial finish line

  • Previous Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby winner William Whitaker completed today’s class on a catch ride, whose normal rider broke his thigh in three places after he finished the Derby trial.

    Elliott Smith and Flamboyant III had qualified for the feature class on Friday, finishing in 13th place, but Elliot fell after the finish. He was undergone surgery to put a rod through his femur, which was broken in three places, so having ridden the 17.3/18hh 12-year-old gelding for the first time yesterday, William took him for his first Derby trip, finishing with 12 faults.

    Elliott’s mother Vicky Smith, the horse’s owner, said her son was “actually in amazing spirits”.

    “He’s watching from hospital,” she said. “The surgeon asked if he had any questions and he said ‘Would it be all right if I went and watched my horse jump the Derby today?’ He said he was rather hoping someone would take him. The surgeon said ‘No, Elliott’. He can’t wait to get back to his riding.”

    Vicky said the family has had the horse, her “pride and joy”, since he was three, and Elliott has “done everything with him”.

    “We’re a very small yard in Devon and we just do what we can,” she said. “We’ve always known this horse could jump a house but he’s been quite strong; we’ve had trouble controlling him round a normal course!

    “Elliott took him in his first puissance at Bolesworth and he won it, and jumped 2.20m, it’s just the control we need.

    “But to go in there and do that; the first time he’s ever done it, it’s fantastic. I’m in tears!”

    William said the horse got a bit stronger towards the end of the Hickstead Derby course.

    “He’s a really blood horse for such a big horse, and it’s difficult because you have to adapt as best you can,” he said. “He did a really good job at the bank, then I couldn’t get him quite back enough for the dyke, and it was the same at the Derby rails; I opened him up for the water and couldn’t quite get him back in time.

    “To go straight into a big class like that isn’t easy but he really jumped.”

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