Nigel Coupe: It’s impossible to truly prepare for the Hickstead Derby *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    We all train for Derby day (at the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting), but when you do, there are only two or three people watching you — it’s impossible to truly prepare for the moment when the pressure is on. It’s one day, one round and one chance.

    Two clears was a perfect result and, although it was disappointing for Holly Smith, William Funnell must be delighted. He’s prepared himself for this moment from March and everything has been about getting this horse ready for this show. There is no more talented and cool rider to join the list of four-time winners and he should be feeling justifiably proud.

    The faults were spread around a bit more this year. The fences we all remember as tricky — the bank, dyke and the last — didn’t come down as much as they used to. The hedge at six and the balustrade were more troublesome. And who would have thought the water would be so influential?

    Harriet will be among those kicking themselves for having a foot on the tape in the first round but that horse will win one day, we all know that.

    An analytical approach

    These days, people analyse the fences that have caused a problem and train for them the following year, so maybe next year the focus will be on the water and Derby rails.

    People have certainly been training well for the dyke. It may seem silly for me to say it, as I had two parts down, but it jumped very well this year.

    Ultimately, though, we can train as much as we like — the course always wins.

    ‘Not an outcome anyone wants’

    It was sad to see the freak accident with Andy Kocher’s horse, and we’re fortunate in showjumping that incidents like that are extremely rare. You can’t legislate for something going wrong between fences like that.

    We all love our horses and I’m sure all the people in the line-up would have been happy to swap their places for his to have been well. It’s not an outcome anyone wants, but the way the Hickstead team dealt with it was superb.

    Overall, this year’s Hickstead was absolutely glorious — the footing was perfect, it wasn’t too hot and the sun brought the crowds out to enjoy themselves.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 28 June 2018