Phillip Miller: ‘It’s not every week you fall off in a gymkhana and then win the Hickstead Derby’ *H&H VIP*

  • There’s not much you can do about the weather — but if this show had been anywhere other than Hickstead, I don’t think we would have been able to jump.

    Even though it rained so much, the ground was still unbelievable in the main ring, with no patches of mud to be seen.

    For the Derby itself, the Dyke did get a bit boggy but the team did the best they could to dig out the wet patches and fill them in with surface — they made it as good as it could be.

    There’s definitely not much anyone could have done with Saturday’s downpour, which made it a little slippery on top. I have to confess I didn’t even hear the thunder and lightning overhead — I must have been concentrating!

    It was pretty grim in the lorry parks, but the show did the best they could under the circumstances and tractors were always on hand. If people’s stables were getting wet, they were allowed to move into the permanent ones on concrete.

    When you’re at Hickstead, you appreciate you’re at a show where the organisers know their stuff.

    A hard course

    The Derby doesn’t get any easier and there were the normal thrills and spills. My round on Carter (Caritiar Z) was going well until I cocked it up at the water — for the second year running (pictured last year). I seem to have a block jumping away from the collecting ring and I can’t focus on the white rails, and I keep missing my stride. So it was me letting him down rather than the other way round.

    No matter if you had 10 horses to ride who hadn’t had a fence down all year, that course would still be a hard course.

    You can’t predict who will win it based on past performances. Anything can happen in that ring, and that’s what makes the Derby as exciting now as it was 50 years ago.

    Unbelievable Lady was on brilliant form, picking up two second places. She’s the most consistent horse you could hope for. I don’t think she’s one I’d ever put in the Derby though — she’s a bit too careful and she thinks too much.

    Celebrity gymkhana

    With the mud behind the scenes, everyone was focused on getting on with their job this year, but the celebrity gymkhana was fun to watch.

    William Whitaker’s cob was apparently from a riding school but looked more like an unbroken three-year-old. It could really bronc, and fired him off once before he managed to sit another couple of rounds.

    It’s not every week you fall off in a gymkhana and then win the Hickstead Derby.

    I should be back to Hickstead for the Queen’s Cup at the Royal International at the end of July. I’ve no doubt the team will already be out making sure the showground is back in order for that one.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 30 June 2016