Belgian rider Gregory Wathelet, who is paying his first visit to Hickstead, marked his Derby card in no uncertain terms with victory in the Osborne Refrigerators Derby Trial on the second afternoon of the Derby meeting.
Heavy overnight rain left the going quite heavy and riders found the time quite difficult to make. Only Gregory on the French-bred Hugo Gesmeray and the home side’s Tim Stockdale with Fresh Direct Cloudy Night made the jump-off, although David McPherson did look very unlucky when collecting time-faults only on both his rides — Cullawn Diamond and Bob’s Diamond.
Tim was first to go in the finale and although the Dutch-bred grey was again foot-perfect, the time was evidently beatable. Gregory was quicker from the start on the bouncy little son of the French National Stud sire, Rosire, and broke the beam more than 8sec ahead.
“I bought Hugo here specifically for the Derby,” said Gregory, 24.
The earlier Derby Vase speed produced a head-to-head between two Whitakers, with the younger generation coming out on top. Ellen galloped to victory on AK Kanselier, with Uncle Michael having to settle for second place on the Gillespies’ impressive eight-year-old stallion, Up To Date.
Ben Maher was also in speedy form in ring two, heading the line in the Handcross Speed Stakes on Mercurius, with Robert Smith runner-up on Riverside Glen.