A jam packed schedule culminated with the famous Eventing Grand Prix, where showjumpers, eventers and even a jockey are pitted against each other. Horse and rider each tackle a course of showjumps in the main arena, before heading out onto the cross country course, and eventually coming back to finish off in the arena with a further course of showjumps. Needless to say it’s against the clock, and each knockdown results in time penalties, so quick and clean is the way to go.
This specialist event poses a challenge to competitors, who need to combine tidy jumping and collection in the arena, with boldness and speed on the cross country course. Some event horses tend not to be as careful jumping, whilst out and out showjumpers are taught to jump over water, rather than go through it, so it takes a certain kind of horse to excel.
The rivalry was healthy with £12k prize money up for grabs...and more importantly the pride of all those representing their respective disciplines. I had a quiet fancy for Pippa Funnell who competes regularly in both showjumping and cross country, and also Guy Williams, who had been extremely unlucky not to go clear with his horse Skip II Ramiro at the Hickstead Derby a few weeks ago; surely he’d be looking to make amends.
As the action got under way, it was obvious that it wouldn’t be easy; the ground was holding up well but was slightly tacky on the xc course. The horses were finishing leg weary and the course was testing, with a few falls, refusals and run-outs being recorded.
A surprise hero was newcomer 21 year old eventer and showjumper Zoe Adams, and I have to confess this was a personal highlight; she captured the hearts of the crowd with a superb round on Satonamillion to come 5th. Her horse was game throughout, despite losing a shoe and finishing tired, but Zoe displayed some phenomenal gravity defying skills to stay in the saddle when it looked impossible. Mr Stickability himself would have been proud of that one!
Showjumper turned eventer Georgie Spence had set the standard early on with a fast and tidy display on Bow House Mandalin, and the pair proved difficult to dislodge from the top spot. Laura Collett was always going to be competitive, and proved her worth with a solid effort on the delightful chestnut Noble Bestman which saw her finish 8th.
The roof was raised when Grand National winning jockey Robbie Power proved he could compete with the best of them. He managed to dislodge the long time leader Georgie Spence as his ride Doonaveeragh O One stormed round with just 5 penalties to add, with a time that would be tough to beat.
The eventual winner was Ireland’s Trevor Breen, who emulated brother Shane’s efforts of 2010 as the only rider to go sub 200 seconds with a near faultless round. He was in fact, the only rider of the day to finish with no penalties to add.
Andrew Nicholson was the last to go, and ensured it went right to the wire as his ride Quimbo looked at home throughout. The pair were second at Barbury only a few weeks prior to this, and continued in the same vein with only 5 penalties to add, knocking Robbie Power down to 3rd.
My tipping proved hit and miss; Pippa Funnell finished 7th with a competitive ride on Mirage D’elle, but unfortunately Guy Williams and Skip II Ramiro, or Skippy as he is known, were clear until the cross country phase where Skippy decided going through the water was not an option!
The sun shined, the ground held up well, and there were some fantastic displays of horsemanship to be seen. Hickstead on any day feels a special place to be, and I certainly felt privileged to be there this Thursday. If you’d like to see some photos from the day you can see the full album here and in due course, the interviews will be uploaded to the Horsemart Youtube channel.