Nicky Sails to victory in MS Amlin Eventers’ Challenge at Hickstead

Nicky Hill, winner of today's MS Amlin Eventers' Challenge (c) Emily Gailey
Nicky Hill, winner of today's MS Amlin Eventers' Challenge (c) Emily Gailey

Event rider Nicky Hill made a winning debut in the Longines International Arena today, in her first time competing at Hickstead.

Despite being drawn first to go in today’s MS Amlin Eventers’ Challenge, the Worcestershire rider set such a quick time that no one could challenge her lead – not even dual champion Paul Tapner.

Riding Kilrodan Sailorette, an 11-year-old chestnut mare, Nicky completed on a time of 121.65sec including a 4sec penalty for knocking down one part of the Devil’s Dyke.

Nicky then had a long wait to see if anyone could better the time, especially with the 2017 and 2018 champion Paul Tapner drawn second last to go. But when he knocked down the same fence that caught Nicky out, the pressure was on – and he crossed the finish in a time of 122.80sec to slot into second and narrowly miss out on his hat-trick.

Last to go was Gemma Tattersall, a team gold medallist at last year’s FEI World Equestrian Games. She gave it a good effort on Chico Bella P, but despite jumping clear her time of 125.03sec wasn’t quite enough and she had to settle for third.

Despite it being her first attempt at this class, and indeed her first try at arena eventing, Nicky rode into the Longines International Arena in a determined mood. “I hoped she’d have a chance of doing quite well, and I went in there hoping I could give it a good shot. I was thinking ‘I’ve got to go for it, set the bar high, and give everyone something to ride for.’ She’s awesome, but she’s so bold – too bold sometimes, I was worried she might try to jump from the top of the bank!”

Although Nicky’s mare is small, she made light work of the tricky course of cross-country fences and showjumps. “She’s tiny, only about 15.1hh, but she’s got a serious jump on her,” she says. “She’s the definition of chestnut mare – she’s harmless but a real diva.”

Though Paul Tapner missed out on his record-breaking treble, he plans to be back next year for another attempt. “Next time, I’ll just have to leave a rail up so I can beat Nicky’s time – though she said the same thing!” he said.

It was a day for British celebrations, with both international showjumping classes going to Brits. Amanda Derbyshire, who lines up as part of the home nation’s team at tomorrow’s Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup leg tomorrow, won the Bunn Leisure Vase with Oasis Spirit. Her time of 65.86sec saw her finish ahead of fellow Brits Jessica Mendoza (Dollar Girl 46) and Jodie Hall McAteer (Fantom).

The Bunn Leisure Trophy, a qualifier for Sunday’s Grand Prix, went to Guy Williams and the in-form Rouge de Ravel. “He’s unbelievable at the moment,” says Williams. “He doesn’t ever really hit fences, and the run he’s been on since Windsor is amazing. He won two last week, two the week before that, two the week before that, and then two at the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting.”

Show producer Jayne Ross also had a day to remember, winning the Saracen Horse Feeds Supreme Hunter Championship with Twinshock Warrior and taking the reserve spot with Temple Ogue. Meanwhile, Amber Thorpe won the Vanguard Property Holdings BSPS Heritage Mountain & Moorland Supreme Ridden Championship with Highland Chief of Tasker

Tomorrow’s feature class is the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of Great Britain, which will be broadcast live on Sky Sports and FEI.TV. Ireland will be trying to repeat their win here from 12 months ago, while Britain will be aiming for their first home victory since 2010. The British team has been confirmed as Amanda Derbyshire, Ben Maher, Amy Inglis and James Wilson.

Tickets are available online from www.hickstead.co.uk or at the gate.