Ireland’s David Simpson is primed for a full-scale assault on the Equestrian.com Hickstead Derby title this weekend.
Simpson, riding the ultra-consistent Gotti van Paemel, warmed up for Sunday’s headline class by winning the Bunn Leisure Derby Trial in fine style.
Simpson and his ride — last year’s Bolesworth International puissance winner — jumped the trial’s only double clear, clocking a time of 75.91 seconds, with William Funnell and Billy Onslow finishing second and Shane Breen third aboard Acoustik Solo du Baloubet.
Tactics came to the fore in the jump-off after first-to-go Funnell finished in a time of 64.30 seconds, but knocked one fence to finish on four faults. Hickstead-based Breen then picked up an unfortunate eight faults, paving the way for Simpson to go for a steady clear.
“He’s not fast, but he’s really careful,” Simpson said.
“I decided if the boys went clear, I’d jump a few fences and pull him up and give him a pat, because I knew I would come third and then I could save him for the Derby. But when they had fences down, I knew I could jump a clear round.
“He was really good in the Derby last year, but took a real dislike to the hedge for some reason, so I immediately went home and built a hedge to train over, and he’s fine now.
“This is the best chance I’ve ever had in the Derby. I just need to get him freshened back up and feeling as good as he does today.”
Simpson shares a yard near Horsham with his fiancée Louise Pavitt, the winner of yesterday’s Stoner Jewellers Vase speed class. The pair have two young children.
“It’s really nice to win a class here, actually. Usually, it’s Louise who wins!” he added.
“We’ve been at our new yard for about two years now, and the horses are all really happy and settled. They seem to have hit a good run of form, and we have a great bunch of owners.”
Other winners in Hickstead’s main arena on Friday were Jonathan Bowman (Magnus Deo 1.25, Open), Pippa Goddard (R&R Stevenson Jewellers’ British five-year-old Championship) and Rowan Willis (Ready Supp) British si-year-old Championship).
Image: David Simpson wins the Bunn Leisure Derby Trial, by Sian Hayden, courtesy of Hickstead