Ireland’s David Simpson became the fifth male rider to win Hickstead’s prestigious Templant Events Queen Elizabeth II Cup when he landed Saturday’s Longines Royal International Horse Show feature class.
The class, which was only open to the highest-ranked national riders, was previously restricted to women, but it was extended to men in 2008.
Five riders made it through to the jump-off, with Simpson the penultimate to go. Riding the 11-year-old grey mare Chessy 17, he posted a clear round in a time of 47.85sec to push ahead of Holly Smith and Lammy Beach. Last to go was the former Hickstead Derby winner Phillip Miller, who posted the fastest time of the day with 46.51sec, but four faults at the final fence cost them the win and relegated him to fourth place.
Simpson is a Hickstead regular, having previously been based there with Breen Equestrian. He now lives locally, sharing a yard with fellow showjumper Louise Pavitt. The pair are getting married in two weeks’ time.
“I have to keep winning classes to pay for the wedding! It certainly keeps you hungry,” Simpson said.
“Due to other commitments, the owners have given her (Chessy) back to me to ride, but I presume I won’t be keeping her for long. I Would love to, but I don’t think it will be long before someone offers them a big price for her.
“She’s really cool — like a cross between a pony and a motorbike, but really strong with it. She hasn’t got all the jump and scope of some of the other horses, but she’s a fighter and she will take on anything.”
It was a good day for Ireland, with Billy Twomey scoring a valuable double of international wins.
He won the Bunn Leisure Salver with 2016 Liverpool Grand Prix winner Diaghilev, before taking the British Speed Classic with Thomas. The in-form Irishman has now won three international classes at this year’s Royal International.
Seven riders made it through to the jump-off in the Bunn Leisure Salver, with five of them producing double clears. Such was Twomey’s swiftness around the International Arena in the jump-off that he finished 1.49 seconds faster than Guy Williams, who took second place.
“I didn’t think anyone had gone that fast, but I knew I had Guy to come after me, so I had to put a marker down,” Twomey said.
In the Speed Classic, Twomey made the most of being drawn last to go. He knocked British Olympic team member Ben Maher down to second place with a superbly judged round on Thomas, a nine-year-old bay gelding. The time difference was incredibly tight, with just one-hundredth of a second dividing their times.
“I didn’t think I was quick enough — Ben was really smooth on all the turns,” Twomey said. “I was fast to the white gate, so I was quite tight there, but between one and two I didn’t get the one I wanted, so I had to wake up a bit. I had the benefit of watching everyone go.
“He’s really neat, really competitive and naturally quick. He gives me a nice feel, and that’s half the battle when you like to ride them. I only started riding him a month before the Derby meeting. The time in between the jumps really suits him here — he’s a real Hickstead horse.”
Image: David Simpson wins the Templant Events Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Hickstead by Sian Hayden, courtesy of Hickstead