Saudi Arabian rider Abdullah Al Sharbatly proved once again that he’s a force to be reckoned with against the clock, winning the Bunn Leisure Derby Tankard on the opening day of Hickstead’s Derby meeting with more than one second to spare.
Abdullah, 30, partnered the quick and careful dun mare Chesterfield, holding off opposition from second-placed Joe Clayton and Ingliston Twister.
“It wasn’t an easy win, it was really tough,” said Al Sharbatly, who is currently based in France. “I bought Chesterfield less than two months ago, and this is our fourth show together. She’s a top horse and really competitive – we don’t know each other very well yet, but I’m very excited about my future with her.”
Sharbatly praised the All England Jumping Course, which is one of his favourite venues. “I love this show, the atmosphere is unbelievable, like a world championships or Olympics,” he said. “I’m hoping to jump in the Derby with a horse I just bought last week. But you need a big relationship with a horse for that class, so I’m going to see how she goes tomorrow and then decide.”
Hickstead-based Shane Breen won the first international class of the day, the Stoner Jewellers Vase. Shane and the mare Zarnita set a fast time of 68.26sec to finish more than 3sec clear of Angelie von Essen (SWE) in second.
Having got the week off to a flying start, Shane is surely one to watch in Sunday’s Derby. Shane has won most of Hickstead’s international classes over the years, including the Speed Derby twice, but he’s still to win Hickstead’s most famous class.
This year, he believes another Breen could be the one to take the honours: “I’d love to see my brother Trevor win the Derby this year, I think he has a great chance,” said Shane.
Guy Williams, winner of the Hickstead Derby in 2010, won the Camardo Coffee Speed Derby Qualifier on Belinka VH Overlede Goed. The top 25 in this class will go through to Saturday’s LED Sport Europe Speed Derby, where riders have to jump some of Hickstead’s permanent fences at speed.
Sussex-based Nicole Pavitt had a day to remember, winning the Camardo Coffee 1.35m Open Championship with Amaryllis van de Heffink, the British Five Year Old Jumping Championship Preliminary class with Monsoon 16, and the Hickstead Annual Grade C Championship with Contessa IV.