Olympic riders head to Hickstead for inaugural dressage Premier League show

Dane Rawlins, a top international dressage rider pictured in action in the arena. Photo: Jeannie Knight
Olympic riders Fiona Bigwood and Emile Faurie are among the entrants for the I.C.E Horseboxes All England Dressage Festival at Hickstead (21-23 May).

Riders are heading to Hickstead for the inaugural dressage Premier League show.

Other dressage riders due to take part in this British Dressage Premier League show include international stars Louise Bell, Lara Butler, Tom Goode, Sune Hansen, Dane Rawlins, Anna Ross, Daniel Watson and Alice Oppenheimer.  

It is the first British Dressage show to take place at the main Hickstead showground, following the closure of the original Dressage at Hickstead site.

West Sussex-based rider Sarah Millis, who will also be competing at the show, comments: “Premier League shows are critical for the development of international horses, providing them with experience on the bigger stage. Hickstead is an iconic name within equestrian sport, and I am very excited to be competing at the upcoming Premier League show.”

The show will feature classes from Advanced Medium up to Grand Prix, along with Shearwater and British Dressage International Young Horse qualifiers. plus FEI youth classes from Pony to Under 25.

Three rings of action will run throughout the three days, with the LeMieux Grand Prix the feature class on the Saturday, and the action culminating in the I.C.E. Horseboxes FEI Grand Prix Special on the Sunday afternoon.

While the show is being run behind closed doors, action from the Coldstream Arena will be livestreamed on ClipMyHorse.TV and on Hickstead.TV.

Start lists and results will be available online here.
Meanwhile details of key equestrian events at Hickstead are below.

NAF Five Star Bronze League Qualifier at Felbridge

With the fastest triple clear of the class, Hannah Smith from Crawley, West Sussex claimed first place in the NAF Five Star Bronze League Qualifier which took place at the Felbridge Showground on Saturday.

Hannah Smith and Pauldaries Mysteque winning the NAF Five Star Bronze League Qualifier at Felbridge Showground
[PHOTO: Felbridge Photography]

Riding Samantha Baker’s 17 year-old mare Pauldaries Mysteque, Hannah was one of ten riders to take up a spot in the final jump off from a starting field of sixty combinations.

With her eyes firmly on the red rosette, Hannah was able to produce the winning triple clear in 34.53 seconds, just 0.08 of a second faster than her closest rival.

NAF Five Star Bronze League Qualifier

1st Hannah Smith & Pauldaries Mysteque – 0/0/0 – 34.53 seconds

2nd Louise McDonald & Fanta-astic – 0/0/0 – 34.61 seconds

3rd Elizabeth East & Kennedy 55 – 0/0/0 – 40.25 seconds

Zuba was a good Plumpton winner for trainer Nick Gifford

Zuba put in a fine performance at Plumpton yesterday for Findon trainer Nick Gifford, when winning the maiden hurdle for The South Downs Partnership, under a good ride from jockey James Davies. He was sent off as 5-4 favourite in the race.

ZUB A, trained by Nick Gifford at Findon, was a striking winner at Plumpton

There is plenty to like about this horse, for he more than justified going off as favourite and ran well to win this race for owners The South Downs Partnership. There should be much more to come and he will be an interesting horse to follow.

Zuba should benefit from the experience and go on to show even more potential. It was a strongly run race and he won by a comfortable 1¼ lengths from 50-1 runner-up Irish-bred Taylors Three Rock, trained by Tony Carroll and ridden by 7lb claimer Jason Dixon.

Taylors Three Rock is another horse which should show good potential to continue to improve as he develops.


Meanwhile Plumpton has now said goodbye to popular long-time clerk of the course Mark Cornford, who retired on Sunday at the racecourse. Born in Plumpton village he had 41 years of full time service in that role when he retired on Sunday.

Mark Cornford- highly respected clerk of the course at Plumpton has now retired

He was born in Plumpton village and has always lived a stone’s throw from the jumps track. He first worked at the track with his father in the late 1960s before joining the groundstaff team permanently in 1980. He became clerk of the course in 2004 and continued in that role until Sunday. He was given a guard of honour to mark his dedication to Plumpton racecourse and will be replaced by Marcus Waters.

“I’m feeling alright about it,” he said. “I’m a local man and I love the family-type atmosphere you get at Plumpton.This has been something I’d been planning with the director.

Following the Government’s announcements on Monday February 22 2021, it was confirmed that no crowds would be allowed to return to outdoor sports venues until at the earliest Monday May 17..

Unfortunately Plumpton’s last fixture of the 2020/21 season is Sunday May 9, which means we will not see a crowd at any of its remaining 2020/21 fixtures.

“This is very disappointing news and we are sorry for any inconvenience caused, but also thank you for your patience and support. We very much hope to open with a great raceday on Sunday 19th September 2021 and we will send out details in due course. If you wanted to enquire about any restaurant or hospitality packages you had provisionally booked or you traditionally have in the Autumn/Winter, please do get in touch with Molly Taylor – molly@plumptonracecourse.co.uk.

Bob Champion faces kidney operation after he completes fundraising 40th anniversary walk

On Saturday this week, Bob Champion will complete the last ‘leg’ of #Bobs40For40Challenge, sponsored by Wasdell Group, by riding a chestnut horse up the same Sussex lane Aldaniti paraded as he returned home victorious from Aintree 40 years ago.

Grand National winning jockey and cancer survivor Bob Champion pictured at the 12th stop of his charity walk at Jonjo O’Neill’s yard Jackdaws Castle in the Cotswolds raising funds for the Bob Champion Cancer Trust.
Bob is half way through his marathon trek which started from Aintree on 11 April, the day after the Randox Grand National 2021, the 191 mile route represents the 191 days from Bob’s diagnosis on 24th July 1979, his months of gruelling treatment to then receiving the all clear on January 31 1980 before going on to win the Grand National the following year.

This comes as he admitted yesterday that he faces an operation in the next few weeks to remove a tumour on his kidney.

He said:” I had a very bad back pain just before I started my walk and scans showed I have a tumour on my kidney which needs removing. I was determined I would carry on with my 40th anniversary walk since raising money for the Bob Champion Cancer Trust has been my life’s work and I didn’t want to fall at the final fence when the money is still much needed.

“So far we have raised more than £55,000 and money is still coming in. Thank you to my sponsor Wasdell Group, and everyone who has walked and supported me.”

His 191-mile linear route to mark the 191 days of cancer treatment he underwent, started at Aintree on Sunday April 11, and has taken in many trainer’s gallops along the way. It will finish at 10.30am on Saturday 15 May as Bob, pictured below, walks a few miles on the famous Findon Gifford gallops, where Aldaniti was trained, as well as riding a horse not dissimilar to Aldaniti.

Members of the public are welcome to join him on his walk which continues on May 11 from Chris Gordon’s stables at Winchester, then Barkfold Manor KIrdford. On May 12 he will go to :
Gary Moore – Lower Beeding
David Menuisier – Pulborough 
Amanda Perrett – Pulborough 
Luke Dace – Pulborough

Then on May 14 he will visit Richard Rowe’s yard at Storrington, and Suzy Smith at Angmering before his final stop on May 15 at Nick Gifford’s yard at Findon.

Bob can be supported here by donating to:

Plumpton Racing to restart

Competitive racing at Plumpton

RACING is about to restart at Plumpton following an announcement today saying: “It feels like we have gone from feast to famine at the course. We had a gluttony of fixtures in March and April to having to wait a month for our finals.

“However it is finally here and we have 69 runners over eight races ( there was a division in the 3m handicap hurdle) and taking place on groudnd described as Good, Good to Firm in places. We are due a fair bit of rain on Saturday morning so we hope this will ease the going a tad. We will have to wait and see what we get- the for4ecast is 8-11mm approximately

“We’ve been watering since March and recorded only 4.5mm of rain in April, the lowest rainfall in April we have had since our records began in 1997. For perspective, the average for April is 61mm and in 2012 we had 149.5mm!!

We’ve averaged 55 runners a fixture (not including Sunday’s 69 decs), which is great going as in just 2016/17 it was an average of 47 so has steadily been climbing and so all credit to the groundstaff team for this!

“The 2020/21 season will have welcomed an aggregate attendance of 2,077 people thus far, and only two days with any paying spectators – both in December 2020. Again for perspective, the 2018/19 season welcomed 33,561 with just one abandonment  (2019/20 had two abandonments and then we lost 5 fixtures to COVID so isn’t comparable).

“It has been incredibly odd and not something we ever wish to repeat, so we very much hope to have you with us and restriction free for Sunday 19th September 2021.

“Unfortunately though, Sunday will mark the end of Mark Cornford’s tenure here as Clerk of the Course . He’s been a Plumpton employee here for over 40 years and a darn good one – liked and respected by colleagues, professionals and racegoers alike for the entire time.

“He will be sorely missed but will always be welcome and we plan to honour his tenure in September when we can do so more appropriately. Our new Clerk Marcus Waters has been with us for the entirety of the 2020/21 season and so he will be well ready for September and hopefully you’ll get a chance to meet him at a stable visit before the 2021/22 season.”

“Speaking of the 2021/22 season, we of course haven’t forgotten about you and/or getting you back and sorting the seasonal membership but with the full restrictions yet to be released and no sign of the 2022 fixture list being confirmed we can’t advise exactly what dates we have nor what reciprocals we can offer.

“Our sincere apologies for any inconvenience, but we certainly haven’t forgotten and will sort this as soon as we possibly can for you.

I”n the meantime, enjoy Sunday’s racing from afar and lets hope that this is the last one without you for a long, long time!”

Very Best Wishes,

Dan, Holly & Team

Hickstead’s Royal International Horse Show to run in reduced format in 2021

The organisers at the All England Jumping Course, Hickstead, have made the difficult decision to run the Royal International Horse Show under a new format for this season, due to the ongoing Covid situation and restrictions on international travel.

The July fixture would normally play host to five-star international classes including the Longines King George V Gold Cup and the feature event, the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of Great Britain, along with crowds of up to 50,000 across the six days.

For this year only, the Royal International Horse Show (20-25 July) will run as a two-star international event, with showjumping classes aimed at British-based riders.

The national classes at this show, such as the British Showjumping Winter Finals, will remain part of the fixture, and the Science Supplements BHS Queen Elizabeth II Cup moves to the premier position of Sunday afternoon to form the feature class of the show.

Showing classes will run as normal, with a range of different sections and classes concluding in Sunday’s supreme championships.

“We had so hoped to return to normality for this season, but the on-going uncertainty combined with restrictions on travel made it impossible to run the Royal International in its usual format,” said Hickstead Director Lizzie Bunn.

“Having already made the decision to run the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting as a national show, it’s so disappointing to also have to cancel our showcase classes from our July fixture – however the cost implications of staging a five-star international event under restricted conditions made it unviable.

In addition, we normally welcome athletes from the leading showjumping nations around the world to compete at this event, but this was not going to be possible without seriously affecting all the other rings and classes.”

It is hoped that some crowds will be allowed by the time of the show, but details of public attendance and ticketing will be announced nearer the time. There will be a selection of tradestands in attendance, while some hospitality options will be available. Visit www.hickstead.co.uk for more information. 
Hickstead’s famous Derby Ban k is a key attraction at the showground
Photo courtesy of Hickstead

Watch out for full information about this prestigious fixture at Hickstead nearer the date.