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Hickstead

At the National Rust sports desk  we are conscious of the disproportionate coverage of football and we do attempt to report on more minority sports.

On Sunday I was intending to go to Hickstead for the derby. I followed show jumping in the the era of Davod Broome, Harvey Smith on Sanyo Music Centre , Alvin Schockemoller on Rex der Rauber , the d’Inzeo brothers and American Bill Steinkraus. Enjoyment  was enhanced by the commentary of Dorian Willliams .

Hickstead is synonymous with Douglas Bunn one of those figures  like Bernie Ecclestone who dominated their  sport. The son of a fruit and veg trader , he was called to the bar but rose in the equestrian world riding Beethoven.  He made Hickstead the epicentre of the British equestrian world.

The large gap in my knowledge of show jumping was filled by a  friend of Nancy Bright Thompson Polly who once rode internationally and trained and dealt  in horses. Rather like the USA PGA and the European  tour in golf there are  Grand Prix events around the world sponsored by Longines and more local but less lucrative events like Hickstead. Each Grand Prix  carries prize money  of  £1m but the winner of the Hickstead Derby only wins £38000.  Its not just about the winning she explained but the showcasing of your horses which rise in value. Every rider supplements their income by dealing in horses and the Breen brothers, one of whom Trevor won the event,  have a large equestrian operation locally.  Hickstead does not host that many events and missed out on the Olympics that were held at Greenwich. They spent a fortune on the draining the ground so it must have been a bitter blow. Further whilst the facilities are impressive and the derby played to a full house  the event itself is a tough one for riders and generally run and won by specialist horses who are wheeled out year after year for it.  A clear round is a rarity and none took place last Sunday. The spectators must have enjoyed it as the  race was won by a one eyed horse Adventure de Kanaan by  2/100 ths of a second .

I am surprised that although Hickstead was full and the event on Skysports show jumping is not a more popular sport. To my untutored eyed  it requires ,more than horse racing ,control of a horse , a battle against  time and  obstacles including the bank that provides a  stern sporting test. There is something gracefully elegant about the livery ,the posture of the riders,  the green sward and the white  coloured fences and it is  the sport most associated with the royal family as both the Priness Royal and her daughter  have excelled in it. As with many who dominate a sport people like Douglas Bunn were not universally popular certainly not with Harvey Smith who famously gave him a v sign but in my inexperienced opinion it does lack such a  personality  right now to give it greater prominence.

About Tom Hollingworth

Tom Hollingsworth is a former deputy sports editor of the Daily Express. For many years he worked in a sports agency, representing mainly football players and motor racing drivers. Tom holds a private pilot’s licence and flying is his principal recreation. More Posts