Derby champion and Olympic gold medallist selected for British team at Hickstead

Al Shira'aa Derby champions William Funnell and Billy Buckingham are on the British team at Hickstead (c) Nigel Goddard.
Al Shira'aa Derby champions William Funnell and Billy Buckingham are on the British team at Hickstead (c) Nigel Goddard.

Britain is fielding a strong team for their home leg of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ series, which takes place at Hickstead on Sunday July 29.

The Team NAF-sponsored squad of five – from which the final team of four riders will be named – includes the new Al Shira’aa Derby champions, William Funnell and 10-year-old Billy Buckingham. This talented horse proved his form when winning Hickstead’s famous class in June after a superb clear, taking William to a fourth Derby victory.

They line up alongside Scott Brash, a former World number one and London 2012 gold medallist, who has been selected with the nine-year-old stallion Hello Shelby. The Scottish rider relocated to West Sussex in 2015 and now counts Hickstead as his local showground, and last month the pair won the Bunn Leisure Derby Tankard to give them their first international win here at this venue.

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Holly Smith is another to show remarkable form at Hickstead, having clocked up a number of international wins in the past few years and finishing second in the Al Shira’aa Derby behind her team mate Funnell. She has been selected with the nine-year-old Hearts Destiny, who jumped a perfect double clear last month in the Swiss leg of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ series in St Gallen.

Another pair to receive the bonus prize for a double clear in the Nations Cup leg in St Gallen was William Whitaker and Utamaro d’Ecaussines. This 14-year-old stallion is the most experienced horse on the squad, while William is another rider to have won the Hickstead Derby, having claimed the title in 2016.

Completing the squad is the US-based Amanda Derbyshire and her 10-year-old mare Luibanta BH. Amanda has made a number of appearances for Team GBR, but this will be the first time she has competed at Hickstead.

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This is the fourth point scoring leg for the British riders, who will be aiming to win on home turf for the first time since 2010. They face opposition from Ireland, The Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, Belgium and last year’s champions Brazil.

“We’d love to see another home win for the Brits, and this year’s squad has a very good chance of doing just that,” said Hickstead Director Lizzie Bunn. “Four of the riders have got extremely good form at the All England Jumping Course, and we’re excited to see how Amanda Derbyshire fares on her first international appearance here.”

Britain need to gather more points to secure their place in the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final in Barcelona in September, as well as remaining in European Division One for next season.

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Each of the Nations Cup teams will have squads of five riders, with individual riders representing New Zealand, Norway and the USA in the other international competitions.

As the host nation, Britain is allocated places for a number of additional riders, with a stellar cast due to compete. These include Britain’s number one Ben Maher, the 2016 Al Shira’aa Derby champion Nigel Coupe, the ultra-consistent Hickstead performer Harriet Nuttall, and two more members of the Whitaker family – John and Robert. They are joined by Louise Saywell, Joe Clayton, Matt Sampson, Emily Moffit, Guy Williams and Harry Charles, whose father Peter was on the same London 2012 gold medal winning team as Scott Brash and Ben Maher.

The Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of Great Britain at the BHS Royal International Horse Show takes place from 25-29 July, with the historic team competition forming the finale of the show on Sunday afternoon.

Other highlights of the event include Friday’s Longines BHS King George V Gold Cup; Saturday’s BHS Queen Elizabeth II Cup and Thursday’s MS Amlin Eventers Challenge. Tickets are on sale now from www.hickstead.co.uk, with advance discounts available for those buying online.