Ireland’s Jessica Burke has picked up many International Arena wins at Hickstead over the past few years, and on Sunday she added the 1.40m LeMieux All England Grand Prix to her impressive collection.
Riding Liam Nicholas’ 13-year-old gelding Express Trend, Jessica produced a rapid jump-off round to go 1.5sec clear of the runners up, Sally Goding and the prolific Spring Willow.
A huge class of 68 starters came forward for the £9,000 competition, the feature Grand Prix on the final day of the All England September Tour. But as always, the long course and Hickstead’s iconic obstacles caught many a combination out, with just 12 going clear in round one. Only half of these could produce another clear in the jump-off, with Jessica managing to do so twice – as she also finished in sixth place with Nikey HH.
At last year’s Tour, Jessica won the Sussex Cup in week one with other ride Inpulss, but this is the first time she has won the final Grand Prix. “I didn’t jump the Sussex Cup last week as we were at Jim Whitaker’s wedding,” she explained. “But we targeted the Grand Prix here with this horse, so I’m delighted. He knows the job so well.”
Following her first Hickstead International Arena win a week ago, it didn’t take long for teenage star Eve McCoy to add another. Riding her father AP McCoy’s Cocktail D'Azur, the pair claimed the honours in the Stoner Jewellers All England 1.20m Open Championship for the second week in a row.
The pair produced the only double clear of the competition to take a clear win. “Going into the jump-off, I didn’t actually realise that there were no clears before me, so I actually should have gone a lot slower!” said Eve, 15.
Her father AP McCoy built up an impressive collection of silverware during his race riding career, but now Eve is making her mark on the trophy front. “My Mum was moving Dad’s trophies across the table to put my Hickstead trophies there instead!” said Eve.
The first class of the day, the All England Novice Championship, went to Nicole Pavitt and the six-year-old mare Azalea 16. Their jump-off time of 36.79sec put them more than 4sec quicker than Matthew Turner on Newman J in second.
“She’s a homebred,” explained Nicole. “She’s out of my good speed mare, Amaryllis Van De Heffink, and by the stallion Gemmarco. Her mum has won in this arena many times, so hopefully this is the first of many for Azalea too. She’s only 15.3hh but she has such self-belief, you don’t feel like you’re on a small horse at all.”
The All England 1.00m Open Championship brought the International Arena action to a close. The honours went to Elizabeth Prior and BE Royale, who finished nearly 5sec faster than their nearest rivals, Olivia Purdie and Diamond Hill Toby.
Photo Credit: Elli Birch / Boots and Hooves Photography