Olympic event riders aiming for Hickstead glory

Olympic event riders aiming for Hickstead glory

Ireland's Joseph Murphy (c) Craig Payne

A number of Olympic event riders will be contesting this year’s MS Amlin Eventers’ Challenge at Hickstead.

Taking place on Thursday of the Longines Royal International Horse Show (26-30 July), this invitational class sees top eventers galloping around the International Arena over cross-country fences.

This year’s line-up includes British Olympic team regular Pippa Funnell, riding the homebred Billy Cuckoo. Pippa has won three Olympic team silvers and an individual bronze, and was the first rider to claim the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing, a bonus prize for any rider who can win Badminton, Burghley and Kentucky in succession.

Other Olympians taking part include Australia’s Christopher Burton and Shane Rose, Irish riders Joseph Murphy and Austin O’Connor, Italy’s Vittoria Panizzon and Britain’s Jeanette Brakewell. Another top name to look out for is Badminton 2010 winner Paul Tapner, who will be riding Bonza King of Rouges.

They are joined by a cast of talented British riders, many of whom are making their Hickstead debut.

This is the third year the MS Amlin Eventers’ Challenge has been held at Hickstead. Previously known as the Eventing Grand Prix, when it was open to both showjumpers and event riders, with a course going out into the grounds of Hickstead Place, it is now exclusively for eventers and takes place within the International Arena.

A number of the showground’s iconic fences are included in the course, including the Road Crossing, Derby Bank and Irish Bank. Some of the jumps on the course are fixed while others can be knocked down, with any poles falling adding four seconds to a rider’s time.

This year’s field will all be aiming for a first win in the new format class, following the victory of Andrew Nicholson in 2015 and Ireland’s Esib Power 12 months ago. Only Pippa Funnell won the previous incarnation of the class, winning the first ever Eventing Grand Prix in 1998 and going on to win two further times in 2000 and 2001.

David Ashby, Managing Director of MS Amlin, said: “It is wonderful to see again such a great line up of international competitors for the MS Amlin Eventers’ Challenge. The International Arena at Hickstead is truly unique and I look forward to seeing how the riders tackle this year’s course. The best of luck to all competing.”