American Welles holds off British challenge at Hickstead

Julie Welles (USA) winning the Bunn Leisure Derby Tankard (c) Emily Gailey

American rider Julie Welles had her first ever Hickstead win today, claiming the honours in the Bunn Leisure Derby Tankard.

Riding the 10-year-old mare Ambra, Julie came out on top of a seven-strong jump-off. Crossing the finish in a time of 46.76sec, she was more than 1.6sec faster than her nearest rival, Britain’s William Fletcher. Phillip Miller took third place with Noble Warrior, with Ellen Whitaker in fourth with Jack Van’t Kattenheye.

Julie is based with Olympic riders Laura Kraut and Nick Skelton, and like them splits her time between Florida and Warwickshire.

“We acquired the mare two months ago, so we haven’t had her very long,” said Julie. “She’s a really competitive horse, as long as I ride her the right way, and she was great in there. She’s a bit of a hot mare, and a bit Thoroughbred-like – if I think ‘fast’, then she goes. Today in the jump-off was probably the smoothest, fastest round we’ve had together.”

In the first international class of the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting, the Stoner Jewellers Vase, Britain’s Holly Smith took the win on the nine-year-old Fruselli.

Despite being drawn early, Holly set such a fast pace that no one could catch her time of 66.97sec.

“I’ve had him for nearly two years now,” said Holly. “He was bred in Britain by the Castell Stud and produced in Britain by Amanda Forster, and we got him when he was seven. He’s very economical, like a little bullock – he just charges around.”

Holly finished second in last year’s Al Shira’aa Derby, and she has her mind very much set on winning this year with Quality Old Joker.

“Hopefully he’ll go well – but you never know with that class! The horse is in good order and I’ve done everything I can, so I’ll just try to enjoy it,” she added.

Holly is no stranger to winning in the Longines International Arena, having picked up a number of wins here over the past few years.

“I come here for every show – Hickstead is so special, and it’s the most beautiful venue, in my opinion, run by the best people. The ground is always great, too, which is so important for the horses – it’s second to none.”

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