Harriet Nuttall needs no introduction when it comes to the Hickstead Derby, having placed in the top three for the last four years but just missing out on the elusive first place. We caught up with her at Bolesworth to find out what she loves about Hickstead how her preparations are going for this year. 

Last year Harriet jumped clear with A Touch Imperious, known at home as Henry, and although he jumped really well in the jump off, the pair had two down. With Nigel Coupe only accruing four faults, it was another second place for Harriet.

“I was still so chuffed with second place, I think for me the consistency that horse has in the Derby is unreal in itself. Yes he hasn’t won it but for four years he’s jumped very well with just four faults and then clear, he’s always got better.

“This year he feels amazing. He just jumped double clear in the St Gallen 5* Nations Cup Grand Prix, which at 1.60m the same as the Derby, and he felt very good. He’s at full fitness now so he’s ready to go, I’ll just have to wait and see really! It will just have to be right on the day.”

Nuttall Equestrian is based on the 600 acre family farm in the South West where Harriet can make full use of her surroundings to prepare the horses.

“We have a short hill at home where he does his canter work; slow canter up and walk back down for five or six reps. He’s been doing that and flat canter work as well, I’m lucky that we live on a farm so it’s nice and easy for me to make use of that. It has however been quite sunny so the ground is pretty hard and we’ve had to be careful.

“There’s also his jumping fitness and jumping at shows. He’s not done too much but St Gallen was only two weeks ago, he’s then had a week off and before coming here to Bolesworth. I only want to jump him twice here just to keep him fresh for next week really. Hopefully he’ll have a nice time and enjoy himself.

“Fingers crossed for this year but it’s the Derby, anything can happen. He’s jumped so consistently in it and I feel like at some point it won’t be as good but he feels so good this year it’s hard to think he’s not going to jump well.”

When asked what she loves about Hickstead, there was no hesitation from Harriet.

“The atmosphere, the crowd, the people, the arena, it’s like a carpet to jump off. I think Henry just goes in there and it’s like he’s at home. I love the history of Hickstead and the history of the Derby. I’ve watched it since I was tiny so it’s always been something I want to do, so to do it is kind of weird! And to be in contention is really weird, to have good results is so strange but I guess it’s something that suits us. I don’t know if I’ll ever have a horse like him again to do the Derby so I’m trying to make the most of it because they don’t come around that often, Derby horses are like a different breed.

“Even the Speed Derby is a good class for me. I have Silver Lift jumping again, he’s won it previously and has a similar record to Henry in the Derby – he’s has second, a win and then second and actually he also feels really good. He did the sunshine tour and was really consistent, winning a few classes. I’m really excited about jumping him in the Speed Derby, I know Matt [Sampson, last year’s Speed Derby winner] is going again on the same horse, so it will be us against each other again. We were competing against each other recently at Bicton where Silver Lift won and Matt came second on the same horses so fingers crossed!”

“Silverlift is fast enough, I just need to go clear, I keep having a fence down. You can’t win with a fence down. He’s broken the record with a fence down so many times but it doesn’t count because it wasn’t clear! I’d love to do clear and break the record, the ground will be fast this year so it’s all to play for.”

After that it will be on to The Great Yorkshire Show in July and then back to Hickstead for the Royal International for Harriet and her team. Best of luck from all at RED MILLS!