Doncaster’s James Hughes arrived at this year’s Hickstead Derby meeting looking to atone for an anti-climax in 2012.
But however the Yorkshireman and his main mount Panacee fare, the show-jumper is thrilled with the progress of his career as a whole.
Hughes is one member of a strong Yorkshire contingent bidding to excel in tomorrow’s Hickstead Derby – dubbed show-jumping’s Grand National.
An appearance in the main event depended on yesterday’s Bunn Leisure Derby Trial in which the top 35 were ensured a starting place in the big one.
Hughes successfully achieved that goal last year only for Panacee, who is now aged 16, to then become lame.
Hughes is merely delighted to be rubbing shoulders with such as John and Michael Whitaker – especially given his age and profession.
At just 24 years of age, the Yorkshireman has barely a decade’s experience of show-jumping in the locker – not to mention a full-time job as a scrap metal trader.
Yet the Doncaster ace arrived at Hickstead as the 38th-best British show-jumper in the official rankings list – sound progress from a man juggling scrap metal bars with show-jumping bars. “I’m 38th in Britain at the moment and it’s gone well for me,” Hughes told the Yorkshire Post.
“I work full-time so the only time I really get to ride is actually at the show and I am happy where I am.
“I’ve got two really nice horses and I can do my work and I can go to shows and they are on top of my job.
“The people at the top end, it’s their living – they buy and sell horses and they compete all over Europe so for what I do I am happy.
“I think if I can be a good national rider and keep in that ranking around the top 30 or 40 – that’s what I hope to keep doing.
“It’s difficult with work and if you had time you could aim for even more but I think my aim is to do well this week and see what things go on with a view to the future. It’s quite difficult to have aims when you have got a full-time job – you just take every show as it comes and this has been my biggest aim of the year.”
Hughes certainly arrived at Hickstead in fine form following his success in a thrilling Six Bar competition on Peiter VI in the Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials.
Peiter is also on duty at Hickstead this weekend with the 10-year-old having run in yesterday’s trial with a view to being aimed at next year’s Derby.
Both Peiter and Panacee are also entered in the forthcoming Great Yorkshire Show’s Cock O’The North Championship and the future looks undeniably bright for Hughes, who hopes to be competing at Hickstead for many years to come.
“The course at Hickstead is pretty severe – there’s everything really and trouble all over or potential trouble,” he said.
“Since 1961, there have only been 55 clear rounds but that just makes me excited. It’s one of those classes I think where no-one is a favourite.
“If you have got a horse that goes in that ring and in that environment then everyone has got a chance.
“Because the track is so tough, it is very difficult to get a clear round and everyone is operating on the same playing field.
“It’s a great event at which all the Whitakers come out like Robert Whitaker and John Whitaker.
“They have been going at it for years but they are the sort of people that you want to be competing with.
“They are the best in the world really and if you can be in the same ring as them and in with a chance then you are doing something right!”
Osborne looking forward to being reunited with horse Stevey’s Lad
OSMOTHERLEY’S Samantha Osborne says Stevey’s Lad owes her nothing ahead of tomorrow’s Tattersalls and Retraining Of Racehorses Championship final at the Hickstead Derby meeting.
Now 10-years-old, Osborne and Stevey’s Lad have qualified for the Horse Of The Year Show for the second year in succession after a foot perfect performance in last weekend’s qualifier in Somerset.
Osborne still partners the horse even though he is now based in Devon with new owner Donna Bamonte to whom he was sold from Phil Kirby’s yard in November.
“I am really excited to see him again when I ride him at the Hickstead Derby meet,” said Osborne, who was seventh on Stevey’s Lad at last year’s HOYS.
“He owes me nothing and has nothing left to prove to me but I would love nothing more than to see him stood at the top of the line at HOYS in October, where he deserves to be.”
Jacqueline Coward has become the first Yorkshire rider to take the coveted title of national lady point to point champion. Coward, 27, was runner-up last year but has gone one better in 2012-13 with 24 wins from 104 rides.
Her success was achieved despite the loss of top horse Amicelli, who is recovering from a fractured pelvis.
The lion’s share of Coward’s rides came from her mother Cherry’s stable.
The Pendle Hunt are holding a pleasure ride in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales on Sunday July 6.
Starting from Kilnsey Trekking Centre, the ride will be approximately six or seven miles long over amazing scenery with stunning views of Kilnsey Crag and limestone pavement.
There is some hill work, trots and canters, mostly over private land.
The starting time is 10am until 12 noon with the cost being £15 per horse and rider on the day. There is also a BBQ and refreshments available. The Address is Kilnsey Trekking Centre, Conistone with Kilnsey, Skipton, BD23 5HS. To book a place contact Jane on 07836 643375, Michelle on 07801 516658 or Kilnsey Trekking Centre on 01756 752861.