Robbie won the Grand National on Silver Birch in 2007 and is among the top jump jockeys in Ireland. Before switching to racing, he used to be a professional showjumper and was a former Young Rider European gold medallist.
He’s obviously no stranger to coloured poles or jumping fixed fences at speed, so he could well be one to watch. The Amlin Plus Eventing Grand Prix is a unique class where horse and rider must tackle a course of showjumps before jumping out of the International Arena and going round a series of cross-country fences in the gardens of Hickstead. Then it’s back into the arena to tackle some of Hickstead’s most famous fences, including the Derby bank and the Irish bank. It’s fast and furious, with event riders and showjumpers going head-to-head for the honours.
Robbie’s sister Elizabeth is a top event rider, and he will be borrowing her horse Doonaveeragh O One for the class. “The horse I’ll be competing on is an ex-eventer of hers – last year she competed him in this class and I thought this year I’d have a go!” he says. “I hope I’ll do well – he’s a three-star eventer with plenty of experience. It’s an event that I’ve always wanted to have a go at – it looks a lot of fun to do.”
While Robbie may be more used to jumping hurdles or steeplechase fences these days, he has been getting a bit of practice in over showjumps recently. “I’ve been doing plenty of shows in Ireland on days when we haven’t had any racing, to get my eye in, and I’d like to think that I’ll do racing proud,” he says.
He will have some tough rivals to face though. Among those due to line up for the eventers are Olympic team members Andrew Nicholson (NZL) and Mark Kyle (IRE), Rolex Grand Slam winner Pippa Funnell, Badminton and Burghley winner Oliver Townend, plus some of the brightest young eventing talents in Britain: Georgie Spence, Emily Llewellyn and Laura Collett. In showjumping, Trevor Breen brings top horse Adventure De Kannan – the winner of last month’s Bunn Leisure Speed Derby – while Harriet Nuttall and Nicole Pavitt both excel at jumping round Hickstead’s main arena at speed and could be in with a great chance.
The Amlin Plus Evening Grand Prix will start at 3pm on Thursday 19 July, with TV coverage starting an hour earlier on Sky Sports 4.
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