Olympic eventers are among the exciting entrants for this year’s Ashby Underwriting Eventers’ Challenge at Hickstead, the feature class on the Thursday (27 July) of the Longines Royal International Horse Show .

Last year’s winner Gemma Stevens will be among the line-up, this time riding Santiago Bay, who has been placed in the class previously. “Those kinds of classes really suit me and my way of riding,” said Gemma, who lives locally to the showground. “I’ve always loved doing them, and it’s really fun to have a good horse to do them with.”

Tom McEwen, who was part of the gold medal-winning team at the Tokyo Olympics, will be riding MHS Brown Jack at Hickstead in the class. Tom is having his first attempt at this class since 2018, with his best result in the Eventers’ Challenge in 2015 when he finished third.

Eventing legend Pippa Funnell won the first arena eventing competition at Hickstead in 1998 and secured further victories in 2000 and 2001. She came third last year with Majas Hope, and the pair return for another attempt for 2023. If Pippa wins for a fourth time, she will match Gary Parsonage’s record of four wins.

Nicky Hill also returns following her 2019 win, plus Helen Wilson (My Ernie) who was second last year, and Simon Grieve, who was fourth on Drumbilla Metro in 2022.

“After her brilliant win last year, Gemma Stevens is the favourite to retain the title in the Eventers’ Challenge,” said Hickstead’s Lizzie Bunn. “But she’s going to face some tough opposition, with many of last year’s placed riders returning for another attempt as well as some exciting new talents having their first attempt at the class. It would also be great to see Pippa Funnell win for a fourth time, having proved last year that she’s still as formidable a competitor as ever in this class! It’s a wide-open field, and we look forward to finding out who the 2023 champion will be.”

Lead image of Gemma Stevens winning the Ashy Underwriting Eventers’ Challenge at Hickstead in 2022. Credit: Elli Birch/Boots and Hooves 

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