Show jumper Holly Smith made a strong start to the prestigious Hickstead Derby meeting by winning the Bunn Leisure Derby Tankard.
The Wymeswold-based rider secured the victory aboard nine-year-old Quality Old Joker in the famous international arena, stopping the clock just over a second faster than closest rival Billy Twomey.
Clear rounds were hard to come by, with only three double clears from the 42 starters.
It was a sweet win for Holly, who recently returned to competition after breaking her leg in a fall back in February.
“I rode him like I meant it out there,” she said. “I saw Billy go and he was very, very good, but I thought I could go a little bit quicker.
“He’s got such a big stride – that last distance walked on seven, but I jumped it on six in the first round.
“He was exceptional out there. I have a lot of Irish horses who respond well to being dared.
“When he was going so well before I thought we might be in with a chance for the Nations Cup, but obviously that went out the window, so maybe next year.
“I did lose a few horses after my injury and one I sold which was my choice, but it was gutting.
“You come back feeling like people are watching you and you’ve got a bit to prove, but it does make you more determined.”
Smith’s good form continued at the festival when she made a debut attempt at the world-famous Hickstead Al Shira’aa Derby.
It is the only class in which riders take on the front descent of the 10ft 6in Hickstead Derby Bank.
Riders also had to contend with the Devil’s Dyke, one of the widest water jumps in the world.
Smith partnered Quality Old Joker to one of the tidiest rounds of the day and looked a seasoned pro, picking up a very respectable score of just four faults after tipping the rails at the bottom of the bank.
The round saw her take a share of the prize money in equal third with Twomey and Dermott Lennon, while Nigel Coupe and Harriet Nuttall were the only two to jump clear for first and second respectively.
Smith showed her versatility when she also won Sunday’s Alltech Working Hunter class riding her own horse, Foxcovert Grey, with whom she has also evented.