Fred Scala Enjoys Champagne Moment on Corriebeg Supernova at Hickstead

Fred Scala and Corriebeg Supernova tackle the Hickstead bank. Photo by Boots and Hooves Photography.

Ireland’s Fred Scala produced a masterful round on Corriebeg Supernova to win today’s Ashby Underwriting Eventers’ Challenge at the Longines Royal International Horse Show at Hickstead, England, while last year’s victor Gemma Stevens had to settle for second and third place.

It was the first time Fred had taken part in the class, though he has always wanted to compete at Hickstead – the iconic English venue that also plays host to June’s Hickstead Derby and tomorrow’s FEI Jumping Nations Cup.

“I wanted to do this class forever growing up. It was always a highlight on the telly, so it’s just been a dream to compete. When I got the opportunity to come here, I knew I had a little horse that I knew could be fast and careful, and if there was a class that she was going to be good at, it would be this one,” says the 34-year-old rider, who is from Co Carlow but is now based in Derbyshire.

Although Fred incurred a four second penalty for knocking the second part of the Devil’s Dyke, he crossed the line in a time of 128.84 seconds to go into the lead. The course incorporates many of the Hickstead arena’s iconic features, including a sideways route up the famous bank.

“There was a lot of questions that she’d never had to answer before, particularly the bank – so two before I went, I started to get a little nervous about it – so I actually had to ask Gemma whether or not she had gone off the steep one and still been in the lead. I thought she’d gone long. She said she jumped off the steep one, so that was that!”


Fred Scala and Corriebeg Supernova. Photo by Boots and Hooves Photography.

“It was just great fun, and such a fun class – fast, a great course, the ground was amazing, the atmosphere was amazing, and the crowd was amazing. The horse just really moved up a gear and answered everything. I was very nervous walking the open ditch – that’s a long distance and she’s only 15.2, so I thought, ‘Jesus, will I have to try and fit two in here?”

For a moment it looked like defending champions Gemma Stevens and Flash Cooley, last to go, might knock Fred off the top spot – but when she also picked up a four second time penalty at the final fence, her time of 129.59 seconds relegated her to second place. She also produced the fastest round of the day on her other ride, the Burghley top-ten finisher Santiago Bay, but with two fences down they finished on a total time of 130.52 seconds.

“Bless Flash Cooley – yesterday [the show’s organisers] said to me, ‘do you want to ride two?’ And I said, ‘yeah – but I’ve got to go home and give him a jump, because he’s actually not jumped since Aachen!’ I was jumping him at half-past seven last night,” says Gemma with a laugh. “He’s quite a careful little horse, and he always tries so hard, so I actually jump him quite often at home so he stays really confident. So I think he was just a little bit out of practice, but he’s still game, and he was still absolutely brilliant. I just had a bit of a galloping one at the last and he said ‘ooh, I’m a bit out of practice, maybe I’ll put down’ – I wish I’d looked up at the clock and taken a pull because I’d have been alright!”

Gemma remained philosophical at missing out on back-to-back titles. “It’s not a bad day in the office, taking second and third – and it never gets old going in that arena. I’ve been incredibly lucky over the last couple of years and I’ve had plenty of spins round there in different classes, and honest to God, it never gets old cantering up the chute into the main arena. It’s just awesome,” she said.

Fred gave effusive thanks to the organisers and sponsors of this popular eventing showcase. “It was just great fun, and such a fun class – fast, a great course, the ground was amazing, the atmosphere was amazing, and the crowd was amazing,” he said.

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