Equestrianism: Clear-sighted Chesney

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The Independent Online
IRELAND'S Jessica Chesney declined to follow the only advice she was given when she won yesterday's Silk Cut Derby Trial. 'I was told not to win it, because that would jinx my chances on Sunday,' she said, referring to tomorrow's major contest of the meeting.

The 22-year-old rider from Co. Antrim in Northern Ireland - instantly recognisable on account of her long blonde pony-tail - is not in the least superstitious. She was delighted with yesterday's victory on Diamond Exchange, a giant of 18 hands, and she says she cannot wait to ride him round tomorrow's marathon course.

Chesney, whose father was a successful point-to-point and steeplechase rider, won with the only clear round in a five-horse jump-off. She defeated John Whitaker who was runner-up on Henderson Gammon and fifth on Hopscotch - his two mounts for tomorrow's Silk Cut Derby.

Gammon had the fastest time, but one fence down in the jump-off handed victory to the young Irishwoman. The old jinx which suggested that a Derby Trial win inevitably spelt defeat in the Derby itself was disproved by another Irish rider, Eddie Macken, who won both contests on Boomerang in 1979.

Third place in yesterday's competition went to John Popely, 24, who began riding at the age of 17. His mount was the immensely promising seven-year-old mare, Blue Bird, originally brought out by Nick Skelton and then sold to Jan Tops in the Netherlands, where Popely acquired her.

Blue Bird is still immature and she will not compete in tomorrow's big contest. Popely - who lives at Meopham in Kent - will rely on his top horse, Capone, with whom he jumped a double clear round in his only Nations Cup at Prague last year.

Bond International will be spending pounds 250,000 to sponsor two women riders, Emma-Jane Brown and Helen McNaught, in a four-year plan leading up to the next Olympics. McNaught - whose sister, Lesley, rode for Switzerland in this year's Olympics - will be partnering horses owned by Trevor Banks.

SILK CUT DERBY MEETING (Hickstead, Sussex): Silk Cut Derby Trial: 1 Diamond Exchange (J Chesney, Irl) clear, 59.01sec; 2 Henderson Gammon (J Whitaker, GB) 4 faults, 55.45; 3 Blue Bird (J Popely, GB) 4 faults, 58.42.

(Photograph omitted)