John Crippen’s Hickstead luck changes with Doney Championship victory

The Buckinghamshire rider won today's inaugural Doney Championship

John Crippen Bennys Kelly (3)

John Crippen won the inaugural running of the Doney Championship, held in memory of the late Jon Doney MBE, long-time course designer and latterly President of the Ground jury at Hickstead.

John’s six-year-old mount Bennys Kelly made light work of the tough course to reverse Crippen’s fortunes at the Sussex fixture.

“We’ve had a bit of a tough year, so it’s nice to come and do this,” says John. “Last year [during the Longines Royal International Horse Show] I’d fallen off this horse; he tripped, and I thought I’d broken my back. Then my wife went into labour, and it all went wrong due to Covid, and the doctor gave our baby no chance of living – at one point he said, ‘I’m really sorry, but your child and your wife might not make it through the night.’”

Fortunately both mother and child would defy those terrifying odds, and John credits wife Briony’s hard work behind the scenes with ensuring successful weeks like this one can happen.

“My wife and I both jump, but it takes some juggling: she went home with six horses on Friday, and we’ve got two young kids and a yard of 20 horses,” he says. “It’s so nice to come and win in the first running of this class.”

Though Bennys Kelly was one of the youngest horses to make it into the Doney Championship class, he delivered an impressive jump-off round that showed a maturity beyond his years. “He’s unique: he’s very smooth, he’s very careful, and he’s very brave, and when you have that, there’s not much else you need,” said Crippen.

“I like going quick, and I’ve always been a quick rider, and while I don’t always think you should gallop around courses, it is good for them to learn how to do it from a young age.”

For John, the victory in this class is made more poignant by his own connection with Jon Doney: “He was always quite into his county shows, and I love them, so I’d see Jon quite a lot – and so it’s nice to win that under his name. I’ll be back next year to try to win it again.”

By Tilly Berendt 

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