Reigning Equestrian.com Derby champion Trevor Breen returns to Hickstead next week in the hope of claiming a third consecutive Derby title – but he faces a strong field of contenders.
Ireland’s Billy Twomey is among the favourites for Hickstead’s most famous class, which is held on the afternoon of Sunday 26 June. Billy finished second in the Equestrian.com Derby in 2015 with Diaghilev with just four faults, and the pair recently won the Hamburg Derby – so this year they are in with a chance of doing the Hamburg/Hickstead double.
All the other runners-up from last year are aiming to come back for another crack at winning, including Nigel Coupe (Golvers Hill), Steven Franks (Carlow Cruiser) and William Whitaker (Glenavadra Brilliant) who all finished on four faults apiece. Harriet Nuttall was not only equal second in the Derby last year with A Touch Imperious, but she also finished second in three more of Hickstead’s premier classes – if anyone deserves to step up from the runner-up spot this year, it’s Harriet.
You can watch a video of Trevor’s win from last year on this link. As well as Trevor, there are three former Derby winners entered. Guy Williams was the winner in 2010 in what was Hickstead’s 50th anniversary year, and he came seventh equal last year on the grey Depardieu Van T Kiezelhof. William Funnell, three-time winner (2006, 2008 and 2009) has three Billy Stud horses entered for the meeting, including Billy Onslow, who finished 14th in last year’s Derby renewal. The 2013 winner and 2014 runner-up Phillip Miller is back with the grey Caritiar Z, who has proved himself a number of times round the difficult Derby course, and finished seventh last summer.
Other riders who did well last year and who could well feature again include Alfie Bradstock (KBIS Caicos) and Peter Smyth (Cavalier Rusticana). They finished equal seventh, as did Shane Breen (Acoustik Solo Du Baloubet). Shane, elder brother of Trevor, is based at Hickstead and married to Chloe (nee Bunn), daughter of the All England Jumping Course’s founder Douglas Bunn. Shane has been placed in the Derby many times but has yet to lift the Boomerang Trophy – which is named in honour of the only horse with four consecutive wins in the event: the great Irish champion Boomerang, ridden by Eddie Macken.
“The stage is set for another thrilling Equestrian.com Derby,” said Hickstead Director Lizzie Bunn. “We’re all excited to see whether Trevor can join the elite ranks of those who have won three times in a row [Nick Skelton, Michael Whitaker and Peter Charles] but there are many other riders who have a very good chance of taking the title, including the three other former Derby winners.”
The riders do have a hurdle to clear before embarking on their Derby challenge – first they must qualify in the Bunn Leisure Derby Trial, held on the morning of Friday 24 June. Only the top 35 combinations qualify for Sunday’s Derby, with places passing down the line-up if some riders do not declare for the Derby itself.
The action in the International Arena will be livestreamed from Thursday to Sunday on Hickstead.tv
In the first day’s competition, Surrey-based Tracy Priest won the Bunn Leisure Derby Tankard, on a day when leading women came to the fore.
Tracy has been having a superb run of form, having already notched up a win in Wednesday’s Senior Foxhunter first round riding her own Caruso Deres Z, before following up with another win today in the 1.20m Hickstead Novice Championship.
In the Bunn Leisure Derby Tankard, seven riders went into the jump-off, but none could better the time of Priest and her own nine-year-old grey gelding Caristo VDL.
“I’ve had him since he was a five-year-old and these last few weeks he’s been jumping unbelievably,” she said. “We kept just missing out, but I really believed I could win it.”
Hickstead Derby 2013 winner Phillip Miller finished second with Unbelievable Lady, another horse who has been on great form of late.
The first international class of the meeting went to Hickstead regular Louise Pavitt, who was victorious in the Stoner Jewellers Vase. Louise took the ride on Fiona VH Lemmenshoff, who is owned by her partner, David Simpson. They recorded the fastest of 12 clear jumping rounds to secure victory round the 1.45m track.
“We’ve owned her (Fiona) for the past three years, but she’s still fairly green at this height,” said Louise, who gave birth to her second baby last December.
‘Fiona’ can be tricky to ride, as Louise explains. “She’s always got her head in your face – we call her ‘the reindeer’ at home! She’s easy to jump though, you never think that she’ll stop – whatever you ask of her, she’ll try her heart out.”