Hickstead, England – June 09, 2022 – Three leading contenders will be hoping to claim their first victory in the 60th Al Shira’aa Derby at Hickstead on Sunday 26 June, having come very close a number of times.
Irish star Shane Breen (IRL), who is based at Hickstead, finished in third place in 2019. He has been second and third on a number of occasions, but is yet to win the Derby. He will have a strong hand of potential chances, with both Golden Hawk and Can Ya Makan likely to line-up for the class.
Another rider who has come tantalisingly close is Harriet Nuttall (GBR). Harriet and her hugely experienced Derby campaigner A Touch Imperious have finished second in the class four times and come third twice, despite jumping clear round the tough Derby course on two occasions.
Holly Smith (GBR) has finished second and third in the Al Shira’aa Derby in recent years, and she brings her top Grand Prix horse Fruselli for his first attempt at Hickstead’s most famous class. Holly, who represented Team GB at the Tokyo Olympics last summer, used to event before making the switch to showjumping, so is well suited to the challenging Derby fences. If either Holly or Harriet are victorious, it would make them the first female winner of the Derby since Tina Fletcher in 2011.
At least two former Derby champions are expected to come forward for this year’s renewal, including four-time winner William Funnell (GBR), who will ride the talented homebred Billy Diamo. If William can add a fifth victory, he will set a new record for the rider with most Derby wins. The 2010 victor Guy Williams (GBR) brings forward his puissance specialist Mr Blue Sky UK, and is another with a good chance of adding to his Derby tally.
Other riders to look out for include Robert Whitaker (GBR), who rode a brilliant round for sixth place in 2019; Tim Gredley – who is riding in the Derby for the first time in about 17 years and brings forward the former Queen Elizabeth II Cup winner Gentleman VH Veldof; and David Simpson, who is another to have been placed a number of times in the Derby and is keen to add a win to his CV. Former world champion Dermott Lennon (IRL), Hickstead Derby regular Richard Howley (IRL) and British rider Jessica Drea (GBR) are others to take note of.
“What an open field we have for this year’s Al Shira’aa Derby,” says Hickstead Director Lizzie Bunn. “It’s been three years since the class last took place, but we’re delighted to see plenty of experienced Derby horses back for another tilt, along with some talented Grand Prix showjumpers. I’m looking forward to seeing whether one of our former champions will be back on top of the podium, or whether it might finally be Shane, Harriet or Holly’s year. Having said that, teenager Michael Pender (IRL) shot into the spotlight when he won in 2019, and in the Derby, anything can happen!”
The line-up for the Al Shira’aa Derby will be decided by Friday morning’s Hickstead Derby Trial, which was won in 2019 by Shane Breen.
The Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting will be streamed live and for free on ClipMyHorse.TV and Hickstead.TV. Highlights of the Al Shira’aa Derby will be shown the following Wednesday on Sky Sports and Horse & Country.TV. Tickets for the show (23-26 June) are on sale now from Hickstead.co.uk. Advance discounts apply until 17 June, and under-15s go free every day except Sunday when booked in advance.
Source: Press Release by Victoria Goff for the The All England Jumping Course, Hickstead
Photo: © All England Jumping Course, Hickstead / Nigel Goddard