Shane Breen Wins Derby Trial at Hickstead

Hickstead International Arena

It has been six years since being at Hickstead, so to commenting and reporting on the Derby Meeting presents a certain déjà vu. Started in 1961 by Douglas Bunn, a well known showjumper of the time, the event has taken place every year at the beautiful Sussex venue every year since. There are many jumping derby’s around the world, but this was the first and still considered one of the most difficult in the world. The meeting has had many title sponsors over the years, and this year Al Shira AA are the title sponsors. Although Douglas Bunn passed away a few years ago now the Bunn family still own and run the iconic show ground.

This is the second day of international competition. The first day saw two international competitions. The Stoner Jewellery Vase and The Bunn Leisure Derby Tankard. Both of these contests are rather more warm up cases for the classes to follow in the days ahead.

Holly Smith on Fuselli, winner of the Stoner Case

The Stoner Jewellery Vase was a one round competition against the clock with 50 riders starting. 17 of those completed a clear round of which the fastest and therefore the winner was Holly Smith and the 9 year old KWPN gelding Fruselli in 66.97 seconds. In second was Alice Watson on Billy Lemon and third , Mathew Sampson on anther KWPN bred gelding, Geneve R. In the Bunn Leisure Derby Tankard, a 1m 50 contest over two rounds, Julie Wells from the USA was victorious riding Molly Christoms’ bay mare Amber. There were only three double clear rounds from the 27 starters. Second was William Fletcher riding his own Persimmon and third, Philip Miller riding local Brendon Stud’s Noble Warrior.

The Bunn Leisure Derby Trial.

The day started with three National classes for young horses before the main event, The Bunn Leisure Derby Trial – For The Ben O’Meara Memorial Trophy. All combinations, who want to compete in the Derby itself on Sunday have to run in this qualifying class. As a result, 44 lined up in front of the judges and take on the famous Derby Bank for the first time of the week. Having walked the course, despite the recent rain, the going conditions were absolutely perfect.

Graham Gillespie jumps the water

The were 13 jumps with 19 jumping efforts in  the class. It was not till the 12th combination came forward did we see a clear round on the Kelvin Bywater designed course, with Graham Gillespie riding Andretti. Following him there were several good trys with 12 only getting four faults in the class. Just as we all expected there to be a coronation with only the one clear round, Shane Breen came on on Golden Hawk, a 14 year old gelding.

Shane Breen jumps the last in the Derby Trial to win.

He cleared all the jumps and so there was to be a jump off. But. Graham Gillespie decided to save his horse for the main event on Sunday and elected not to jump. In this situation, Shane had to jump to be able to claim the win. Worth it with a first prize of 23,000 euros.

Following the class, Shane Breen said that actually, between both of his horses he rode in the class, Golden Hawk and Can Ya Makan, he could not really say which he thought was the better and therefore who he would make favourite for the Derby on Sunday. But he believed that is was his year, as both horses were going so well.

Guy Williams collects his prize for his win from the front in the Derby Phase

The second international class of the day was the Bunn Leisure Derby Two Phase. There were 49 who came forward. The first forward was Guy Williams, who rode a clear over both phases. In this class there were 8 fences in the first phase with another 6 in the second. With many clearing both phases with no faults, Guy Williams, the first to go, won from the front. No one could catch him and the only one to come anywhere closed was Mathew Sampson.

Guy was riding Rouge de Ravel, a 14 year old stallion and completed the second phase in 33.57 seconds with Mathew second riding Valse De Pepinvast, another 14 year old, a mare, with 33.84 seconds. Over  a second behind in third place was Lilly Atwood riding Cor-Leon VD Vliebleek Z.

A lovely day in the Sussex sunshine but it was such a shame that there appeared to be so few in the audience. Six years ago, it was never full, but the seats seemed much fuller than they were today.

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