The 61st Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting attracts a strong line-up of riders
Some of showjumping’s biggest names, including reigning Al Shira’aa Derby champion Shane Breen, his brother Trevor, four-time winner William Funnell, and British team regulars Guy Williams, Tim Gredley, Holly Smith and Amy Inglis are among those competing in the international classes at this four-star show (22-25 June). Three members of the famous Whitaker family are in action, including 2016 Hickstead Derby winner William, his brother James, and his cousin Robert.
Ireland’s Michael Pender shot into the limelight when becoming the youngest ever Al Shira’aa Derby winner in 2019. He was just 19 when he lifted the Boomerang Trophy in what was his first-ever attempt at the class. Since then, he’s gone racing up the Longines International Rankings, and he returns to Hickstead with the plan of jumping in the Agria Derby Trial with a view to another tilt at the Derby itself.
Other notable Irish riders to look for include Dermott Lennon, who was crowned World Champion in 2002. He has had a number of runner-up places in the Derby, and it’s surely only a matter of time before he takes the top spot. David Simpson, a two-time Queen Elizabeth II Cup winner, is another to watch out for this week.
Several Olympic eventers are also on the start list for the show, including local rider Gemma Stevens (nee Tattersall). Gemma has been combining top level showjumping with eventing for the past few years, and she is due to make her Al Shira’aa Derby debut with the stallion Envoy Merelsnest Z. Top German riders Kai Ruder and Sandra Auffarth both had great runs in last month’s Hamburg Jumping Derby, and they both head to Hickstead for the first time.
Harriet Biddick’s phenomenal Derby campaigner A Touch Imperious – who has been runner-up five times – is going to miss this year’s event due to a minor setback, but she does bring her prolific Speed Derby winner Silver Lift II. If Harriet can add another title to her collection, she will equal Guy Williams record of four wins, while Silver Lift II will become the first horse to have won the class four times.
The international action gets underway on Thursday 22 June, and offers free general admission to everyone (a £12 car parking charge applies). The highlights of this day include the Stoner Jewellers Vase speed class, and the ClipMyHorse.TV Derby Tankard.
On Friday, the main class is the Agria Derby Trial, which acts as a qualifier for the Derby itself and is a superb indicator of which horses and riders are on form. The British Speed Derby takes on Saturday 24th, plus there’s a second chance for Derby horses to qualify in the Agria Hickstead Master’s Trophy. Sunday is Al Shira’aa Derby day, with the free Public Course Walk taking place from 10.15am and the pre-class parade of riders at 2.15pm.
The show also includes many showing classes, including the prestigious Tattersalls RoR Ridden Show Series Championships for retrained racehorses. The Osborne Refrigerators Double Harness Scurry is another highlight, while on the River Lawn you can see some of the tiniest riders and their ponies take part in the Total Waste Management Ltd Mini Challenge.
With a shopping village, a family funfair, a host of bars and eateries, and plenty of space to enjoy a picnic, the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting is one of the must-visit summer events. Tickets are on sale now from the Hickstead website.
Feature Image: William Funnell is among the top riders taking part in this week’s Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting (c) Elli Birch/Boots and Hooves Photography