Reigning Al Shira’aa Derby champion Shane Breen has his sights set on winning Hickstead’s most iconic class for the second year in a row.
The 49-year-old Irish rider, who is based at Hickstead Place, finally claimed the Derby title in 2022 after 17 years of trying. It was the 60th running of the class, and Shane won the historic renewal in definitive style – jumping the only clear round of the competition with Can Ya Makan. Not only that, but Shane also finished as one of four runners-up with his second ride Golden Hawk – the first rider to have a one-two finish in the Hickstead Derby since Eddie Macken in 1977.
Shane Breen’s first attempt at winning the Derby was in 2005 when he finished equal third on Iman d’Occagnes behind Ben Maher and Tim Stockdale. Sharing third place with Shane was his future wife Chloe Bunn, daughter of Hickstead founder Douglas Bunn, riding the 2004 champion Buddy Bunn.
Shane went on to win nearly all of Hickstead’s major titles, including the Speed Derby, the Queen Elizabeth II Cup, the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup of Great Britain, the Eventing Grand Prix and the All England Grand Prix, but the Derby continually eluded him. He had several top 10 placings, including finishing second in 2011, and third in 2018 and 2019 with Can Ya Makan and Golden Hawk respectively.
Shane has two absolutely superb Derby horses, and if his preparations go smoothly, he has a very good chance of winning again this summer,”
said Hickstead Executive Director Lizzie Bunn.
Were it not for the cancellation of the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, he could have easily had another Derby title or two under his belt. His round in 2022 really was a textbook example of how to ride round the Derby course.”
Breen hopes to bring both Can Ya Makan and Golden Hawk back to Hickstead this June in the hope of retaining his title. Now aged 17 and 18, they are heading towards the later stages of their international showjumping careers, but plenty of veterans have won the Derby – including John Whitaker’s two champions Gammon, who was 21 when he won in 1998, and Welham, who was 20 when he took the title in 2000.
The last rider to have back-to-back wins was Shane’s younger brother Trevor, who was victorious in 2014 (Adventure De Kannan) and 2015 (Loughnatousa WB). Historically, riders who win the Derby often go on to repeat the feat, with five riders sharing the record of four wins apiece: Eddie Macken, Harvey Smith, William Funnell, plus brothers John and Michael Whitaker.
The Al Shira’aa Derby takes place on Sunday 25 June, on the final day of the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting (22-25 June). Tickets are on sale now.
Feature image credits: Winner. Shane Breen (IRL) riding Can Ya Makan in The Al Shira’aa Derby at The Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting June 26th 2022. Image Credit Elli Birch/Bootsandhooves