This year’s Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby has a top line-up of international riders all hoping to lift the coveted Boomerang.
Last year’s champions William Whitaker and Glenavadra Brilliant start as favourites. The pair have a strong record in the world-famous class, finishing third in 2014 and second in 2015, before last year’s one-time fault round saw William finally win the title.
“The Hickstead Derby is a fantastic class – it’s so thrilling to watch because anything can happen,” said William.
The Yorkshire-born rider, who now splits his time between Britain and Belgium, knew he’d found a prospective Derby horse the first time he rode Glenavadra Brilliant. But can they secure back-to-back wins?
“I’ll just prepare him the best I can, the horse and myself, and if I can ride well on the day – then why not?” he said.
William Funnell, who won the class in 2006, 2008 and 2009 with the brilliant Mondriaan, has one of his best Derby chances in years with the talented Billy Buckingham. The horse was originally competed by Lucy Townley (nee Bunn), who is the daughter of Hickstead Director Edward Bunn and a rider for the Billy Stud.
William recently took over the ride and the pair won the Eindhoven Derby in May and jumped a superb double clear in the FEI Nations Cup leg in Denmark.
Two riders who have finished joint-second in the Hickstead Derby for two years running are Ireland’s Billy Twomey (Diaghilev) and Britain’s Harriet Nuttall (A Touch Imperious). Both will be going all out to see if they can go one better in this year’s renewal.
Ireland’s Trevor Breen will also be competing with the hope of achieving a third Derby title. This year he’ll be riding his 2015 Hickstead Derby champion Loughnatousa WB, who holds a special record in the class for being the only horse to have two wins in the Derby under two different riders.
Trevor’s 2014 winner Adventure De Kannan (aka the one-eyed wonder horse) is being officially retired in a special ceremony shortly before the Al Shira’aa Derby.
Other riders to look out for include Nigel Coupe (Golvers Hill) – winners of the recent Hamburg Derby Trial; Phillip Miller (Caritiar Z) – the Hickstead Derby winners in 2013; Richard Howley (Chinook) – who was second in the Hickstead Derby last summer; and The Netherlands’ Johnny Pals (Urjul van Generhese), who won this year’s Lummen Derby.