Jockeys focus need for speed on showjumping derby

Oisin Murphy finished second on Tiger in last year's 1.10m Amateur Championship at Hickstead. The champion jockey is aiming to compete at this year's Al Shira'aa Hickstead Derby Meeting at Hickstead.
Oisin Murphy finished second on Tiger in last year’s 1.10m Amateur Championship at Hickstead. The champion jockey is aiming to compete at this year’s Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting at Hickstead. © Bootsandhooves Photography/Hickstead

Two thoroughbred jockeys are trading their racing saddles for jumping tack in the hope of tackling the British Speed Derby at Hickstead later this month.

Champion jockey Oisin Murphy made his debut at the West Sussex venue last summer, finishing runner-up in the British 1.10m Amateur Championship, but this time has his sights set on the feature class, on the Saturday of the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting from June 23 to 26.

The Speed Derby includes many of Hickstead’s iconic fences, including the Devil’s Dyke and the Irish Bank. Unlike the Al Shira’aa Derby, which is set at the maximum height and requires precision jumping, the Speed Derby sees riders gallop around the Longines International Arena at top speed. The fastest time wins, with 4sec added for any fences that are knocked down.

Another jockey also hoping to qualify for the Speed Derby is former National Hunt jockey Paul Carberry. The Grand National winner has been competing in showjumping classes since his retirement from the track in 2016, and could well be one to watch at Hickstead since he’s obviously no stranger to jumping huge natural obstacles at speed.

The pair are not the first jockeys to take on Hickstead; Cheltenham Gold Cup and Grand National winner Robert Power won the class in 2013 with his sister Esib’s former event horse Doonaveeragh O One. Power was a successful showjumper in his younger days, winning team gold at the Junior Europeans.

Murphy said he would aim to join Power on the Speed Derby roll of honour. “He’s a very talented rider and I’m a very amateur showjumper! But I love jumping and I’ll try my best,” he says, adding that showjumpers Richard Howley and Morgan Kent have been a massive help with his Hickstead preparations.

Other riders to keep an eye out for are Olympic event rider Gemma Tattersall, who is aiming for the class with Johan-Some, and fellow five-star eventer Ben Hobday. From the showjumpers, course specialist Harriet Nuttall returns with her double Speed Derby champion Silver List. Despite the three-year gap since the class last took place, the pair are bound to start as favourites to retain their trophy.

The final line-up will be decided by the Speed Derby qualifier, which takes place on the Thursday morning of the show.

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