At last! Ireland’s Shane Breen nabs Hickstead Derby

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Shane Breen and Can Ya Macan after winning the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby.
Shane Breen and Can Ya Macan after winning the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby. © Horse Sport Ireland

Ireland’s Shane Breen has added his name to the illustrious list of riders to have won the world-famous Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby in Great Britain, lifting the Boomerang Trophy on Sunday after coming agonisingly close to winning on several occasions over the past two decades.

A native of Cashel in Co Tipperary, Breen first came close to winning the Hickstead showcase back in 2005, when tying for third place with his future wife Chloe Bunn, the daughter of the All England Jumping Course founder Douglas Bunn. Seventeen years later, having finished second and third in the class several times, Breen finally lifted the Boomerang Trophy after delivering the sole clear round of the competition with the 16-year-old Holsteiner stallion Can Ya Makan (by Canturo).

I never normally feel pressure but I was actually getting a bit anxious, because everyone kept saying ‘It’s your year!’ and I’d say, ‘It’s been my year for the last 15 years’,” he said. “I’ve been saying to people that when I’m 80 I’ll come down with a Zimmer frame and just have one old horse to jump around the Derby with, but I won’t have to do that now, thank God!”

He also produced a brilliant round on Golden Hawk to finish on four faults, giving him a one-two finish with his two rides. “If you’d asked me this morning which horse would have gone better, I couldn’t have told you,” he said. “Golden Hawk has been an amazing horse for me, and I’d have loved for either of them to have won. But it was Can Ya Makan’s day, and again, he’s been an amazing horse for me in my career.

“When I jumped over the last with Can Ya Makan, something inside of me got quite emotional. Thankfully, it was my day today. I live here and walk around that showground every day, so it’s nice to know that I had my moment in that arena.”

Breen and Golden Hawk shared second place with three others – former World Champion, Ireland’s Dermott Lennon (Gelvins Touch), Brazil’s Carlos Eduardo Mota Ribas (Jella Van’t Kathof) and Harriet Biddick née Nuttall riding A Touch Imperious, who is now 18.

Shane Breen and Can Ya Macan come down the famous Derby Bank on their way to victory in the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby.
Shane Breen and Can Ya Macan come down the famous Derby Bank on their way to victory in the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby. © Horse Sport Ireland

Biddick, who has had an unforgettable week with wins in the Derby Trial on A Touch Imperious and the Speed Derby on Silver Lift, was unlucky to have just one foot in the water in an otherwise clear round.

“If you’d told me that he’d win the Derby Trial and be second in the Derby, I’d have taken that – but it is bittersweet. I’m absolutely chuffed with him – to have two years off and then come back and jump as amazing as he just jumped around the Derby, I couldn’t ask for any more,” said the Somerset rider.

Biddick and Silver Lift, 17, have an extraordinary record in the Speed Derby, winning in 2016 and 2019 and finishing runner-up a further three times. Drawn last to go, Biddick produced a beautifully judged round in a time of 96.61sec to go half a second ahead of Brazil’s Carlos Eduardo Mota Ribas (Trix). In third and fourth was Charlene Bastone, with Fyberlinus H and Halina HL.

Elliott Smith fell off his horse Flamboyant III after completing the Hickstead Derby Trial course and sustained a fracture to his left femur. He was attended to by on-site paramedics and was transported by ambulance to Sussex County Hospital in Brighton.

Biddick had a short break from the sport with the birth of her son Archie, who is now 16 months old, while her winning ride had been leased to teenage rider Joss Phillipps. “Dad had the great idea to ask if we could have him back for June this year. I’ve just had him for two months, and he goes back to them in a week’s time,” Biddick said.

Harriet Biddick and Silver Lift on their way to winning the British Speed Derby at Hickstead on Saturday.
Harriet Biddick and Silver Lift on their way to winning the British Speed Derby at Hickstead on Saturday. © Elli Birch/Boots and Hooves Photography

Biddick shared the win in the Hickstead Derby Trial with William Funnell on Billy Diamo, after both riders electing not to jump off and to share the first prize to save their horses for Sunday’s Derby. For Funnell, it was a poignant victory after losing his mother before the show. “My mother was looking forward to coming this week, but unfortunately she died last week. She would have loved to have been here.”

Funnell said Billy Diamo was a big, honest horse. “I actually jumped the Derby Trial on him as an eight-year-old, when he had the gate down but otherwise had a great round. Then I was on Nations Cup duty with him, and I was on the shortlist with him for the Olympic Games last year, so he’s a good Grand Prix horse in his own right.”

Harriet Biddick and William Funnell shared first prize in Friday's Hickstead Derby Trial. Hickstead Director Daisy Bunn presents the pair with the Ben O'Meara Memorial Trophy.
Harriet Biddick and William Funnell shared first prize in Friday’s Hickstead Derby Trial. Hickstead Director Daisy Bunn presents the pair with the Ben O’Meara Memorial Trophy. © Elli Birch/Boots and Hooves Photography

Earlier in the day, Guy Williams won the Hickstead Master’s Trophy for the third time, having also taken the honours in 2017 and 2019. All three wins came courtesy of the 17-year-old stallion Rouge De Ravel, who has been a prolific winner at Hickstead over the years as well as on the international showjumping circuit.

Eleven riders went clear in the first round, with five of these producing a second clear against the clock. But no one could match Williams’ time of 37.29sec – with Ireland’s David Simpson finishing more than 3sec in arrears with Foudre F to take second place.

In the young horse classes, Nicole Pavitt took first and third places in The Billy Stud Auction British Six Year Old Jumping Championship on Colliers Carlotta and Genial du Dalot, with British team stalwart Holly Smith and Lorenzo VII in second place. In the Five-Year-Old Championship, 19-year-old Izac Ketteridge took the spoils with Rosita VD Bisschop.

Louise Simpson (Pjotr van de Kruishoeve) won the ICE Horseboxes Beethoven 7 and 8-Year-Old Championship, Ronnie Jones took the Mochara 1.25m Open Championship aboard Cruso J RS, and Arianna Kuligowski and Ivascalle were victorious in the Hy Equestrian Hickstead 1.10m Amateur Championship.

» Full results

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