David Broome shares his Hickstead Derby memories

  • Hickstead Derby winner David Broome shares his memories of this very special class...

    The home advantage

    Beethoven belonged to Derby founder Douglas Bunn so was brought up at Hickstead. He was proof of how a horse that lives and breathes the Derby can perform.

    I rode him into second place a couple of times in the early 1970s and, although he never won, he was nearly always foot-perfect.

    His speciality was the Bank, which he could do 10 seconds faster than anyone else. It felt like going over a waterfall — so quick that he would scare you.

    It’s now the stuff of legend that when Douglas measured the original Derby course in snowy Hamburg, he unintentionally included six inches of snow on top of the Bank — then added three more so that he could call it in the biggest bank in the world.

    The exception to every Derby rule

    American rider Benny O’Meara was a blacksmith from Brooklyn, but he was some horseman.

    The challenge of the Hickstead Derby excited him and so in the early 60s he came over and hired a horse called Father Pedro from [course-designer] Jon Doney. This new partnership duly won the Derby trial, but the horse went lame before the Derby itself.

    O’Meara died aged 30 in a plane crash, but is remembered in the Ben O’Meara Memorial Trophy, awarded to the winner of the Derby trial.

    The smallest package

    Stroller (1967 winner) was an enormous pony, but one of those who could jump the biggest tracks — and he was very much at home at Hickstead.

    He may have been small, but he did have that great asset for the Derby of being an Irish-bred, by a thoroughbred out of a Connemara mare. He remains the only pony ever to have won it.

    Too slow, too fast

    I trained Manhattan at home for a whole week to do the Derby. I was concentrating so hard on the fences that, although I managed to go clear, I got one time-fault and came third. It was maddening.

    To top it off, I was caught speeding on my way home. The injustice of it!

    This is an extract from a feature published in Horse & Hound (17 June, ’10)

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