‘I’d love to see Shane win the Hickstead Derby’: without a ride this year, Trevor Breen will be his brother’s biggest supporter

  • All roads lead to West Sussex next week for the long-awaited return of the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby meeting (23-26 June).

    But for two-time Hickstead Derby winner Trevor Breen the return is bittersweet as, with his potential Derby horse ruled out with a small injury, the Irishman will be watching from the sidelines this year.

    As he tells H&H showjumping editor Jennifer Donald on this week’s episode of The Horse & Hound Podcast, though, he’ll be his brother Shane Breen’s biggest supporter this year.

    “I feel for him – he’s jumped a good few clear rounds on really good horses like Golden Hawk and Can Ya Makan but just hasn’t won it yet,” says Trevor. “Which I do enjoy slagging him about! But at the same time, I’d love to see him win it. It’s his home show and I think he deserves it, so I hope he has a bit of luck this year and gets the job done.”

    The Breen brothers had a great grounding for a class like the Hickstead Derby in their native Ireland.

    “Shane and I grew up on the hunting field, that was our first port of call – showjumping came after,” says Trevor. “So we were well used to the dykes and banks and ditches – there was nothing we hadn’t seen before.”

    Eddie Macken, Hickstead legend

    Trevor describes the legendary four-time winner of the Hickstead Derby, Eddie Macken, as “one of the greatest Irish riders ever”.

    “He is synonymous with Hickstead, winning it four times with Boomerang,” says Trevor. “It’s a huge part of Irish showjumping.”

    Trevor won the Hickstead Derby in exceptional style both in 2014 riding Adventure De Kannan and again in 2015 with Loughnatousa WB, but he admits to being “sent home with his tail between his legs” after his Hickstead debut six years earlier. But after having his first spin round the Derby on “Addy” in 2010, he says “I thought this horse can win the Derby”.

    “So I really focussed on it from thereon in and we got closer and closer until we finally did it in 2014,” recalls Trevor. “That was pure and simple relief. I’d probably put a lot of pressure on myself because I wanted to do Addy justice and I didn’t want him to become the horse that never won the Hickstead Derby.”

    Adventure De Kannan: ‘He made me a better rider’

    “Addy always gives his all,”says Trevor. “He was a superstar and you couldn’t wish for a better partner to go into the ring with. He always wanted to please, he always wanted to win. His biggest asset was his intelligence and his heart. You always knew you’d be safe with him – no matter what class you put him in.

    “I’d like to think I gave him a bit of confidence the other way, too, that made him a better horse. He definitely made me a better rider.”

    Hickstead’s iconic fences such as the Derby bank and the devil’s dyke hold no fear for Trevor.

    “I really enjoy the Derby – it’s just a hack around a big, beautiful grass arena with jumps and stuff in the way!” he says. “I love the tradition about it, I love the course. If you’re on a good horse with a realistic chance, it’s an amazing feeling. If it goes well, the crowd really get behind you. If you come out of the dyke and you’re still clear, you can definitely feel the crowd getting excited.”

    • Listen to more of Trevor’s thoughts about learning how to jump the Hickstead Derby and what made his beloved one-eyed wonder horse Adventure De Kannan so good on episode 107 of The Horse & Hound Podcast – listen here or search “The Horse & Hound Podcast” in your favourite podcast app.

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