Peter Charles’ Hickstead Derby memories: the mare who refused the bank at home but won Hickstead three times

  • Ahead of the 60th edition of the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby on Sunday (26th June), we’ve been chatting to some past winners to hear their stand-out memories.

    Here is what Peter Charles, winner of the Hickstead Derby three times in succession in 2001, 2002 and 2003 on Corrada, had to say…

    First Hickstead Derby memory

    “I worked for Eddie Macken and the memories are very clear of what he did at Hickstead with Boomerang,” says Peter. “He gave me my first big start in life so it’s always natural to want to follow the path of one of your idols and mentors.

    First Hickstead Derby experience

    “A mare called Bit More Candy got me round for about 16 faults,” remembers Peter. “What I learnt was just how tough it was – much tougher in those days, but they had to modernise it to make it more horse-friendly. The bank used to be much steeper but quite rightly it’s been modernised for horse safety.

    The times it all went right in the Hickstead Derby

    “Corrada was an awkward old thing and I could never get her down the bank at home so we never envisaged her going in the Derby,” says Peter. “She was placed in a class on Saturday and Lizzie Bunn said, ‘You’ve qualified Corrada, I don’t suppose you want to do the Derby do you?’ So it’s all down to Lizzie that I changed my mind and gave it a go.

    “It was very hairy coming off the bank – she launched off, nearly from the top – but I knew she could jump everything else in her sleep. I think it was just the adrenaline of the competition that saw her through.

    “The second and third year I knew she’d win it – the only thing stopping me would be if I jumped the wrong course. She beat Robert Smith in the jump-off that second year, who was riding the fastest horse in Mr Springfield. The third one especially got a lot of reaction because it was on afternoon TV, on BBC’s Grandstand – it had great coverage throughout the world and it was one of the premier events.

    “I think in terms of winning, Corrada never had a fence down. She could have beaten Boomerang’s record [winning four times] I’m sure, but the owners sold her. She wasn’t just a Derby horse, she was a great championship horse. She’s now buried in my jumping field at home.”

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