The 2023 Hickstead Derby entries: meet this year’s runners and riders

  • At 2.45pm on Sunday, 25 June, the world famous Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby kicks off in front of a global audience, so who are the names to look out for among this year’s Hickstead Derby entries?
    From reigning champion of Hickstead, Shane Breen, to four-time winner William Funnell, a bunch of intrepid first-timers and a trio of Olympic eventers, the field of 27 entries representing four nations for the 2023 Hickstead Derby really is an eclectic cross-section of the equestrian world.

    Here is your guide to the 2023 Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby entries.


    1. Carlos Mota Ribas and Night Secret Z (BRAZIL)
    The unenviable task of pathfinder for the Al Shira’aa Derby this year falls to this Brazilian rider and the 11-year-old Non Stop stallion. However, the role couldn’t be in better hands as Carlos is a much-loved Hickstead regular, finishing equal second with four faults in the class last year. Night Secret has yet to prove himself in the main ring at Hickstead but completed the Hamburg Derby on eight faults. Never underestimate this Brazilian!

    2. Henry Turrell and Rocco (GBR)
    The local rider has contested the speed Derby several times but in preparation for stepping up to the big one for the first time this year, Henry and his home-bred 12-year-old Rocco (Cardento x Numero Uno) took in some classes in Hamburg last month and jumped round the Derby trial for 20 faults. What a special moment it will be to contest this world famous class for the first time on a horse he’s bred and produced himself.

    3. David Simpson and Flashback VL (IRL)
    This two-time Queen Elizabeth II Cup-winning rider brings two horses through for this year’s Hickstead Derby, coming out first on this relatively new ride with whom the locally based Irish team rider had 12 faults in the Derby trial at Hickstead on Friday. He has previously won a Derby trial and his best Derby finish was fourth in 2013 with the brilliant Rolo Tomasi. He has ridden round Hamburg, too, so is an expert pilot for the vast expanse of the Hickstead turf.

    4. Sebastian Hughes and Colorado Volo (GBR)
    One of the best stories in the class, this will be Seb’s first time riding in the Hickstead Derby and he will be on board the distinctive white-faced chestnut gelding “Chief”, who was bought as a “gangly” five-year-old with a view to selling him, but this “one man and his horse” duo have gone on to jump the dizzying heights of puissances at five-star shows, and now the legendary Derby track awaits them.
    “Just to have a horse that would be able to do the Derby is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he says.

    5. Stephan Dubsky and C The Stars (IRL)
    This combination caught the eye when finishing fifth in the Hamburg Derby last month with just four faults. The Germany-based Irishman is a former international eventer and makes his Hickstead debut this year with this exciting nine-year-old.

    6. Ryan Lockwood and Over The Top Van Den Haagakkers (GBR)
    This 23-year-old rider is another British showjumper making his Hickstead debut this year and extraordinarily had only jumped one class, the area trial at Wellington last week, on Elliott Rowe’s nine-year-old before bringing him to West Sussex. The horse jumped round last year’s speed Derby with Elliott, while Ryan steered him home with eight faults in Friday’s Derby trial.

    7. William Funnell and Equine America Billy Diamo (GBR)
    This rider needs no introduction to Hickstead Derby followers; he’s one of an elite quintet of riders to have lifted the trophy four times and will be bidding for a record fifth victory with two ride – the first of which is his 18hh 13-year-old home-bred, who finished 11th last year.
    “Last year was Equine America Billy Diamo’s first time round and it’s always good to get that first one under your belt,” says William. “Hopefully he’ll have grown from that and this year I’ve really focused on doing the right things to produce him for Sunday.“

    Shane Breen and Can Ya Makan on the lap of honour for the Hickstead Derby

    Shane Breen and Can Ya Makan celebrating success in 2022 – they are among the Hickstead Derby entries again this year

    8. Shane Breen and Scarteen (IRL)
    Hickstead-based Irishman Shane Breen begins the defence of his title with a home-bred 10-year-old, who he sold a half-share of as a five-year-old and only bought back last month. Since taking the reins, Shane and the super grey have been placed in Hamburg and won the La Baule Derby, picking up just four faults in the Derby trial on Friday. This rising star could be a really strong prospect among this year’s Hickstead Derby entries.
    “He’s very scopey and careful, so much versatility and such jump; you could put him into whatever you want,” says Shane.

    9. Andre Reichmann and Ego De Toxandria Z (BRA)
    Hickstead has welcomed this Brazilian rider and nine-year-old gelding for the first time this year and they adapted well to the international ring’s unique obstacles and undulations, finishing with eight faults in the Derby trial. The last Brazilian rider to win the Hickstead Derby was Nelson Pessoa in 1996.

    10. Jonathan Smyth and Premier Spirit (IRL)
    Fresh from a grand prix runner-up position at Bolesworth last week, this 25-year-old Irish rider warmed up for Hickstead with a puissance third on this 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding who has plenty of scope. They completed the Derby trial on 36 faults.

    11. Tim Gredley and Gentlemen VH Veldhof (GBR)
    British showjumping team regular Tim Gredley made a return to the Hickstead Derby in 2022 for the first time in 17 years and returns for the second year in succession with the same horse, the 17-year-old Gentlemen, who was a previous Derby ride for Michael Whitaker. The last British winner of the Hickstead Derby was in 2018, can Tim make amends?

    12. Paul Sims and Dream Roller (GBR)
    This former eventer has ridden round Badminton but this will be his first attempt at the Devil’s Dyke, bank and open water in Hickstead’s international arena. His 12-year-old gelding stepped up to five-star level in the UAE with Paul’s friend Joe Whitaker earlier this year but has since returned to Paul and the pair posted an impressive eight-fault round in Friday’s Derby trial

    13. Carlos Mota Ribas and Juan Van’t Arkelhof (BRA)
    The Brazilian is back with his second ride, a 14-year-old gelding who is making his Derby debut but who looked right at home in the Derby trial, picking up just four faults.

    14. Dermott Lennon and Gelvins Touch (IRL)
    Another notable Irish rider bidding to lift the Boomerang trophy this year is 2022 world champion Dermott, who has had several runner-up places in the Derby without lifting the silverware. The 17-year-old Gelvins Touch (Touchdown x Diamond Lad) hasn’t jumped internationally since last year’s Hickstead Derby where the pair just had four faults at the rails at the bottom of the bank to finish equal second. It would be a lovely story if this veteran could take top honours this year.

    15. Trevor Breen and Gonzalo (IRL)
    Trevor is the younger brother of Shane Breen and, two days after representing Ireland in the Nations Cup in Rotterdam, Trevor has qualified this 12-year-old former eventer, with whom he finished fourth in the King George V Gold Cup at the Royal International last year, for Sunday’s Al Shira’aa Derby.
    “He’s such a lovely horse, he’s beautiful to ride and he has a huge heart and fights for you, so he makes my life a bit easier,” says Trevor.
    If anyone can give Shane a good run for his money, it’s most certainly brother Trevor, who has won the Hickstead Derby twice, in 2014 and 2015.

    16. William Whitaker and Flamboyant III (GBR)
    Another former winner, with Glenavadra Brilliant in 2016, and one of two Whitakers in the field. Flamboyant III, a 13-year-old Cardento gelding, was a catch ride for William in last year’s Hickstead Derby when owner Elliott Smith broke his leg and the pair have been jumping at the top level since. They jumped an eye-catching four-fault round in Friday’s Derby trial and look bang on target for their second Derby tilt.

    17. Daniel McAlinden and Keatingstown Z Wellie Two (IRL)
    24-year-old Hickstead Derby debutant Daniel only took the reins on 12-year-old Wellie last month so there are plenty of unknowns. Ger O’Neill rode the gelding in the 2019 Derby but they failed to complete. However, a third place finish in Friday’s Derby trial for Daniel and the Irish-bred does show promise ahead of Sunday.

    18. Sammie Jo Coffin and Chaccomo Blue (GBR)
    The Cornwall showjumper has enjoyed plenty of success in the Hickstead international arena but brings this 13-year-old gelding for the first time, fresh from a string of good placings on the county circuit. This big-jumping gelding relished the challenge of the Derby trial, just picking up eight faults.

    19. Kai Ruder and Cross Keys (GER)
    This top German rider may be better known for his eventing successes but in recent years he’s been seen in the showjumping ring and has jumped the Hamburg Derby a handful of times. He makes the journey to Hickstead for the first time this year, bringing his long-time partner, the 18-year-old Cross Keys, a German-bred son of Casall.

    20. Gemma Stevens and Envoy Merelsnest Z GBR)
    A British eventer this time, Olympian and world championship gold medallist Gemma Stevens (nee Tattersall) no less, who has been combining eventing and showjumping in recent years and was offered the ride on the Brendon Stud’s stallion Envoy Merelsnest Z, or “Dime Bar” as he is known at home, for her debut in this year’s Hickstead Derby.
    “I’m not expecting to be troubling the leaders at this stage, but just the fact I’m giving it a go and on a horse I’ve not ridden that much… Why not?” says Gemma.

    21. Robert Whitaker and Evert (GBR) **WITHDRAWN**
    Could Robert be the 10th Whitaker to win the Hickstead Derby? He and his cousin William are representing the famous showjumping dynasty this year and Robert brings Caroline Blatchford’s 14-year-old Evert, a recent winner in Italy and a horse with an exceptional record in the international ring at Hickstead, as well as in Hamburg with his previous rider Karel Cox. Their fantastic clear round in Friday’s Derby trial put them right up among the favourites for this year’s class.

    22. Jordan Coyle and Eristov (IRL)
    US-based Irishman Jordan brought the 14-year-old Eristov over for last year’s Derby, where they finished with 12 faults – his first visit to Hickstead since his debut in 2013. Irish riders have won five of the past nine runnings of the Hickstead Derby.

    23. Shane Breen and Can Ya Makan (IRL)
    The reigning Hickstead Derby champions, who won last year with the sole clear round, are bidding to become the first combination to win back-to-back since William Funnell and Cortaflex Mondriaan in 2008 and 2009. Can Ya Makan is now 17 and Shane has produced him carefully for this day and will go in as red hot favourites.

    24. William Funnell and Dublon (GBR)
    Four-time winner William Funnell’s second ride Dublon is another lofty chestnut, who he only started riding last month after Barbara Hester’s gelding left Joe Stockdale’s stable. It would be remarkable if this pair won at their first show together.
    “With my history in the class it would be lovely to get the fifth one,” says William.

    25. David Simpson and Pjotr Van De Kruishoeve (IRL)
    The Irishman returns with his second ride, the youngest horse in the class, eight-year-old Pjotr. This low mileage Belgium-bred stallion has been stepping up impressively in recent months and jumped a classy eight-fault round in the Derby trial.

    26. Carlos Mota Ribas and Trix (BRA)
    This nine-year-old gelding was bred by John Whitaker, ridden by Robert Whitaker and then sold to the Brazilian showjumper two years ago – they were second in last year’s speed Derby then the duo tied for first with former rider Robert (on Evert) as the only two clears in Friday’s Derby trial. Definitely one for the short list.

    27. Sandra Auffarth and Nupafeed’s La Vista (GER)
    The legendary German Olympic eventer has the honour of being the last into the ring for her debut at Hickstead. She and the 14-year-old mare have finished top-three in the Hamburg Derby and appeared to adapt quickly to the Hickstead fences in Friday’s Derby trial. Can Sandra add the Boomerang trophy to her glittering array of silverware, which includes Olympic and world championship eventing gold medlas? It would certainly be an incredible story if she did – and that’s what the Hickstead Derby is all about.

    The Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby is at 2.45pm on Sunday 25 June. Horse & Hound will be bringing you all the stories online as they happen and in next week’s magazine, in the shops Thursday 29 June.

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