Tina Fletcher’s Hickstead Derby memories: ‘Amazingly, he sort of flicked me back in the saddle’

  • This Sunday (26 June) we welcome the long-awaited return of the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby. Ahead of the 60th running of this legendary class, we’ve been chatting to some past winners to hear their stand-out memories.

    Here is what Tina Fletcher, who became the first female winner in nearly 40 years when she landed the Hickstead Derby with Promised Land in 2011, had to say…

    First Hickstead Derby memory

    “Watching the Derby was always a highlight,” says Tina. “I remember Eddie Macken and Boomerang – he inspired you to want to do it and I grew up my whole life wanting to ride in the Hickstead Derby.”

    First Hickstead Derby experience

    “I can remember it like yesterday!” says Tina. “I was on quite a young horse called Treffer and we’d never done any training for it but his owner said I should jump the Derby trial and see how it goes, and I think he was second, so he said ‘Right, have a go at the Derby’.

    “To be fair, the horse was amazing, but he jumped clean off the top of the bank, landing at the bottom with me behind the saddle! I then tried to jump the rail and amazingly he sort of flicked me back into the saddle. I managed to grab my reins and stirrups as we went the wrong side of the road jump and we finished with eight faults. We took him back the next year and he was clear, but I had a time-fault and finished second.

    “When you jump the Derby, it’s such a unique course and every fence is obviously huge but what’s unusual nowadays is that you have quite a big gap between each fence, so even coming round behind the bank you have time to think about what’s next. You have to keep yourself really calm.”

    The time it all went right

    “I then didn’t compete in the Derby for a bit, but in 2010 I jumped double clear and lost out to Guy Williams in the jump-off so finished second again,” recalls Tina. “I’d jumped two double clears and finished second twice so I thought I was never going to win it, I thought that was my chance and it had gone. So I think it was relief rather than elation to finally win it.

    “It was actually my husband Graham Fletcher who said Promised Land would make a great Derby horse and he never once gave me a moment’s worry through the whole course. He was a fantastic horse to do it on, he was an amazing water jumper but he used to jump the water enormously. When we got home, some friends had decorated our gate with balloons and ‘Derby winner’ – it’s such a special achievement.”

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