British-bred stallions dominate in Hickstead’s derby tankard

  • Shane Breen’s nine-year-old championship prospect Vistogrand topped a vanguard of British-bred stallions who claimed the top three placings in Thursday’s (23 June) derby tankard at the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby meeting.

    The Fantaland x Mr Visto son, who was bred by Carron Nicol, snatched a hairs-breadth 0.06sec lead from first-to-jump Rob Whitaker and the striking nine-year-old black stallion Vermento.

    Seven combinations jumped clear round the derby tankard’s 1.50m track but only five elected to come forward for the jump off.

    Third place went to Adam Botham and Barbara Hester’s 10-year-old stallion Arge, who delivered the fastest round but had an unfortunate pole at the first fence. Both Arge and Vermento are by Argento and were bred by John and Clare Whitaker.

    Vistogrand is no stranger to grass but was making his first competitive appearance in Hickstead’s main arena. His win was a promising preparation for next month’s Royal International.

    “The plan for this week was to put him in the eye of the chef d’equipe for a possible squad place for the nations cup,” said Shane. “If he doesn’t make the team, then we’ll aim him for the King George.”

    The stallion has gained experience jumping at the top level this year, with solid performances on the Global Champions Tour in Mexico, Hamburg and Rome. Last week, he took a win on British soil in the international trial at South of England.

    “He’s had a good year and was super in Hamburg and at Windsor, where I made a mistake in the grand prix. He’s a really, really smart horse,” Shane said.

    The win was a strong start to the Hickstead-based Irishman’s Derby campaign this year. Shane, who is married to Chloe [Bunn], will have a double-shot at this year’s Derby — a title which has so far eluded him — riding Golden Hawk and Can Ya Makan.

    “It would be nice to get the monkey off my back. The two of them are on great form, so I’ll do my best on the day,” he said. “Both of them deserve to win and it’s the best chance I’ve ever had.”

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