Champion Flat jockey targets Hickstead speed Derby: ‘I just hope I don’t embarrass myself!’

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  • Three-time champion Flat jockey Oisin Murphy is returning to his showjumping roots to compete in this year’s British speed Derby at the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby meeting (23-26 June).

    The 26-year-old, who is currently banned from race-riding, made his Hickstead debut over the coloured poles last year and won his first international showjumping class in Spain in December.

    He is now targeting the speed Derby with his top mare, the 10-year-old Medusa Van De Kooldries, one of a handful of horses he has with Irish showjumper Richard Howley and his partner Morgan Kent.

    “I’ve loved showjumping since I was a small child,” Oisin told H&H. “When I started wanting to become a jockey, showjumping had to take a place on the shelf, but in recent months and particularly last year, I started to ride and get some lessons again.”

    Richard Howley rode Medusa, who had previously evented to novice level with Oliver Townend, in a Derby-style class recently and it “went really well”, so it’s now all systems go for Oisin to take the reins once again at Hickstead, where he will need to jump in the Thursday’s qualifier in order to line up for Saturday’s feature class. There, he’ll be tested over some of Hickstead’s iconic fences including the Irish Bank and Devil’s Dyke.

    “She’s quite brave and quite sharp, so hopefully she’ll give me a good spin,” said Oisin. “I haven’t actually ridden her over anything natural myself but I hunt over the winter with the Ledbury, the Quorn and the Cottesmore at least twice, if not three times, a week, so hopefully I’ll be fine — and if Richard and Morgan are content for me to ride in the class, I’m sure the horse will be well-prepared.”

    Oisin Murphy: ‘I’ve been watching the Hickstead speed Derby since I was a small boy’

    Oisin is planning to have a few lessons this week but his next appearance in the ring will be at Hickstead itself, where he hopes to be jumping a few horses, followed by Bolesworth International.

    “I might borrow a horse from Michael Duffy or David Simpson for the week,” said Oisin. “All those Irish guys have been super helpful and I’m very fortunate to get advice and lessons from them, albeit irregularly. They’re there when we can fit it in.

    “I’ve been watching the speed Derby since I was a small boy. I’m sure I’ll be nervous on the day, but I never really focus too much on these things beforehand. There’s a lot to remember, from the course to just getting everything right.”

    Might we see the Group One-winning jockey descending the legendary bank in the Hickstead Derby itself one year?

    “Baby steps! When I started showjumping I just wanted to jump 1.20m and I’m comfortable around 1.35m now, so hopefully by the end of the summer I’ll be jumping a bit bigger than that,” said Oisin.

    “My mother spent time, energy and money on getting me lots of lessons as a child, so I just hope I don’t embarrass myself!”

    A truly cosmopolitan field of riders will be battling the showjumpers in a bid to compete in this year’s speed Derby, including top flight eventers Gemma Tattersall, who said she’s “just going to go for it” and Ben Hobday, while Grand National-winning jockey Paul Carberry will be hoping to emulate his former weighing room colleague Robert Power, who won the class in 2013.

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