Ireland’s Michael Pender has become the youngest ever winner of the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby, jumping the sole double clear to lift the Boomerang Trophy today (23 June).
Fifty-two years after Marion Coakes made history with Stroller as the youngest winner of the class in 1967, 19-year-old Michael — three months away from his 20th birthday — smashed the record on his Hickstead debut riding Hearton Du Bois Halleux.
“It hasn’t really hit me yet, but it’s what every rider dreams of,” said Michael.
After three riders produced clean sheets in round one, Michael had to jump off against Hickstead regulars Shane Breen (Golden Hawk) and Harriet Nuttall (A Touch Imperious). Brushing off the fact he was facing the famous Derby fences for the first time, he held his own as the only rider to remain faultless against the clock to claim the title and the £34,650 first prize.
“It means so much with all the history behind this class. I’m just delighted,” said Michael.
His fellow Irishman Shane Breen had jumped first but despite recording a lightning-quick time, picked up eight faults with the 14-year-old stallion Golden Hawk. Michael set off at a steadier pace but, crucially left all the poles up to post a double clear before last drawn Harriet, who had already finished runner-up in the class three times, came home with just a toe in the water to finish second once again, with Shane in third.
“You can feel fast and still be really slow on him [A Touch Imperious] but I think I was just overthinking the water,” said Harriet, winner of yesterday’s Speed Derby on Silver Lift. “I’ll 100% be back next year.”
William Funnell, who was bidding for a record-breaking fifth win in the Hickstead Derby, came home with four faults on his 2018 winner Billy Buckingham to share fourth place with Graham Gillespie riding Andretti.
“He felt fresh and he probably touched less than last year,” said William. “The good thing is I’ve still won it four times!”
Don’t miss the full report from the Hickstead Derby meeting in next week’s Horse & Hound, out Thursday 27 June.