‘My horse comes first’: reigning champions ruled out of 2024 Hickstead Derby

  • Last year’s Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby winners David Simpson and Pjotr Van De Kruishoeve will not attempt to defend their title on Sunday (23 June).

    David, who would have been on short odds to take the title again, said the stallion had picked up a mild viral infection.

    “It’s such bad timing, but welfare is paramount to me, and my horse has to come first,” he said. “I was so looking forward to trying to defend my title, but the Al Shira’aa Derby is a huge challenge – it’s twice as long as any other showjumping course, with 21 jumping efforts – so horses need to be at the peak of fitness.

    “Pjotr Van De Kruishoeve is still a young horse, being only eight when he won the Derby last year, so he’ll hopefully be back for many more Derbies in the future.”

    David and Pjotr’s victory denied William Funnell a record fifth Derby win a year ago; William finished second with Dublon and third on Equine America Billy Diamo after a three-way jump-off – having jumped the course clear on two horses, which had never been done before.

    Equine America Billy Diamo has since been sold but William is now favourite to lift the Boomerang trophy this year with Dublon,

    Shane Breen, who won the Derby in 2022 with Can Ya Makan, is entered with two class debutants this year; 12-year-old Nows The Time, owned by legendary former jockey AP McCoy and usually ridden by AP’s daughter Eve, and nine-year-old Fanfan De Beaufour.

    Other notable entries include Robert Whitaker and 2023 Derby trial winner Evert, Ellen Whitaker with former eventer Demi Louvo and eventer Gemma Stevens with her 2023 Derby ride Envoy Merelsnest Z.

    “It really is a wide open field for this year’s Al Shira’aa Derby, and we’re looking forward to seeing which combinations are on form in Friday’s Agria Derby trial,” said Hickstead director Lizzie Bunn. “We are sorry not to see David Simpson come back to defend his title, but it would be an incredible feat for William Funnell to set a new record with five wins, and I don’t think there’ll be a dry eye in the house if he accomplishes this feat. But the history of the Derby is filled with surprise results, and it wouldn’t be a shock if a first-time winner lifted the Boomerang trophy this year.”

    The start list for the Al Shira’aa Derby will be confirmed on Saturday evening.

    • Hickstead tickets start from less than £20, with advance discounts and concessions available. Thursday 20 June is free general admission for all, while there is free admission to those under 15 years of age on Friday and Saturday. Book tickets

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