Shane Breen said winning his first Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby title was one of the highlights of his stellar career, adding that all four riders on the podium deserved to win “and luckily, thankfully, it was my day today”.
Shane and Can Ya Makan jumped the only clear, only the 65th clear in 60 years of this class, with Harriet Biddick (A Touch Imperious), Carlos Eduardo Mota Ribas (Jella Van’T Kathof) and Dermott Lennon (Gelvins Touch) in equal second, with Shane’s second ride Golden Hawk, on four faults apiece.
“I’m delighted for Golden Hawk,” he said. “In 2019, we jumped clear and then were unlucky in the jump-off; he’s been an amazing horse for me, and I’d have loved either of them to win, but it was Can Ya Makan today, and he’s again been a fantastic horse for me.
“I feel for Harriet as she’s been second so many times; she’s jumped clear or had one down but been the bridesmaid, but she will be back. He’s an Irish horse; he’s tough.”
Shane added that Can Ya Makan had been a bit “suspicious” at one point in the class, towards a fence he had had down before, but although the 16-year-old gave it a rub, it stayed put.
“I think my mother and Douglas Bunn were looking down, and holding the pole down for me,” he said, adding that he had been overwhelmed by the support he has had; family and friends there cheering him on, and brother Trevor, a previous Hickstead Derby winner, ringing from Rotterdam with congratulations.
“People have kept saying this has to be my year and I’ve said it’s been my year for the last 15 years!” he said. “It’s nothing about the money, it’s a class that everyone tunes into, at home in Ireland and around the world. I used to think when I was 80, I’d come down with a zimmer frame and an old horse and jump round, but I won’t have to do that now!”
Shane said even winning the grand prix at Dublin, on the home turf where he had been inspired to be a showjumper, compared to this.
“When I jumped the last with Can Ya Makan, something inside me went,” he said. “I got a bit emotional. All these guys here; we all deserved to win, and luckily, thankfully, it was my day today. It’s just fantastic to get it done.”
It was heartbreak for Harriet, who again won the speed Derby yesterday (25 June) on Silver Lift but was denied the chance to take on Shane in a jump-off by her superstar 18-year-old campaigner’s foot in the water. This was the fifth time the combination had finished second in the Hickstead Derby, and they have also come third twice.
“If you’d told me before he’d won the Derby trial and come second in the Derby, I’d have taken it, but it is bittersweet,” she said. “I’m absolutely chuffed with him; two years off and he’s come back to jump as amazing as he just did; I couldn’t have asked any more from him.”
Harriet added that all other things being equal, another attempt next year is not off the cards.
“He feels as amazing as ever and we’ve just got to keep going,” she said. “I don’t know but the way he jumped today; not definitely but if he feels like this, then yes. Unless anything stops us, that’s what I will be aiming for.”
Dermott said Gelvins Touch had a “bit of a boo boo” in the Hamburg Derby this year, slipping and falling on the bank in wet conditions. The horse then had a “nervy moment” on the bank today, rolling the pole of the fence immediately afterwards.
“But the rest of it he was really, really good,” he said.
Carlos, who also finished second in the speed Derby on Trix, said in yesterday’s press conference that he would be sitting in Shane’s seat today.
“I think I didn’t say it with enough conviction,” the Brazilian rider joked. “I should have hit the table, so the universe knew.
“I’m very happy to be here. I’ve been sixth in the Derby twice, and twice I’ve fallen off, and once I was eliminated, so I’m improving!”
Carlos added that he has heard some say Hickstead is old-fashioned.
“I totally disagree,” he said. “The crowd love it, they know the course, everyone enjoys it. The Hickstead Derby isn’t dying, it will start to live
“It’s a class that should live to eternity, and I will keep doing it. As long as I live, I’ll be here.”
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