Shane Breen set a new speed record in a thrilling contest for Hickstead’s Bunn Leisure Speed Derby, beating the record set in this competition in the 1980s by his compatriot John Ledingham on Castle Pollard.
Riding Dermot and Carmel Ryan’s 10-year-old Royal Concorde, The Irishman clocked the smoothest clear in 91.96, beating Belgian Nick Motmans by a spectacular 8sec margin.
“I was 7sec faster than when I finished third last year, but it felt the same because the ground was so good and fast, and she was just floating,” said Shane, who is the son-in-law of the master of Hickstead, Douglas Bunn.
There were thrills and spills galore, giving the capacity crowd its moneys’ worth, and, last to go, the 2007 winner Ellen Whitaker provided drama on Henri de Herne. She made a determined start, but came unstuck when her horse hit the rail preceding the Derby Bank, became unbalanced and got stuck on the slope. The pair skidded out of view, reappearing to gales of laughter up the other side, but despite this brilliant recovery, the wheels soon came off and Henri struggled at the Irish bank.
Earlier, Mark Armstrong produced a sympathetic performance on his good mare Sefana to win the Falcon Equine Feeds Derby Trophy. They beat William Funnell, who rides his 2006 Derby winner Cortaflex Mondriaan in Sunday’s big class, on the home-bred Billy Birr by 0.45sec.
Grace Walker, 21, a promotions assistant, had a big thrill when winning the Amateur Championship. She was given a big helping hand by her brother-in-law, Guy Williams, who kindly lent her his speed specialist, Mysteron, described as “strong but safe”.
Don’t miss H&H’s full report on all the action from the Hickstead Derby meeting, on sale 3 July, ’08