Celebrating 60 years of the Hickstead Derby

We look forward to the 60th edition of this famous class, on Sunday 26 June

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When the Al Shira’aa Derby takes place here at Hickstead on Sunday 26 June, it will mark the 60th edition of this iconic showjumping class.

The British Jumping Derby was the brainchild of our founder, Douglas Bunn. An international showjumper himself, Douglas had dreamed of opening Britain’s first purpose-built showjumping venue. In 1959, he purchased Hickstead Place and its surrounding acreage – the following year, the All England Jumping Course opened.

Having been inspired by watching cine reel footage of the Hamburg Derby, Douglas wanted to create his own version and in 1961 the first Hickstead Derby was held. Hickstead’s huge main arena was designed to offer British riders the chance to jump the sort of fences they might encounter in Europe, with challenging fences that really resonated with the public. This was never more true than in the Derby, with its vast water jump, towering rails, the tricky Devil’s Dyke treble, and the 10ft 6in high slope of the Derby Bank.

That first Derby in 1961 was won by Ireland’s Seamus Hayes and his great partner Goodbye III, and in the six decades since it has been won by many of international showjumping’s biggest names: including David Broome, Harvey Smith, Marion Mould, Nelson Pessoa, John and Michael Whitaker, Paul Schockemöhle, Nick Skelton and Ben Maher. The most successful Derby combination of all was Eddie Macken and Boomerang, who won the class an incredible four times in a row from 1976 to 1979.

The course has barely changed in the years since the class was first invented, and clear rounds are still as hard to come by. In 2019, in the latest running of the Al Shira’aa Derby, three riders managed to jump clear and go into a jump-off, which was won by the then 19-year-old Irish rider Michael Pender.

Until the Covid-19 pandemic, the Hickstead Derby had never once been cancelled, but due to restrictions both the 2020 and 2021 editions could not be held. But this summer the event is back for its 60th running, and crowds will be welcomed back to this historic showjumping venue to see who will lift the trophy in this special year.

Tickets for the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting (23-26 June) are on sale now, and competitor entries are open now.

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