Champion jockey sets sights on the Speed Derby

After a successful Hickstead debut last summer, Oisin Murphy is returning to the showground for a crack at one of our most famous classes 

Oisin Murphy Tiger 2 (Large)

Champion jockey Oisin Murphy is making his Hickstead return this month, with the aim of competing in the British Speed Derby.

Oisin made his Hickstead debut last summer, where he finished runner-up in the Hy Equestrian British 1.10m Amateur Championship. But this time he has his target set on a bigger prize – the British Speed Derby, which is the feature class on the Saturday of the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting (23-26 June).

The Speed Derby includes many of Hickstead’s iconic fences, including the Devil’s Dyke and the Irish Bank. Unlike the Al Shira’aa Derby, which is set at the maximum height and requires precision jumping, the Speed Derby sees riders gallop round the Longines International Arena at top speed. The fastest time wins, with 4sec added for any fences that are knocked down.

Oisin is not the first jockey to take part in the Speed Derby – Robert Power won the class in 2013 with his sister Esib’s former event horse Doonaveeragh O One. The Cheltenham Gold Cup and Grand National winner was a successful showjumper in his younger days, winning team gold at the Junior Europeans.

So does Oisin fancy his chances of joining Robert on the Speed Derby roll of honour? “He’s a very talented rider and I’m a very amateur showjumper! But I love jumping and I’ll try my best,” he says, adding that showjumpers Richard Howley and Morgan Kent have been a massive help with his Hickstead preparations.

Another jockey also hoping to qualify for the Speed Derby is former National Hunt jockey Paul Carberry. The Grand National winner has been competing in showjumping classes since his retirement from the track in 2016, and could well be one to watch at Hickstead since he’s obviously no stranger to jumping huge natural obstacles at speed.   

Other riders to keep an eye out for are Olympic event rider Gemma Tattersall, who is aiming for the class with Johan-Some, and fellow five-star eventer Ben Hobday. From the showjumpers, course specialist Harriet Nuttall returns with her double Speed Derby champion Silver List. Despite the three-year gap since the class last took place, the pair are bound to start as favourites to retain their trophy.

The final line-up will be decided by the Speed Derby qualifier, which takes place on the Thursday morning of the show.

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

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