Irish rider Michael Pender won the Al Shira’aa Derby at Hickstead on Sunday, 23 June, becoming the youngest ever winner in the 59-year history of this famous showjumping class.
Marion Mould (1967 winner) and Michael Whitaker (1980) were both 20 years old when they won the Hickstead Derby, with Marion just a few months younger when she took the title, but teenager Michael is still three months shy of his 20th birthday.
Pender also followed in Michael Whitaker’s footsteps by winning the Al Shira’aa Derby at his first attempt, something that hasn’t been achieved since Whitaker’s win on Mon Santa nearly 40 years ago.
Three riders jumped clear – something that hasn’t happened since 1993. Pre-class favourite Shane Breen produced the first of the day’s clears with Golden Hawk.
Kildare-based Michael then ensured a jump-off by going clear with his Puissance specialist Hearton Du Bois Halleux, before Britain’s Harriet Nuttall added a third faultless round with her ultra-consistent A Touch Imperious.
Michael picked up the £34,650 first prize as well as taking home the Al Shira’aa Trophy and having his name added to the Boomerang Trophy.
“It hasn’t really hit me yet, but it’s what every rider dreams of that comes here,” said Michael. “This is the first time I’ve done something like this class with him. I knew he wasn’t going to be very fast in the jump-off, so I knew I needed to try to go clear and put the pressure on Harriet. That’s what I did, and it paid off.”
International showjumping returns to Hickstead next month with the Longines FEI Nations Cup of Great Britain at the Longines Royal International Horse Show 23-28 July.
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