The entries are in for the 57th Al Shira’aa Derby, with one of the most open fields in years set to contest Hickstead's iconic showjumping class.
With a prize fund of £105,000, including £35,650 to the winner, it remains one of the most coveted titles in equestrian sport with many of the horse world’s biggest names gracing the roll of honour.
The winner of the Al Shira’aa Derby is presented with the famous Boomerang Trophy, which depicts Eddie Macken and his four-time winner descending the Derby Bank. They will also be given the Al Shira'aa Trophy to take home and keep as a memento of their win, which is presented by the title sponsor. The trophy showcases Al Shira’aa’s logo, which is drawn in Arabic calligraphy and incorporates the design of both a wind sail and a horse’s head.
Nigel Coupe and Golvers Hill, the reigning champions, will return to the All England Jumping Course in the hope of retaining the trophies they won last year. If the pair can repeat their success of 2017, they will be the first horse and rider combination to secure back-to-back victories since William Funnell and Cortaflex Mondriaan, who won in 2008 and 2009 following their first win in 2006.
Funnell also has a very good chance of winning a fourth title, this time with the talented Billy Buckingham. The pair were the Eindhoven Derby winners in 2017 and finished sixth on the horse’s Al Shira’aa Derby debut 12 months ago. He has been specially targeted at this class and is certainly one to watch in the Sunday afternoon showcase.
Harriet Nuttall has a remarkable record in the Derby, finishing third in 2014 and second in 2015, 2016 and 2017. She jumped a clear round with A Touch Imperious in last year’s class only to come second in the jump-off against Nigel Coupe, so she’ll be striving to go one better this year. As well as boasting an ultra-consistent record in the Al Shira’aa Derby, Harriet and A Touch Imperious have just come third in the Longines Grand Prix of Switzerland, meaning they’re on excellent form ahead of their Hickstead return.
Holly Smith and Quality Old Joker are another pair with a good chance, having finished third equal last year on their first attempt at the class. They recently finished fifth in the Hamburg Derby with just one fence down. Meanwhile, the winners of last month’s Hamburg Derby were Matt Sampson and Gloria Van Zuuthoeve, shooting them straight into contention for Hickstead’s equivalent class. Matt was the only rider to jump double clear in the German Derby, and he will be aiming to have an equally clean sheet next week at Hickstead.
Glenavadra Brilliant is another horse to look out for. Having won the 2016 Hickstead Derby with William Whitaker, Glenavadra Brilliant is now ridden by William’s younger brother Jim, who will be bidding to become the fourth Whitaker to have his name added to the famous roll of honour. Jim’s cousin Joe Whitaker and his mare Virginia plan to have a crack at winning, as does Robert Whitaker, who has had several top 10 placings in this class.
Irish rider and former World Champion Dermott Lennon is likely to have two strong chances in the Al Shira’aa Derby, having finished third equal last year with Gelvins Touch and seventh equal with Vampire.
Other riders to look out for include Elizabeth ‘Esib’ Power, an Irish international event rider and the sister of top jockey Robert Power. She has had two top 12 placings in the Al Shira’aa Derby, and has the potential to go well once again with Doonaveeragh O One, a horse with an excellent Hickstead record.
The starting line-up for the Al Shira’aa Derby will not be confirmed until after the Bunn Leisure Derby Trial, which takes place on Friday 22 June. The highest placed 35 horses qualify for the Al Shira’aa Derby, with qualification passing down the line.
In addition to Sunday’s grand finale, the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting boasts a number of World Ranking classes and has attracted a field of almost 100 riders from 16 different countries including the UAE, Australia, Japan, the USA and Brazil. Great Britain’s number one showjumper Scott Brash is among those due to compete at the show, along with British showjumping legend John Whitaker, who returns to the event after an absence of several years, and former Hickstead Derby winner Guy Williams.
The Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting takes place from the 21-24 June, with tickets on sale now.
Follow news and updates from this year’s Al Shira’aa Derby contenders using the hashtag #RoadtoHickstead.