Last year’s British Speed Derby champion Matt Sampson has just jumped right into contention for Hickstead’s Al Shira’aa Derby.
Matt recently won the Hamburg Derby, the German equivalent to Hickstead’s most famous class, riding the 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare Gloria van Zuuthoeve. The pair produced the only double clear to win ahead of Germany’s Gilbert Tillmann and eventing World Champion Sandra Auffarth, who finished in second and third respectively.
“Hamburg was the first time I’ve jumped in a Derby, so I had a bit of luck on my side,” said Matt. “It was a great warm-up for Hickstead and it would be great to do well again there in a few weeks’ time. Hickstead is a very different course to Hamburg and not many horses have done well at both, but winning the class has really upped our confidence.”
The 28-year-old Yorkshire rider will return to Hickstead next month as the reigning British Speed Derby champion, having won the 2017 renewal on Topflight True Carlo.
The Speed Derby, which takes place on Saturday 23 June, is similar to the Derby in that it features a long course with an array of different jumping obstacles, including a number of permanent jumps. However, the fences are smaller than the Derby and the competitors must complete the course as quickly as possible while leaving the jumps standing, as each one knocked down adds 4sec to the riders’ time.
As well as defending his British Speed Derby title, Matt hopes he can repeat his Hamburg success in the Al Shira’aa Derby, which takes place on Sunday 24 June.
The last rider to win the Speed Derby and Derby at Hickstead in the same year was Olympic gold medallist Ben Maher, who did the double back in 2005 – an achievement he often credits for making his career. Meanwhile, no one has won the Hamburg and Hickstead Derbies in the same year since Ireland’s Eddie Macken, who won both classes in 1976 and 1978.
Now Matt Sampson will aim to replicate this difficult feat and join the list of showjumping greats who have won two of the most difficult Derbies in the world.