An initiative of Horse Sport Ireland


General June 21, 2013


Forget about the 28 fences that Grand National runners have to leap over at Aintree, these are child’s play when compared to Hickstead’s monsters”

Hickstead official website

This Sunday June the 23rd is the 53rd Hickstead Derby Day. The British Jumping Derby at Hickstead was established as an equestrian jumping venue back in 1960 by Douglas Bunn a barrister, businessman and show jumper. In 1961 he introduced the massive Derby Bank, an idea he had taken from the Hamburg Derby, only that Bunn built the Hickstead Bank six inches higher.


Eddie Macken Boomerang 4 Time Hickstead Derby Winner
Photo credit Showjumping Nostalgia

Kilbaha Hickstead Winner  Photo credit unknown

Kilbaha Hickstead Winner
Photo credit unknown

The Derby to this day is a terrific spectators’ sport, where you get to see, great horses having to use their wits and bravery around what is a world class iconic course. Claire Baldwin, described how this course “tests horse and rider like no other”.

Irish Horses are renowned throughout the world for their courage, confidence and calmness, and have dominated wins at the Derby over the decades. Boomerang, out of Irish draught mare, Girl from the Brown Mountain by Battle burn (TB) won Hickstead four times partnered by Eddie Macken. To this day no rider or horse has managed to beat or match this. More recently in 2012 Paul Beecher took victory at Hickstead making further history for the Irish horses and riders at Hickstead.

When we look through the decades at the Hickstead Derby winners whats  noticeable is not only the Irish wins with Irish riders, but the influence and impact of Irish bloodlines on the Hickstead Derby winners.

Stroller (Left) Hickstead Winner  photo credit Sport Horse Show & Breed Database

Stroller (Left) Hickstead Winner
photo credit Sport Horse Show & Breed Databk

Irish horses that have successfully competed at internationals level like Ryan’s Son, Towerlands, Mister Softie (Hickstead), Flannagan(Hickstead), Stroller (Hickstead), Murphy Himself, Vivaldi, Mill Pearl, Boomerang (Hickstead), Milton, Glenburnie, Kilbaha, Priceless and Wilton Fair, Brigadoon, the list is endless, is further testimony to our influence on past and present equestrian sporting history.

Commenting on the Irish horse, John Whitaker (Milton) spoke of his success with Irish Horses: “The Irish Horse can continue his work from where he finished off the previous day, unlike other breeds where you can start at page one of the manual every day he comes out”.

It seems that Irish horses  have great Derby form.   Mr Softie, a Hickstead winner ridden by legendary David Broom’s was bought at Ballinasloe fair in Galway for British ice-cream magnate hence the horses name Mr Softie.

In 1967, Marion Coakes on 14.1 hh Stroller (Connemara X TB) rode to victory in the Hickstead Derby going down in history as the only pony to have ever won this event. Stroller was the grand age of 20 when he then went on to win the 1970 Hamburg Derby.

Photo: Showjumping Nostalgia -Hickstead winner Mr Softie - bought at Ballinasloe and his rider  David Broom

Photo: Showjumping Nostalgia -Hickstead winner Mr Softie – bought at Ballinasloe and his rider David Broom

The recent win at Hamburg by 19 year old Irish Sport Horse Max, shows how Irish horses just keep improving with age.

Max (ISH) won the Hamburg CSI3* Derby ridden by Germany’s Gillbert Tillmann the pair produced a faster performance in the end than fellow countryman Carsten-Otto Nagel with his Oldenburg mount Lex Lugar, who had previously won the competition in 2010. Tillmann enjoyed several victory laps aboard his much loved companion Hello Max (ISH), who, it is expected, will now retire on a high from the sport.

Find your next Derby winner here in Ireland at the Irish Horse Gateway.



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