LAST year Tina Fletcher became the first lady rider to win the Hickstead Derby for 38 years. Next month, she hopes to become the first woman to win the most famous of showjumping classes on two consecutive occasions.
Tina’s Carpetright Derby winner, the quirky but talented Promised Land, has jumped in the class twice and is yet to have a single pole down – an incredible achievement considering there have only been 53 clear rounds in the Derby since it was first run in 1961.
A number of horses have won the Hickstead Derby multiple times. Boomerang and Eddie Macken are the only combination to win four times, taking home the famous trophy every year from 1976-1979. Michael Whitaker and Mon Santa won it three consecutive times (1991-1993), Peter Charles did the same with Corrada (2001-2003), while William Funnell and Cortaflex Mondriaan won in 2006, 2008 and 2009.
Tina and Promised Land came very close to winning in 2010, in the horse’s first Derby attempt. They rode a perfect double clear, only for Guy Williams and Skip Two Ramiro to match their feat in a quicker time. It meant Tina became the second rider ever to jump double clear in the Hickstead Derby without winning – the only other rider to do so was Tim Stockdale and Wiston Bridget in 2000. Having finished tantalisingly close on two occasions, Tina Fletcher was certainly due a win in 2011 – and she duly jumped the only clear round to net the £40,000 first prize.
The brainchild of Hickstead founder Douglas Bunn, the Hickstead Derby was first held in 1961 and the famous course has barely changed in the years since. With fences like the Devil’s Dyke, the towering Bank with its 10ft 6in drop, the tricky double of water ditches and one of the widest water jumps in the world, it is little wonder that clear rounds are such a rarity and why the class has become so iconic in the horse world.
The Carpetright Derby is the grand finale of Hickstead’s June meeting, and this year it will take place at 2.30pm on Sunday June 24. Riders have to qualify for the Carpetright Derby by competing in Friday’s Bunn Leisure Derby Trial, last year won by Peter Charles and Murka’s Vindicat W. The British Speed Derby on Saturday will see riders and horses go over Hickstead’s permanent obstacles at the gallop – last year the class was won for the second time by Hickstead’s own Shane Breen. Sky Sports will also be televising live action from Hickstead every afternoon from Friday June 22 to Sunday June 24.
With showing classes, scurry driving, the celebrity polo match, hundreds of tradestands and entertainment for all the family, a trip to Hickstead offers the perfect day out. A range of hospitality options are available, including private boxes, ringside lodges, the exclusive 120-seater Members’ Restaurant and the Beethoven Suite, named after Douglas Bunn’s most famous horse. Admission prices start from just £8 per person. To book tickets, go to www.hickstead.co.uk or call 01273 834315.
Caption: Tina Fletcher and Promised Land coming down Derby Bank in winning style. Photo: John Periam