He succeeded at his very first attempt to take on the notoriously difficult course created by the legendary Douglas Bunn
Kildare rider, Mikey Pender, became the youngest-ever winner in the history of the world-famous Hickstead Derby when lifting the Boomerang Trophy at the Sussex showgrounds yesterday. The 19-year-old showjumper from Castledermot steered the 12-year-old gelding, Hearton du Bois Halleeux, to victory in a three-way jump-off against the clock in which he was the only one to stay clear second time out.
He adds his name to an illustrious group of Irish winners that includes Seamus Hayes who reigned supreme with the great Goodbye at the inaugural event in 1961, Paul Darragh who topped the line-up with Pele in 1975, Capt John Ledingham who first won with Gabhran in 1984 and then came back to do it twice more with Kilbaha in 1994 and 1995. When Peter Charles was still riding under the Irish flag he was a three-time winner with Corrada between 2001 and 2003, Paul Beecher won with Loughnatousa WB in 2012 and Trevor Breen steered the one-eyed wonder, Adventure de Kannan, to victory in 2014 and again the following year.
However the man whose name is best associated with the prestigious trophy is Eddie Macken whesw great horse, Boomerang, gave his name to the trophy after posting four successive wins between 1976 and 1979.
It seemed Trevor Breen’s brother, Hickstead-based Tipperaryman, Shane Breen, might be on target this time around after winning Friday’s Derby Trial with Golden Hawk who was foot-perfect to set the standard yesterday. But both Britain’s Harriet Nuttall and her Irish-bred A Touch Imperious, and Pender matched that to go into the three-way second-round showdown.
Breen was first against the clock, but with two fences down left the door wide open. Pender was next in and opted for a slow clear so when Nuttall set off it was still all to play for, but a foot in the notorious Hickstead water put paid to her chances and it would be an Irish win once again.
The course, which includes the Derby Bank with its terrifying 10ft 6inch drop and the equally testing Devil’s Dyke tests the nerve of both horse and rider, but the Irish record at Hickstead has always been good. And yesterday Elizabeth Power, daughter of former Army showjumping star Capt Con Power and sister of top jockey Robbie Power, took a day off from her main sport of Eventing to slot into joint-sixth place with the ever-fresh 18-year-old Doonaveeragh O One, alongside Sligo’s Richard Howley and Chinook.
The prodigiously talented Pender has long shown potential, winning silver at the European Pony Championships in Millstreet in 2014 and in Malmo, Sweden in 2015 and then stunning the senior riders by taking a second and third placing at the World Breeding Federation Championships in Belgium in 2016. He has had another great year so far in in 2019 with strong results in Spain and Portugal and won the 2-Star Grand Prix in Mullingar two weeks ago before sharing the Puissance honours at Bolesworth in England.
Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby 2019 – 1, Hearton du Bois Halleux (M Pender) IRL 0/0 101.77; 2, A Touch Imperious (H Nuttall) GBR 0/4 94.15; 3, Golden Hawk (S Breen) IRL 0/8 80.46.
Full result here