Simpson wants Al Shira’aa Derby repeat at Hickstead

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Ireland’s David Simpson has his sights set on a second Al Shira’aa Derby victory at Hickstead after his superb win last year on the eight-year-old Derby debutant Pjotr Van De Kruishoeve.

The pair took the title last June after producing a brilliant clear first round and finishing top of a three-way jump-off against William Funnell on his two rides, Equine America Billy Diamo and Dublon.

“I’ve always wanted to win the Hickstead Derby, having grown up watching it on TV with riders like John Ledingham, Nick Skelton and Michael and John Whitaker,” said 36-year-old David, who grew up in Derry but now lives in West Sussex. “When I won last year, I just felt pure elation. I’d achieved a lifelong dream – like a football player winning their first FA Cup or a tennis player winning Wimbledon.”

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The talented Pjotr Van De Kruishoeve looked entirely at ease jumping round the challenging Derby course, despite it being his first ever attempt. Now preparations are underway for this year’s class. “He’ll do two four-star shows in the run-up to the Derby, and I am planning to do one day training on my grass field at home, where I have built a replica Derby course, just to refresh his memory,” explained David. “He’s still only nine, and most horses don’t hit their peak until 10 or 11. It’s about producing him carefully and turning him into the finished product of a five-star Grand Prix horse,” David adds.

Ireland rider David Simpson winning the 2023 Al Shira aa Derby at Hickstead | Picture by Julian PortchIreland rider David Simpson winning the 2023 Al Shira aa Derby at Hickstead | Picture by Julian Portch
Ireland rider David Simpson winning the 2023 Al Shira aa Derby at Hickstead | Picture by Julian Portch

It’s been almost a decade since fellow Irish rider Trevor Breen secured back-to-back wins in the Hickstead Derby, winning with Adventure De Kannan in 2014 and Loughnatousa WB in 2015. Now David is hoping to emulate that achievement. “I am already looking forward to it because I genuinely love riding in the class. I will prepare myself as much as possible and have Pjotr in the best possible form, but it is a tough course and such a tough class to win. You need a little bit of luck, but if everything goes right, I think we can win it again.”

The Al Shira’aa Derby is the feature class on the final day of the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting (20-23 June). Tickets are on sale now – visit www.hickstead.co.uk

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