Ireland’s Shane Breen finally landed the Al Shira’aa Derby at Hickstead, after nearly two decades of trying. Shane first came close to winning the Hickstead showcase back in 2005, when tying for third place with his future wife Chloe Bunn, the daughter of the All England Jumping Course founder Douglas Bunn.
Seventeen years later, having finished second and third in the class on a number of occasions, Shane finally lifted the Boomerang Trophy after delivering the sole clear round on Team Z7's Can Ya Makan.
"I never normally feel pressure but I was actually getting a bit anxious, because everyone kept saying ‘It’s your year!’ and I'd say, ‘It’s been my year for the last fifteen years’," said Shane, whose brother Trevor won the Derby in 2014 and 2015. "I’ve been saying to people that when I’m 80 I’ll come down with a zimmer frame and just have one old horse to jump around the Derby with, but I won’t have to do that now, thank God!"
He also produced a brilliant round on Golden Hawk to finish on four faults, giving him a one-two finish with his two rides. "If you’d asked me this morning which horse would have gone better, I couldn’t have told you," he added. "Golden Hawk has been an amazing horse for me, and I’d have loved for either of them to have won. But it was Can Ya Makan’s day, and again, he’s been an amazing horse for me in my career.
"When I jumped over the last with Can Ya Makan, something inside of me got quite emotional. Thankfully, it was my day today. I live here and walk around that showground every day, so it’s nice to know that I had my moment in that arena."
Shane shared second place with three others – former World Champion Dermott Lennon (Gelvins Touch), Brazil’s Carlos Eduardo Mota Ribas (Jella Van’t Kathof) and Harriet Biddick and A Touch Imperious, who have now finished runner-up in this class five times.
Harriet, who has had an unforgettable week with wins in the Derby Trial and the Speed Derby, was unlucky to have just one foot in the water in an otherwise clear round. "If you’d told me that he’d win the Derby Trial and be second in the Derby, I’d have taken that – but it is bittersweet. I’m absolutely chuffed with him – to have two years off and then come back and jump as amazing as he just jumped around the Derby, I couldn’t ask for any more," said the Somerset rider.
A slightly smaller field than usual came forward for the 60th edition of the Al Shira’aa Derby, with 21 starters. But the standard of the field was good, with all but two of these riders completing the challenging course and a number of contenders marking themselves out as ones to watch in the future.