Beecher trumps rivals in Hickstead
Paul Beecher yesterday became the eighth Irish rider to win the world-famous Hickstead Derby with a superb display from Loughnatousa WB. It was a great Hickstead fixture from an Irish perspective, as Trevor Breen also won Saturday's Speed Derby for the second time.
Beecher produced one of just two first-round clears over the notoriously difficult track that includes the precipitous Derby Bank and aptly named Devil's Dyke, and which has changed little since created by the late Douglas Bunn in 1960.
And the 29-year-old Waterford man piled on the pressure in the second-round jump-off with yet another foot-perfect run from his 13-year-old chestnut gelding.
There were 31 starters, and pathfinder Beecher may have set a record as no one could recall a clear round from the opening rider. And he did it in style, with Loughnatousa LB never touching a pole. Beecher, who earned €42,000 in prize-money, joins a quality list of Irish Hickstead Derby champions.
The late, great Seamus Hayes won the inaugural event with Goodbye in 1961 and three years later, and Paul Darragh steered Pele to victory in 1975. The Derby trophy was redesigned to honour Eddie Macken's four-year domination with Boomerang between 1976 and 1979, and Capt John Ledingham recorded his first victory with Gabhran in '84 before doing it twice more with Kilbaha in '94 and '95.
Peter Charles, who has since returned to compete for Britain, was flying the Irish flag when registering his hat-trick of wins between 2001 and 2003.
Capt David O'Brien (Mo Chroi) and Trevor Breen (Adventure de Kannan) shared third place with six others who collected four faults in the opening round. On Saturday, Breen steered Beer Hunter home to pip Syria's Ahmad Hamcho (Orphee de L'Illion) for the Speed Derby title which he previously clinched with Adventure de Kannan in 2009.