Kildare teen jumps into the history books as youngest Derby winner
Kildare rider Mikey Pender became the youngest-ever winner of the world-famous Hickstead Derby, lifting the Boomerang Trophy at the Sussex showgrounds.
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 yesterday 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; and 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.
The man best associated with the event is Eddie Macken whose great horse, Boomerang, gave his name to the trophy after posting successive wins from 1976 to 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 a foot-perfect Golden Hawk.
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 Hickstead water put paid to her chances.
The course, featuring the Derby Bank with its 10ft 6inch drop, and the Devil's Dyke of ditches, tests the nerve of 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 Doonaveeragh O One alongside Sligo's Richard Howley and Chinook.
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 won the 2-Star Grand Prix in Mullingar two weeks ago and last weekend shared the Puissance honours at Bolesworth in England.