Liam Stevens on the lead up to Cell C Derby

Liam Stevens and Nissan Wanda

Liam Stevens was born into a horse-loving family, with his father Damian having started riding when he was six years old with Trevor Lovegren and continued to ride with some of South Africa’s best, among them Rogan Asken, Phillip Smith, Barry Taylor and Janie Myburg. Liam started aged 13 at Lane Stables in Constantia, Cape Town and then later with his parents Sarah and Damian before moving up to Johannesburg. Having since ridden with Jono Clark and for the last 3 years Barry Taylor, Liam says that this season certainly hasn’t been what he’d hoped for and can only continue to put his head down and work tirelessly to achieve his desired goals.

“My season thus far hasn’t been what I had hoped for. My horse Nissan Wanda and I haven’t quite managed to find consistent form. I love the derby and my horse is experienced with all the ‘funnies’; she is fit and in good shape so I am hoping for the best! My nerves on Derby day are unlike any other class throughout the year. It’s a really big event and we jump in front of huge crowds which isn’t something that horse and rider are really used to. Although derby is a scary event, I am just grateful to be a part of it all.”

Tricky fences

He urges riders to enjoy themselves in this epic five-day event.

“The classes leading up are normally friendly enough resulting in us getting to see most of the obstacles before the big day. The only real advice I can give for the big Sunday class is to try and enjoy it: there are a lot of people that never get the opportunity to experience riding on Derby Day: so capture the moment as best you can! My two horses for this year are Nissan Calina – a 7 year old mare who will be in the Micro Derby. It will be her first time jumping at this show. Then Nissan Wanda for the big one. Wanda is a very sensitive yet headstrong horse: she loves to run and jump, so I just have to try to make sure I give her enough time in front of the fences. I personally really enjoy derby obstacles, but I think the really hard jumps to clear are the plank at the bottom of the bank, which normally stands at 1.50m on flat cups and just two strides off the bottom is very tricky. The double of gates is another tricky fence as its really big and at the end of the course where the horses are now really tired. I haven’t jumped the derby since 2014: I’ve been unlucky that my horse has had a ‘niggle’ over the show for the last two years. In terms of myself, I try to get as fit and as light as possible before the Derby – it’s big and long so the horses definitely benefit from carrying less weight.”

So here’s hoping that the top young rider will have as pleasurable a round as when he last completed in 2014 – having placed a fantastic third!

“I just love the occasion: it’s a class I grew up wanting to compete in so it’s a bit of a dream come true just to be there!”

Text: Caroline Malan of the PR Machine
Photography: Fine Photography

Ticket prices:

Saturday 30 September: R50 – R100 (depending on seats)
Sunday 1 October (the main day):  R150 – R600 (Price ranges available: R150, R200, R250 and R600).
Tickets will be available on Ticketpro
Discounted weekend packages available