William Funnell achieved a 2018 goal, scoring win number four in the iconic Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby with Billy Buckingham to be up there with his heroes, four-time winners John and Michael Whitaker, Harvey Smith and Eddie Macken.
William who had saved this horse specifically for this class – withdrawing from the five-horse jump-off of Friday’s Bunn Leisure Derby Trial – was the first of only two clears from the 26 starters. He was joined by late-drawn Holly Smith and the rangy Irish-bred Quality Old Joker for a head-to-head decider.
As first to go William had to set a competitive standard and the home-bred Billy Congo 10-year-old Billy Buckingham didn’t look like touching a fence, but a toe in the water meant they finished on four faults.
“He jumped so well, I could hardly believe the stud mark in the tape on the water,” said William, who credited stable jockey Lucy Townley (nee Bunn) – “Lucy produced him until I stepped on him last year.”
It left the door open for Holly, but she caught the tall black gate and then also put a foot in the water with the OBOS Quality 004 10-year-old Joker.
Her bid to be the first lady winner since 2011 and Tina Fletcher and only the sixth in history was over and she sensibly retired for second following her third place debut in 2017.
William is now the fifth rider to win the Hickstead Derby four times after clocking up a hat-trick of victories in 2006, 2008 and 2009 on Cortaflex Mondriaan. And he is already aiming for a fifth with Billy Buckingham.
“As long as I’m fit and the horse is fit you’d like to think you could go on and win it a fifth time. It’s nice to be in the record books with those guys, and to do it this year on a homebred is special,” he said. “After you jump fence one, time stands still and you can hear every little thing, but it’s so good to have the crowd behind you.”
Billy Buckingham made his Derby debut last summer with William and finished sixth on five faults after stepping back on the bank and picking up a time fault.
“We’ve done a bit of practice to make sure he’d come down the Bank. Last year I wondered if I’d wasted a clear round because they don’t come round here very often, so it’s nice to get another one and win it,” he said.
Third was shared by the ultra-consistent Harriet Nuttall and A Touch Imperious, who yet again left all the fences standing but were another pair to be caught out by the 15ft open water; and Shane Breen and his Bunn Leisure Derby Trial winner Can Ya Makan, who knocked down the Balustrade fence at 14.
James Whitaker finished fifth with five faults after hitting the rails after the water and picking up a time fault on his Hickstead Derby debut with Glenavadra Brilliant – his brother William’s 2016 winner.
Only two reached the jump-off to decide the Beethoeven seven and eight-year-old championship with Nicole Pavitt going head-to-head against Peter Moloney. And it was ladies first as Nicole provided the only double clear to take the title on the home-bred eight-year-old Paris 16 (Don VHP Z/Quo Vadis).
British-based Irishman Peter had to settle for second on four faults with the Chellano Z/Carthago Z eight-year-old Compelling Z, albeit more than three sec quicker.
Ben Walker was the fastest of the four-faulters in round one for third on Titan II just ahead of Joe Clayton’s Dewpoint Diamond and Nicole picked up fifth and sixth on Gianni HC and HC Cornet.
Photos © Jumping Around & courtesy Hickstead