William Funnell has joined an illustrious group of legendary showjumpers, winning the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby for the fourth time.
William was riding Billy Buckingham, who he bred himself at the Billy Stud, which he runs with wife Pippa and business partner Donal Barnwell.
The 52-year-old was one of just two riders to go clear in the first round, along with Holly Smith on Quality Old Joker.
He was first to go in the jump-off and Billy Buckingham didn’t touch a fence, however he put a toe in the water to finish on four faults.
This meant if Holly jumped clear she would become the first women to win the Derby since Tina Fletcher in 2011. Unfortunately, Quality Old Joker had the black gate down and then put a foot in the water, which put her second place.
William is the fifth rider to achieve four wins in the Hickstead Derby, having previously won in 2006, 2008 and 2009 with Cortaflex Mondriaan. He joins Harvey Smith, John and Michael Whitaker, and Ireland’s Eddie Macken.
“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,” said William. “It’s nice to be in the record books with those guys, and to do it this year on a home-bred is special. We’ve done a bit of practice to make sure he’d come down the bank.”
Billy Buckingham is out of Billy Congo, who won team gold with William at the 2014 European Championships.
In equal third place were Harriet Nuttall and Shane Breen. Harriet and A Touch Imperious have come second in the Derby for the past three years, and once again the title eluded them, when the 14-year-old Irish gelding had four faults at the water.
Shane was riding Can Ya Makan, who was competing in his first Derby. The 12-year-old won the Derby Trial earlier in the week and jumped a great round in the main event, but was unlucky to have a pole down at the balustrade fence (14).
There was heartbreak for American rider Andrew Kocher, whose ride Navalo De Poheton was fatally injured in the class. The 17-year-old gelding broke a leg on the flat, and despite receiving immediate veterinary attention, was not able to be saved.