Funnell wins Derby crown

picth.jpg

William Funnell (pictured) claimed Britain’s richest show jumping prize, the DFS Derby, at Hickstead this afternoon. In a nail biting competition, which produced no first round clears, Funnell and Cortaflex Mondriaan were the only jump off participants to leave all fences standing. David McPherson took second place with Geoff Billington in third.

Only three of the 24 starters made it through to the jump off; Geoff Billington (Cassabachus), David McPherson (Bob’s Diamond) and Funnell. The 16-obstacle Derby course, which remains unchanged from year to year, showcased world-class riding but also reaped its fair number of thrills and spills. The defending champion, Ben Maher, clocked up eight penalties on both of his rides (Give Me Remus and Alfredo II), as did John Whitaker (Lactic 2), Robert Smith (Jerry Maguire) and David McPherson on his second ride Skip Two Ramiro.

Eight riders were eliminated; Angelena Moore fell at the 10’6″ Derby Bank and Henry Turrell and Peter Murphy were both unseated at the Privet Hedge Oxer at fence six. John Whitaker riding Jane Annett’s Cullawn Diamond (Annett dislocated her ankle in a fall at the water in the Derby Trial on Friday) and Robert Maguire (Mr Cawley) were also eliminated.

With no clear rounds at the end of round one Billington, McPherson and Funnell, all with four penalties, were invited to jump off.

When McPherson knocked a rail in round two and Billington knocked two, Funnell and 12-year-old Cortaflex Mondriaan were left with everything to play for. But the pair, who finished third in the Derby in 2003, took everything in their stride and as silence shrouded the grandstands, they showed no sign of cracking under the pressure. Although their leisurely round was more than 10 seconds slower than McPherson’s, it was clear, earning them the £30,000 first prize.

Funnell is delighted finally to have won the Derby title and the cherished Boomerang Trophy. “This is the one thing I wanted to win really,” he said afterwards, adding that Mondriaan is jumping better than ever. The gelding suffered a life-threatening bout of colic during Olympia last year and thanks to an operation has made a remarkable recovery. “He is a Derby specialist. It is quite easy for him as he has always jumped natural things. In his attitude I’ve never had a horse like him,” Funnell said. “I don’t know whether it is stupidity but he never thinks to do anything he’s not told to.”

DFS Derby 2006 results

1. William Funnell – Cortaflex Mondriaan
2. David McPherson – Bob’s Diamond
3. Geoff Billington – Cassabachus
4. Ben Maher – Give Me Remus
5. John Whitaker – Lactic 2

Originally published on horseandhound.co.uk