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Two top riders and two top horses came head to head in the Derby Trial at Hickstead this afternoon. Champion riders William Funnell (Cortaflex Mondriaan) (pictured) and Robert Smith (Jerry Maguire) were the only two competitors to make it into the jump-off, suggesting they are fully prepared for Sunday’s prestigious DFS Derby.

But disaster struck moments after William Funnell’s first round clear. Jane Annett (Cullawn Diamond) fell at the water jump and was taken away by ambulance with a suspected broken ankle. Thankfully the rest of the class ran smoothly, but Robert Smith was the only other rider to jump a clear round within the time.

The atmosphere was electric as William Funnell entered the arena for the jump off. And his effortless clear round proved an impossible act to follow. Smith, with Jerry Maguire also completed clear but was more than four seconds slower.

“Robert just misjudged it,” Funnell told HHO afterwards. “I was a bit tighter than he realised.” Funnell, who finished third in the Derby with Mondriaan in 2003 is reluctant to forecast a 2006 Derby triumph. “I suppose I have a bigger outlook for this year than just the Derby,” he said, “but he [Mondriaan] is looking fresh.”

According to Funnell, Cortaflex Mondrian is not worried about natural objects and should not have a problem with the bank; “He’s a sensible horse, he plots the best route,” he said.

The first 35 prize winners in this afternoon’s Derby Trial will contest the £30,000 first prize DFS Derby (Sunday 2:30pm).

The Osborne Refrigerators Derby Trial

1 Cortaflex Mondriaan William Funnell
2 Jerry Maguire Robert Smith
3 Bob’s Diamond David McPherson
4 Lactic 2 John Whitaker
5 Shandor II Stuart Neads