William Funnell has won the Hickstead Derby for a second time aboard Cortaflex Mondriaan after proving too good for 2007 winner Geoff Billington in a thrilling jump-off.
Clear rounds proved impossible to come by in the first round of Britain’s richest show jumping class, with William and Geoff, the last two riders to go, producing the best performances in the class to finish with four faults each.
William, whose previous Derby win came in 2006, jumped off first, putting in a flawless round aboard Mondriaan, the ante-post favourite.
This piled the pressure on Geoff with his 2007 winner Cassabachus, who was going well until he repeated his first round error at the Derby Rails, handing the £40,000 first prize to William, who becomes only the third rider in history to win the prestigious event twice.
Speaking afterwards, William revealed that the Derby had been his aim with the 14-year-old Mondriaan all season.
“He’s been jumping well and I was quietly confident beforehand,” he said. “The horse didn’t let me down as he jumped beautifully today.
“Nothing compares to your first win, but this is really something. If me and Geoff keep alternating this one for the next few years we won’t have a problem!”
Geoff paid tribute to the Hickstead crowd, describing the day as “very special”.
In a class of 29, six tied for third — William Whitaker had two on eight faults along with Guy Williams, Douglas Duffin, Peter Smyth and Jan Motmans. British Olympic team members Ben Maher and Michael Whitaker were in action, with the former finishing ninth and Michael being eliminated on top of the famous bank, a fate that also befell his niece Ellen.
For exclusive coverage from Hickstead, including fence-by-fence analysis and expert commentary, don’t miss Thursday’s H&H (in shops 3 July)