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Funnells pay tribute to Derby winner put down after freak accident at home

Showjumper William Funnell has paid tribute to his Hickstead Derby-winning and World Equestrian Games (WEG) ride Billy Buckingham, who has been put down aged 12.

The gelding by Billy Congo, homebred by the Funnells and Donal Barnwell at the Billy Stud, was being lunged yesterday (22 March) when he sustained a life-ending fracture.

William told H&H it was a freak accident.

“It was one of those things you’d say was impossible,” he said. “He was in the lunge pen, did five strides of trot, and must have just put his foot down in the wrong way; and cracked the pastern bone to the joint.

“I was there and he wasn’t even blowing, but I knew straight away something was wrong.”

A vet X-rayed and confirmed the injury.

“He was a lovely horse,” William said. “He’d been out jumping on the Sunshine Tour with Pippa in the last month; he was placed in a 1.50m class, and she jumped her first three-star grand prix with him. He’d been jumping really well.”

William said the team was shocked and devastated by the death of the chestnut, who had represented Britain on Nations Cup teams as well as at WEG 2018.

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“He was only 12 and we were going to have another few goes at the Derby, I’d have said,” he said. “He was a fantastic horse, who’d jump round any grand prix in the world.

“In three years of the Derby, he had a step back on the bank, won and had one down; he went round three times and only had one fence down.

“For a big horse, he was really sensitive. We’d had him from a foal and he was the first Billy Congo son to go to a championship and win the Derby – and I don’t think he’d finished yet. They’re characters – part of the family.”

William paid tribute to the relationship groom Zoe Herbert had with Billy Buckingham, adding: “They were best friends.”

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