William Funnell’s Billy Buckingham lived up to the hype to claim his rider a record-sharing fourth Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby win at the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting on Sunday 24 June.

He left all the rails standing on his debut last year, but collected an unlucky four faults and a time fault for a step back on the bank — making for short odds on this rangey 10-year-old taking victory this time around.

It was a particularly strong field, which coupled with perfect weather and flawless going produced some excellent performances.

One other clear from Holly Smith and Quality Old Joker — who had just the one down on his debut in 2017 — made for a rare jump off, and it looked like these two huge geldings, who stand at 18.2hh and 18hh, would be a close match.

William thought he had produced a competitive clear in the jump off on the home-bred chestnut by Billy Congo, but four faults were flagged on the scoreboard for a foot in the water.

Holly and her 11-year-old Irish sport horse had to put their foot down when they had the gate early on, but they too fell foul of the water — which was unusually influential in the top placings — to concede the win.

William’s triumph makes him the fifth rider to tally four victories in the Hickstead Derby since its inception in 1961. He previously notched up a hat-trick with the great Mondriaan, claiming the Boomerang trophy in 2006, 2008 and 2009.

He joins fellow four-time record holders Harvey Smith, John and Michael Whitaker and Eddie Macken — who is the only rider to have won four times on the same horse, the legendary Boomerang.

William now has his sights set on blitzing the records with a fifth accolade.

“It’s lovely to be here again and as long as I am fit and the horse is fit, it’s nice to think I could do a fifth time. It would be lovely to be in record books.

“To win it for the first time is a dream come true, let alone to do it on a home-bred who jumped fantastically,” he said.

Such was the quality in this slightly smaller-than-average field of 26 that none of the 12-faulters collected a place.

Harriet Nuttall — who made the jump off last year with her phenomenal derby horse A Touch Imperious — also collected four faults for a foot in the water. The partnership now have two seconds and two third placings here to their name.

She tied for third with this year’s Derby trial victors Shane Breen and Team Z7’s Can Ya Makan, who jumped the trappiest elements clear, but caught the white ballustrade behind.

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James Whitaker collected four faults and one time penalty on Glenavadra Brilliant, winner here in 2016 with his brother William, for fifth place. Pathfinder Sammie-Jo Coffin and Willem De Lux, Antony Condon and Cavalier Rusticana, last year’s winners Nigel Coupe and Golvers Hill and Brazilian Carlos Edouardo Moto Ribas all followed up on eight faults.

Navalo De Poheton, the 17-year-old ride of the USA’s Andrew Kocher, who was making his debut here, was put down after breaking a leg on the flat between the gate at fence four and wall at fence five.

“Despite receiving immediate veterinary attention in the ring, he was not able to be saved,” Hickstead’s statement said. “The Bunn family and the title sponsors Al Shira’aa expressed their condolences to the horse’s connections, and praised the swift and professional reactions of the arena officials and veterinary team.”

Full report from the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 28 June.

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