The Al Shira'aa Hickstead Derby 2018
All England Jumping Course, Hickstead, West Sussex, 21st - 24th June 2018
By Stephanie DeWitt Photography Julian Portch #hickstead
After a nail-biting finish to this year's Al Shira'aa Derby, 52 year-old Will Funnell joined Eddie Macken, Harvey Smith, John and Michael Whitaker in being a four-time winner of this competition.
Only two horse and rider combinations jumped clear in the first round over Hickstead's daunting Derby course including the double of ditches, the water, the Devil's Dyke and the infamous Derby Bank. First to go in the barrage, Will and his 10 year-old homebred Billy Buckingham faulted at the water. Holly Smith and her own 10 year-old bay gelding, Quality Old Joker, took down the black gate then, likewise, put a foot in the water, at which point Holly ceded defeat.
Earlier in the day the Beethoven 7 & 8 Year-old Championship was won by Nicole Pavitt and Paris 16. On Friday the British 5 Year-old Championship went to Donald Whitaker riding Nero van de Kwade Heyde while it was a Whitaker 1, 2, 3 in the British 6 Year-old Championship with Joe, Donald and George lining up in that order on Hulahupe JR, Chilli and Shooting Star respectively.
Joe Whitaker started his run of success on the first day of competition in the International Arena winning the Stoner Jewellers Vase riding Diola with Guy Williams and Rouge de Ravel less than a second behind them. In the last class of the day, six British and three Irish horses jumped off for the Bunn Leisure Derby Tankard with Scott Brash riding Lady Harris and Lady Kirkham's 9 year-old bay gelding Hello Shelby to victory, showing precisely why he was the best in the world.
"This was Shelby's first Grand Prix course in this arena," said Scott. "He is still inexperienced at this level but is a promising horse for the future. Nothing fazed him and I kept it tight enough to win."
On Friday, Yazmin Pinchen with her mother Nancy's chestnut stallion Van de Vivaldi won the well-subscribed Bunn Leisure Derby Two Phase competition in the fastest time of 32.47 seconds, her first win in Hickstead's International Arena since she won the Accumulator before taking maternity leave prior to the birth of baby Harry.
The big class of the day was the Bunn Leisure Derby Trial, the qualifying competition for the Derby itself. Last to go, Ireland's Shane Breen on Can Ya Makan pulled out all the stops in the jump-off to win ahead of top lady riders Holly Smith riding Hearts Desire and Harriet Nuttall with A Touch Imperious. Shane also took top honours in the Hickstead Master's Trophy on Saturday, this time partnered by the 9 year-old Holsteiner stallion Clyde VA.
Emotions ran high after the British Speed Derby, won for the second year running by Matt Sampson and Christine Spanner's 14 year-old chestnut gelding, Topflight True Carlo. Spectators would have been forgiven for thinking they were at a football match with Matt's team mates clamouring to congratulate him in the funnel!