The pair have a strong record in Hickstead’s flagship class, finishing third in 2014 and second in 2015, before last year’s one-time fault round that saw William finally lift the Boomerang Trophy.
“The Hickstead Derby is a fantastic class – it’s so thrilling to watch because anything can happen,” says William, 27.
The Yorkshire-born rider, who now splits his time between Britain and Belgium, knew he’d found a prospective Derby horse the first time he rode Glenavadra Brilliant. Asked whether he can secure back-to-back wins, William says:
“I’ll just prepare him the best I can, the horse and myself, and if I can ride well on the day – then why not?”
Ireland’s Trevor Breen will also be returning to the All England Jumping Course in West Sussex with the hope of adding a third Derby title to his CV. This year he’ll be riding his 2015 Hickstead Derby champion, Loughnatousa WB, who holds a special record in the class for being the only horse to have two wins in the Derby under two different riders.
Trevor’s 2014 winner, Adventure De Kannan, will not have another chance at clearing the formidable Derby course, as he is being officially retired at this year’s Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting. The popular Irish Sport Horse gelding, nicknamed the one-eyed wonder horse after returning to the top levels of showjumping following an operation to remove his right eye in 2013, is taking part in a special retirement ceremony shortly before the Al Shira’aa Derby.
William Funnell, who won the class in 2006, 2008 and 2009 with the brilliant Mondriaan, and finished second in 2012 with Dorada, boasts one of his best Derby chances in years with the talented Billy Buckingham. The horse was originally campaigned by Lucy Townley (nee Bunn), who is the daughter of Hickstead Director Edward Bunn and a rider for the Billy Stud. William has recently taken over the ride and the pair were the winners of the Eindhoven Derby in May and jumped a superb double clear in the FEI Nations Cup leg in Denmark.
Two riders who have finished joint-second in the Hickstead Derby for two years running are Ireland’s Billy Twomey (Diaghilev) and Britain’s Harriet Nuttall (A Touch Imperious). Both will be going all out to see if they can go one better in this year’s renewal.
Other riders to look out for in the Al Shira’aa Derby include Nigel Coupe (Golvers Hill) – winners of the recent Hamburg Derby Trial; Phillip Miller (Caritiar Z) – the Hickstead Derby winners in 2013 and The Netherlands’ Johnny Pals (Urjul van Generhese), who won this year’s Lummen Derby. Other Irish hopes include Richard Howley (Chinook) – who was second in the Hickstead Derby last summer; and the former World Champion Dermott Lennon, who finished fifth last year with Vampire.
This year’s Al Shira’aa Derby field will be decided following the Bunn Leisure Derby Trial, which takes place on Friday 23 June. The top 35 combinations in the Trial qualify for Sunday’s showcase, with qualifying places passing further down the line if any riders do not declare for the Derby itself.
Tickets for the Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting (22-25 June) are on sale now at www.hickstead.co.uk.