William Funnell and Geoff Billington brought the DFS British Jumping Derby to a thrilling conclusion yesterday, both completing the closing 18-fence course with just a single error before meeting again in a highly charged jump-off.
Funnell, riding Cortaflex Mondriaan, then produced a clear round to repeat his 2006 victory; but it was not over until Billington and Cassabachus, the victors here last year, lowered the Derby Rails.
"This is the Wimbledon of show jumping," Funnell said. "You don't get a crowd reaction like that anywhere else in this country and the horses love it."
Until the two four-faults rounds, six horses had shared the lead on eight faults – two of them ridden by 18-year-old William Whitaker, who was completing in his first Derby.
It had looked increasingly likely that those six would be jumping off for first place until Funnell and Billington rewrote the ending in a far more satisfactory way.
Two other Whitakers - William's uncle, Michael, on Insultech Up to Date and his cousin, Ellen, on Ocalardo – made unscheduled exits at the 10ft 6in Derby Bank when their horses refused to make the steep descent.
Eddie Macken, who still holds the record for the four consecutive Derby wins he achieved from 1976 to 1979, is due to compete here again at next month's Royal International Horse Show.
He has been recalled by Ireland at the age of 59, having gained good results in Canada – where he now lives – with a Belgian-bred mare, Tedechine September. He could therefore make the Irish team for the Super League Nations Cup.
The Speed Derby on Saturday went to Shane Breen, riding Royal Concorde. A stylish gallop around the course gave him victory by a 7.12sec margin.