William Whitaker was the only rider who left all the fences standing to win Sunday’s Equestrian.com Derby at Hickstead.
Riding Glenavadra Brilliant, Whitaker rode an assured clear to finish just over the optimum time allowed of 180sec to collect one time fault. Having finished third with this horse in 2014 and second in 2015, Whitaker was obviously on a countdown to victory in this class and has now delivered.
Whitaker, 26, is originally from Huddersfield but now lives in Belgium. He is now the third member of the Whitaker family to win the Hickstead Derby – his uncles, John and Michael Whitaker, have both won Hickstead’s most famous class four times, and now William’s name will join theirs on the Boomerang Trophy.
Three riders shared the runner-up spot. First to go, Ireland’s Richard Howley got things off to a strong start with a four fault round, after his horse knocked the first part of the Devil’s Dyke. Saturday’s British Speed Derby winner Harriet Nuttall came tantalisingly close to doing the double with a super round on A Touch Imperious, only for the very last fence to fall.
Whitaker, drawn 24th out of 34 starters, then came in and denied the four-faulters a chance to jump off – though with 10 riders still to come there was still a good chance of someone going clear. Ireland’s Billy Twomey, winner of Saturday’s Tom Hudson Derby Trophy with Thomas, was on target for a clear round on Hamburg Derby winner Diaghilev, but again the Devil’s Dyke – known to be the trickiest fence on the course – ended his Derby dream and left him in second place.
Whitaker was delighted to finish top of the leaderboard, having been runner up several times.
“It’s one of the classes I’ve always really wanted to win. My horse is always knocking on the door, having been second here as well as several other derbies in Europe, so I’m pleased to finally get the win today,” he said.
Billy Twomey magnanimously described Whitaker’s performance in the Derby as a ‘copybook round’, and indeed Whitaker looked every inch a Derby champion as he steered the 13-year-old Irish Sports Horse round the long course.
“He’s strong and scopey, and he’s got a lot of stamina. When he jumped the last fence he almost felt as if he could have done it again,” Whitaker said.
Earlier in the day, Alfie Bradstock won the Hickstead Under 25 Masters with Hello Disco Boy.