10 Iconic Derby Moments - Part I

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Last seen disappearing into our dusky archives, Hickstead Press Officer and journalist Victoria Spicer has put together a review of 10 of our most iconic Derby moments over the years, specially for our HDC members. Here are her first three...

1. The Best Of All

Since 1980, the winner of the Derby has held the Boomerang Trophy aloft. This stunning bronze, sculpted by Emma McDermott, shows a horse and rider descending the Derby bank - and the pair depicted is none other than Boomerang and Eddie Macken, the most successful Hickstead Derby competitors of all time.


Statistically, horses that have won the Derby once have a good chance of repeating their victory - but Eddie and Boomerang's record remains unsurpassed in the 35 years since their run of four consecutive wins. Their first win came in 1976, when they produced a faultless round to net the only clear. The following year, Macken stamped his Derby authority even further when he finished first and second on Boomerang and Kerrygold. Both horses were part of a five-strong jump-off, with all five horses having incurred four-faults in the first round. But Eddie and Boomerang, first to go in the jump-off, set a time no one could match.


Amazingly, their hat-trick came in 1978, just seven days after the pair finished a close second in the World Championships in Aachen - which had included the gruelling final round where the top four riders jump a round on each of the other three finalists' horses. Although Eddie only managed the runner-up spot, Boomerang was the best horse on the day, jumping a perfect clear round with each of the four riders.


They completed the set in 1979, when the ground conditions were terrible and they were the last to go. No one had managed better than eight faults, until the reigning victors came in and had just one fence down to take the title for a fourth time.


Afterwards, Eddie rode off with the gold trophy that had been presented to him in the ring, so his sponsor Carrolls commissioned the replacement Boomerang Trophy. That day, the Irishman - who topped the World Rankings three times and won countless Grands Prix around the world, paid tribute to his record-breaking horse. "For me, he's the best horse ever; I'm certainly very lucky to have him. I think people who saw him, saw what he did today, they're very lucky, because they'll wait a very long time before they see another one."


And he was right - we're still waiting for another Derby horse who is good enough to rival the great Boomerang.

2. John Whitaker's Two Veteran Derby Winners

Three riders have matched Eddie Macken's four Derby wins (though none have been in consecutive years or on the same horse) - Harvey Smith, and Michael and John Whitaker.


John's second win came in 1998, when he finished top on the 21-year-old Gammon, who remains the oldest horse to win the Hickstead Derby. Two years later, John won on Welham, who was 20 and having what was his second attempt at the Hickstead Derby, having finished second in 1995. John and the 20-year-old gelding joined Rob Hoesktra (Lionel) and Tim Stockdale (Wiston Bridget) in a three-way jump-off, with the veteran gelding netting the fastest time to give John his third Derby title.

3. Buddy Bunn Makes Douglas' Dream Come True

John's fourth win came in 2004 on board a catch ride called Buddy Bunn. The horse was home bred by the founder of the All England Jumping Course, Douglas Bunn, and was originally ridden by his daughter Chloe (now Breen). However, with Chloe busy with her studies, the ride passed to William Funnell, a great friend of the Bunn family.


Douglas had never owned a Derby winner, and William was very much looking forward to the ride on Buddy Bunn in Hickstead's best known class. However, the rider aggravated a groin strain during the Derby meeting, and John Whitaker was asked to take the ride in the Derby.


John, a legendary horseman, sat on Buddy Bunn for the first time the day before the class, then proceeded to jump a perfect clear round in the Derby itself. He then repeated the feat in the jump-off, beating his then 18-year-old niece Ellen Whitaker into second place on Locarno.