Holly Smith came within a whisker of joining an elite list of winners at one of the world’s most prestigious show jumping events.
The Wymeswold rider was bidding to become the first female winner of the world-famous Hickstead Derby since 2011, and only the sixth in its 58-year history, with star mount Quality Old Joker.
But the combination had to settle for the runners-up spot after a tense jump-off, following up on their third place debut in 2017.
From 26 starters, Smith was one of only two riders to jump clear round the fearsome and unique course, conquering iconic obstacles such as the 10’6” Derby Bank, the Devil’s Dyke and the double of water ditches.
They had to jump off for honours against William Funnell and his homebred 10-year-old, Billy Buckingham.
The first to go in the jump-off, Funnell’s horse did not touch a fence, but a foot in the water gave them four faults in a time of 89.62secs.
It gave the Leicestershire rider some breathing space, but she was caught out first by the black gate and then by the water as well, and she retired into second place, giving Funnell his fourth Hickstead Derby win.
“I’m delighted with the horse and that he jumped clear,” she said.
“In the jump-off there was maybe some not so great riding from me, but I’m really delighted with him.
“I was watching William, and just planned to go quicker; I thought my horse would probably have a fence down and just hoped not to have two, but when he had a foot in the water that was it.
“Maybe if I rode it again I’d have taken my time, gone a bit steadier and gone for the clear.”