Funnell Back On Top Of Burghley After Dramatic Cross Country

Pippa Funnell
Credit : Landrover Burghley Horse Trials

Saturday 07 September - 17h22 | Lulu Kyriacou

Funnell Back On Top Of Burghley After Dramatic Cross Country

The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials cross country day produced a fantastic exhibition of eventing and saw Pippa Funnel maintain her slender dressage lead over Piggy French and Oliver Townend. 

 - Funnell Back On Top Of Burghley After Dramatic Cross Country

Piggy French jumps the Maltings corner
Credit : Silverhill Webdesign

An optimum time of 11.16 made the test look slightly less arduous than in recent years, on initial examination but looks are often deceiving and the Mark Phillips designed course proved as tough as ever. There were several changes to notable fences including the Trout Hatchery, with an extremely long and torturous alternative routes and a new double of offset gates called the Rolex Combination which provoked much discussion before the day started. 

Overnight, there were withdrawals for Pippa Funnells Billy Walk On, Michael Owen's Jim's Pal and Georgie Spence's WII Limbo, leaving 64 starters to take their chance.

Pathfinder on course was Tim Price, riding Bango, the first of three rides for the defending champion. He went through the direct lines at the fences but did not appear to hurry and finished 30 seconds over the time allowed. Ludvig Svennerstal topped off a great couple of weeks for Sweden, second out, by getting round clear on Stinger, albeit for six time penalties and taking the lead.
Thereafter, the problems for riders came thick and fast. First major casualty was Gemma Tattersall who was having trouble holding a very keen Artic Soul and the pair paid the penalty at the final part of the Maltings combination where the rider decided to put in six strides to the final corner part and her normally unstoppable horse ground to a sudden halt and deposited Tattersall onto the floor. Hazel Towers and Simply Clover also came to grief there.

Riding first of the huge American contingent was Will Coleman and Tight Lines who were expected to be close to the time but it became a moot point when the pair had a run out at the second part of Leaf Pitt. He then broke a frangible going into the Trout Hatchery. Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 were the first American to go clear. 

Thursday's dressage sensations, Eliza Stoddart and Priorspark Opposition Free, only made it as far as Discovery Valley where the pair picked twenty penalties the first time they crossed and then picked up a frangible penalty at the second time then ground to a halt at the Trout Hatchery. To be honest the rider should have been stopped before she finally hit one of the gates as the ride looked extremely precarious to say the least and the pair were very lucky to have escaped serious injury when the horse came down at the new double gates fence at Fence 16. Julia Norman also escaped injury there when the first part came down and she jumped the second almost from a standstill.

The Dairy Mound ended the challenges of MIchael Owen's Bradleys Law and Authur Duffour's Toronto du Aurois both of home had run outs. Francis Whittington was listed on the scoreboard as being eliminated here on Evento but the rider had finished the course and was so must have been unaware of the fact! He had actually jumped a fence twice when having to do a last minute change of plan at the Clarence Court sponsored obstacle, which caused significant problems throughout the day.

Only Four Clears in First 20 Riders

Only Four Clears in First 20 Riders - Funnell Back On Top Of Burghley After Dramatic Cross Country

Lauren Kieffer best of the Americans jumps through the Trout Hatchery
Credit : Silverhill Webdesigh

By the time a quarter of the field had jumped, only four riders had managed jumping clears. The huge oxers at the Joules Maltings were taking their toll by this point, as David Britnell, Isabel English, Doug Payne, Marcello Tosi, Sam Lissington, Nana Dalton, Richard Jones and Katie Preston joined Gemma Tattersall as riders who got no further. Ariel Grald did a fine job on her debut to go clear for the USA and Sarah Bullimore moved into the top ten briefly with a fine round on her veteran Reve du Rouet, moved out of it after the verdict on a dodgy moment on the last part of the Dairy Mound where she was given 15 penalties for missing a flag and then went back again when those were then later removed!!

Ben Hobday joined the clear round list with Harelawn Wizard as did Caroline Powell aboard On the Brash. Alicia Hawkws was impressive on Charles RR and so was Frenchman Authur Chabert. Imogen Murray and Ivar Gooden rode a brilliant round to finish a mere ten seconds over the time which was the fastest round at that point, and propelled them into the top ten but Lugwig was still in the lead at the half way point. 

Tim Price' second ride Zavier Faer dropped the rail at the first parallel into the Trout Hatchery ending his chances and he wassunsequently retired. Dee Kennedy and Chequers Playboy made a similar mistake at the second one and also retired. The French got another clear on the scoreboard when Sebastian Cavaillon was faultless. despite a hold on course.

Liz Halliday Sharpe was slow on Deniro Z for the USA but the rider was making her debut her and would have been satisfied with her clear on a horse who has not done a long format event since Luhmuhlen in 2018. Hannah-Sue Burnett, top five after dressage, had her hands full with Harbour Pilot from the start and after surviving some scary moments, her luck ran out at the Dairy Mound where the horse just ran past the second past and was subsequently retired, wasting their excellent dressage performance.

The lead finally changes!

The lead finally changes! - Funnell Back On Top Of Burghley After Dramatic Cross Country

Oliver Townend
Credit : Silverhill Webdesign

With less than a third of the field left to go, the leaderboard was still being headed by Ludwig Svennerstal, who surely would not have imagined that at the start of the day. More and more riders were failing to get round. Unluckiest person was Georg Hilton Jones, whose horse got its hoof stuck in martingale strap over a fence and so tripped on landing depositing the rider. Zara Tindall was deposited when Class Affair made a last minute decision to duck round the skinny after the Leaf Pit.

Buck Davidson Jrn was another to fall foul of the gates at Fence 16, falling heavily at the second. Buck appeared to get rolled on and got his foot caught in the stirrup. The combination appeared to go for one stride in between elements and the horse chipped in and clipped the top of the second gate. But the USA got another combination round clear when Lillian Heard and LCC Barnaby just added time penalties to their dressage score.

Badminton winners Piggy French and Vanir Kamira were next on course. It was a ride of sheer brilliance. Going all the direct routes, the Badminton winners flew round, the very definitiion of foot perfect to be the first inside the time and take the lead by a massive twelve penalties. "I made the time! First time in God knows how many tries!! I had to go to plan B and C at a couple of fences, and then she felt tired at the Trout Hatchery which has never happened before so at the next two minute markers, I was down, then i let her freewheel down a hill and fill her lungs and she was off again! Incredible to come home like that, she is the most amazing horse but it is a relief to be over and done with. It's about time I did the time, no excuses on Vamir Kamira. She didnt have the best prep run, and I have to get in her head because a stop was unheard of and then she led out a bit cautiously the next day and our farrier came in and put in a pad and did a bit of this and that, and i was stressed but I thought if she isn't right she will let me know jumping off the Leaf Pit, but she was fine!
As for the course, i hated the gates but you have to trust the course builder that he knows what he is doing and actually she jumped them quite well. I have got great support around me, but with horses you get your waves of luck, next week I might fall off at fence two....I keep being told it is the Chinese year of the Pig, maybe that is what it is, I am so grateful to everyone around me that has made it happen"
The drama was not over. Jonelle Price riding Faerie Dianimo had a stick moment at the Trout Hatchery and retired. Lauren Kieffer, the best of the Americans after dressage in fourth place, was held when her compatriot Savannah Fulton parted company from Captain Jack at Fence 20. Savannah had a horrible fall getting caught under Captain Jack as he fell but both horse and rider got to their feet after a few minutes. Lauren had to make a quick change of plan at that fence but was rather steady and racked up a clutch of time penalties dropping her several places.

Ludwig Swennerstal's second ride Balham Mist had survived a mistake at the Trout Hatchery but did not have the same luck at the Maltings where the horse stopped at the last part and the Swedish star was out of the saddle.

Overnight dressage leader Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street set off meaning business and also had a sticky moment or two at the Trout Hatchery but was much better off at the Maltings, direct and clean. Funnell used all her experience to get her horse, new to the level, round clear and he was tiring towards the end and retained her lead by just 0.1 of a penalty!

Izzy Taylor started the cross country in third place in Springpower and played slightly safe and then had a run out at the middle part of the Rolex combination followed by a fall at the white gates. Gemma Tattersall and Santiago Bay made no mistakes, despite the riders earlier fall and rose up to fifth place.

Last two on course were the winners of 2017 and 2018, Oliver Townend (Ballaghmor Class) and Tim Price (Ringwood Skyboy). Townend was nursing a back problem but it was hard to see that it made any difference but he did pick up a time penalty which meant the top three whould show jump with fractions between them.
Pippa Funnell, who won here in 2003 on the way to the Grand Slam was quite overcome to be in the lead again. She said, "My horse was amazing but inexperienced i had to really ride in a few places, you can never quite trust him I had to be so sharp, i knew the fitness was there, he was a really good boy this down. its so frustratin gto have a pin but all credit to him it rode really big and he is not the easiest in the mouth. I tripped in the water but otherwise he was amazing. It would be great if husband Will could come and help me showjump but I expect he will be off riding somewhere. I wouldn't mind keeping my nose in front tomorrow even if it by a little bit. "

If anyone thought that was it for excitement, they were mistaken. Tim Price and Ringwould Skyboy, clear and going beautifully also tripped crossing the water but did not survive the mistake!
Oliver Townend was watching Tim Price as he was being interviewed and said, " Desperately unlucky for Tim, I don't like things like that in the sport, Tim doesn't deserve it. As for me, it is frustrating to have the time penalty but i like the pressure its exciting for me and for the fans. I haven't ridden much this week, and it just shows that these professional horses can do the job if they are just kept right. The team effort behind the British team is beyond a miracle, I have had endless physio and Pippa the doctor has been amazing without those girls I wouldn't be here.
It was a great day for the British team, as three of their silver medal winning squad are now holding the top three places, less than two penalties apart.

Of the rest, there were 30 who completed, 23 clear. 33 remain in total to go through to tomorrow's second veterinary inspection.

Full results and fence analysis her

Further reading...