After an exciting cross country day the competition is very much still alive, with less than one show jumping fence separating the top three...
Three members of the British team which last week won the silver medal at the FEI European Championships head the business end of the leaderboard after a Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials cross-country day which produced all manner of thrills and spills.
Four time faults for being 10 seconds over the optimum time meant that overnight leader Pippa Funnell retained her lead with MGH Grafton Street, albeit by the narrowest of margins - .1 of a penalty.
The only clear round inside the time has elevated Piggy French and Vanir Kamira from equal sixth to second place on 26.9.
Oliver Townend completes the top three with Ballaghmor Class. They stopped the clock five seconds over the optimum time to finish on 27.6. Despite Oliver being somewhat handicapped by a bulging slipped disk in his back, the pair’s round was poetry in motion and Oliver confessed that it was probably the best round he’s ever had on the 12-year-old gelding.
Pippa Funnell had to work slightly harder on MGH Grafton Street and admitted having to draw on her experience at times.
“He’s a bit of a comedian and has had the last laugh and let me down on a few occasions in the past, but I was determined he wasn’t going to have the last laugh today,” she confessed.
“It was a whopper of a course but there were no tricks – you had to stay focussed and brave and correct any mistakes while still moving forward. My round wasn’t the prettiest but last week gave me a lot of confidence and that helped me enormously today.”
“I made the time,” exclaimed a delighted Piggy French immediately after her round. “I’ve been frustratingly close before but this is the first time I’ve actually done it. She (Vanir Kamira) is great isn’t she – the heart on her! Her head goes down, her ears go back and she just says ‘come on Mum.’ That said, she felt tired for the first time ever between minutes three and four but she perked up again after I let her freewheel down some of the hills.”
The third combination out of the start box, Sweden’s Ludwig Svennerstal and Stinger, had led the field for a big chunk of the day but ended it in fourth on 38.8. However, this was still a huge improvement on the 29th place they had held after dressage.
“I’m very happy with the horse,” he said. “It was the first really long track he has faced and maybe I started a bit slowly because he still felt very fresh at the end.”
Sarah Bullimore and Reve Du Rouet ended the day in fifth on 39.6. They had a foot perfect round other than one nerve-wracking moment at the second egg box at Clarence Court at the Dairy Farm (fence 20) where the horse was originally awarded 15 penalties for allegedly not jumping inside the flags. These were later removed after review by the Ground Jury.
Gemma Tattersall made up for an uncharacteristic mistake on Arctic Soul early in the day with a fantastic round on her second ride, Santiago Bay, to lie sixth on 41.1 after clocking up 11.2 time penalties.
Trailblazers Tim Price and Bango ended the day in seventh place on 41.6, but Tim suffered disappointments with his other two rides, Xavier Faer and 2018 winner Ringwood Sky Boy. Xavier Faer was one of several horses to activate the pin (safety device) at the parallel before the Trout Hatchery and later retired. Last to go, Ringwood Sky Boy was travelling beautifully before losing his footing and falling while galloping through the final water.
Imogen Murray and Ivar Gooden’s fantastic cross-country round saw them make a meteoric leap up the leaderboard from 60th after dressage to eighth, thanks to posting one of the fastest rounds of the day with just four time penalties.
“He’s so cool,” smiled Imogen. “He made an incredibly difficult course feel easy today.”
France’s Sebastien Cavaillon and Sarah D’Argouges are ninth on 49.0. The pair’s round was not without its challenges as they were stopped by the Ground Jury just before the iconic Cottesmore Leap (18) so the Veterinary Officer could check the mare after she hit the corner at the Joules at the Maltings combination (13).
“The track was really, really big,” said Sebastien, “but she jumped extremely well.”
Great Britain’s Becky Woolven and DHI Babette climbed 20 places after dressage to complete the top 10 on 52.2.
“She used her scope so many times out there,” said Becky, “she was so generous. The track was huge but she just kept going and going.”
Captain Mark Phillips’ course certainly demanded, and rewarded, bold forward riding and accurate lines. 50% of combinations completed the track but the competition is very much still alive with less than one show jumping fence separating the top three.
Tomorrow’s final horse inspection will take place at 0900 in the main arena, with the first session of show jumping following at 1030. The second session starts at 1430.