Pippa Funnell has galloped into a massive lead at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials and, after a dramatic afternoon’s cross-country in deteriorating weather, has three show jumps in hand over Badminton debutante Piia Pantsu to defendher title.

Pippa, who is also lying fourth on her first ride Cornerman, finished just two seconds over time on Supreme Rock after an intelligently ridden round in pouring rain and deepening going. By the time she set off, one of the mostinfluential fences, the Carisma Puzzle at 22, had been removed from the course.

This has left a sour taste among some riders – Andrew Nicholson felt there was no necessity to remove it – but others felt the fence should have been takenout long before it was.

The Carisma Puzzle involved a bounce over a ditch to a brush and then a narrow fence. It jumped far better than expected at first, so much so that William Fox-Pitt congratulated course directorHugh Thomas on sticking to his guns and getting it right, but, as the day wore on, horses started to trip into the ditch, because they didn’t seem to be able to focus on it in wet conditions.

Bettina Hoy was arguably the most hard done by as a result of this rule change. Lying second after dressage by just 0.2, Ringwood Cockatoo was one of the horses to drop into the ditch and, as Bettina shot up his ears, he stopped. Although she continued on the course, she went more slowly than she might have done.

Clayton Fredericks was the first of 11 riders to be ushered around the Carisma Puzzle and he must have been thankful, having sailed through the air there on his first ride.Bruce Davidson was also airborne here, the first of two falls for him, and Karen Dixon was flung up into the air when Uptotrix tripped before she crashed down, leaving the course by ambulance with an injured shoulder.

Sweden’s Anna Hasso was the most seriously hurt, smashing her fibiawhen her unfortunately-named horse Son Of A Bitch landed on her in the Lake.

The bounce here was the most influential fence, with 12 faults and some scenes of amazing stickability, especially by William Fox-Pitt and Polly Stockton. Dan Jocelyn’s ride on Silence and Richard Waygood’s on Master Fred ended in water here and Andrew Hoy, fourth after dressage, stopped on Moonfleet.

The two corners at the Hunt Kennels (fence 13) caused several run-outs, including Bumble Thomas, 10th after dressage, and Karen Dixon.

Blyth Tait had a run-out at the Vicarage Vee and Rodney Powell retired both his horses, Weebolla returning home unsound.

Despite the dramas, there was some brilliant riding. Pippa Funnell, Andrew Nicholson, Jeanette Brakewell, Leslie Law and Phillip Dutton all rode clear on two horses, but William Fox-Pitt had to withdraw Tamarillo, lying fifth after dressage, due heat in the near foreleg.

Many young first-timers rode superbly, including the two Irish. Trish Donegan is best in 17th position, and Edmond Gibney rose 50 places to 25th with a clear inside the time, despite being held.

Fifty horses completed, with 10 inside the time and, after the Carisma Puzzle faults were removed, 34 clear rounds.

Results after cross-country:

1. Pippa Funnell (Supreme Rock), 34 penalties;

2. Piia Pantsu (Ypaja Karuso), 46;

3. Jeanette Brakewell (Over To You), 47.4;

4. Pippa Funnell (Cornerman), 47.6;

5. Andrew Nicholson (Mr Smiffy), 48.4;

6. Mary King (King Solomon lll), 48.8;

7. Polly Stockton (Word For Word), 50.2;

8. Leslie Law (Shear H20), 50.6;

9. Jeanette Brakewell (Plantagenet Of Rushall), 52.4;

10. Andrew Hoy (Mr Pracatan), 52.8;

11. Phillip Dutton (Hannigan), 52.8;

12. Andrew Nicholson (Fenicio), 54.4.

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