Pippa Funnell finished the first day of dressage at the Burghley Masterfoods Horse Trials in her accustomed place at the head of affairs. Riding Denise Lincolns 10-year-old Primmores Pride, Pippa performed an elegant, impressive test to earn a good score of 39.4.
In what must have been a dream result for the Burghley organising team, Zara Phillips and her own Toytown took second place on 41.8. This is the 22-year-olds first attempt at a four-star competition, following her win in the under-25 section at Bramham and a silver medal at the Young Rider European Championships last year.
The next three spots went to American riders, who are in force at Burghley. Headed by 1993 Burghley winner Stephen Bradley, riding the Russian ex-racehorse From, with a mark of 43, the squad is using the event as a selection trial for the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004. British rider Karen Dixon and the 17-year-old veteran Too Smart are lying sixth at this stage.
Pippa Funnell has had a difficult preparation for the event, as two of her top horses are sidelined with injury problems. The double Badminton winner Supreme Rock has strained a superficial flexor tendon, and last years Pau CCI*** winner, Cornerman, was described by Pippa as “not 100% right after galloping. It was only for half a day and hes scanned fine, but I couldnt risk it. It was one of the hardest decisions of my career.”
Her other mount, Walk On Star, is likely to be withdrawn after dressage and saved for the European Championships at Punchestown in two weeks time. But she believes that Primmores Pride, with whom she won the Kentucky CCI**** in April, will still give her a good crack at taking the final leg of the £250,000 Rolex Challenge.
“Hes come on since Kentucky. His canter work and changes were much better. Burghley has made a fantastic job of the going on the cross-country: we wouldnt get treatment like that anywhere else in the world.
“My main concern with Primmores Pride is that he is such a good jumper that he wastes time in the air, so I will have to shave off corners to save time and trust his scope,” she says.
“It was difficult to decide who to take to the Europeans as I want to defend my title (she has been European champion since 1999), but I will never get the opportunity again to ride for so much money, and its important for the sport.”
Zara Phillips, who is trained by Bettina Hoy, declared herself to be very pleased with Toytowns rhythmic, eye-catching dressage test, saying “he loves flying changes”. She admitted that the cross-country course looked “big, but its Burghley. You expect it to be big.”