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 Lincoln’s 10-year-old Primmore’s 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-old’s 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 year’s Pau CCI*** winner, Cornerman, was described by Pippa as “not 100% right after galloping. It was only for half a day and he’s scanned fine, but I couldn’t 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Her other mount, Walk On Star, is likely to be withdrawn after dressage and saved for the European Championships at Punchestown in two weeks’ time.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 Primmore’s 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.

“He’s 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 wouldn’t get treatment like that anywhere else in the world.

“My main concern with Primmore’s 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 it’s important for the sport.”

Zara Phillips, who is trained by Bettina Hoy, declared herself to be very pleased with Toytown’s rhythmic, eye-catching dressage test, saying “he loves flying changes”. She admitted that the cross-country course looked “big, but it’s Burghley. You expect it to be big.”