Pippa takes early Badminton lead

  • After a week of glorious sunshine, it seemed particularly unfair that Badminton should have got off to such a wet start at yesterday’s trot-up.

    All 80 horses passed the first vet inspection, although there were anxious moments for Becky George of Ireland and Australia’s Bill Levett when Wee Hot Toddy and Minuto were sent to the holding box.

    Sixty-nine riders will be vying for the Badminton title over the next four days. Those with two horses include leading British contenders Pippa Funnell (Viceroy II pictured competing at South of England and Cornerman) and William Fox-Pitt (Moon Man and Tamarillo), as well as Olympic long-listed Badminton first-timers Chris King (Miss de Meena IV and Brer Rabbit) and Sarah Cutteridge (Exclusive Imp and The Wexford Lady)

    This morning’s dressage got off to a high-spirited start with pathfinder Caroline Pratt and 13-year-old Primitive Control executing several moves at a much greater pace than the test required to collect a cricket score of 106.6.

    Pippa Funnell paid no heed to the cold, wet weather, and set the standard with her first ride, Viceroy II, who is one of very few stallions competing at Badminton this year. One of the highlights of her test was the extended canter, for which she was awarded a nine from one of the judges.

    In the lead on 47.0 at this early stage, and with two rides, Pippa stands a good chance of going down in history as the first rider since Sheila Wilcox in 1959 to achieve a Badminton hat-trick.

    “As far as I am concerned this year there is a lot less pressure and I am going out there to enjoy it and remember that I do this sport because I love it,” Pippa explained. As far as the cross country is concerned, she said “there is an easy start to the course but thereafter there is no let up all the way to the finish.”

    Bumble Thomas rode a lovely test on The Psephologist to move into second place on 48.6. She was pleased, saying “he’s a little horse who has to do everything right to get the marks. He was a little bit tense, but it’s a good start.”

    Just behind her is William Fox-Pitt on Moon Man, with 49.0, putting British riders long-listed for Athens in the number one, two and three spots currently.

    Captain Richard Waygood of the Life Guards cut an impressive dash in his uniform on Master Fred, and in spite of one or two nasty moments, including losing his cap halfway through the test, performed a neat enough test to end the morning session in fourth place.

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