A thrilling finale is in store at the Burghley Masterfoods Horse Trials tomorrow as Burghley debutante Zara Phillips, the 22-year-old daughter of the Princess Royal and Capt Mark Phillips, is just in the lead over Pippa Funnell, who stands to win £166,000 (US$250,000) if she wins.
Zara had a brilliant cross-country round on Toytown, the fastest of the day – 23 sec under the optimum time – to snatch the lead from Pippa, who had 2.4 time faults. This means that the pair are on the same score, but in the case of a draw tomorrow, Zara would win as she had the fastest cross-country time.
But if either of them makes a mistake, New Zealander Andrew Nicholson, bidding for a third Burghley victory, is breathing down their necks, less than a penalty away after a masterful performance to finish on his dressage score on Lord Killinghurst.
Zara was left in the lead after the departure of her neighbour and dressage trainer Bettina Hoy, when the overnight leader had a frustrating refusal at probably the simplest fence on the course, Keeper’s Rails.
“It was my fault,” said a stoic Bettina. “I steadied him too much and hooked him back. But at least I know he can do a four-star now.”
Bettina would be in the lead with a fence in hand without this mishap, for she was well up on the clock on Woodsides Ashby.
The course generally rode well, with 46 clears from 72 cross-country starters and 10 inside the time. However, time has proved influential and the competition was not a dressage-based one.
The day’s main casualty was Kristina Cook, who went to hospital with concussion after taking a heavy fall when Archrival hit a narrow fence and pitched her over his head. This means that the unlucky Tina will miss a run at the European Championships and her place will be taken by Mary King and King Solomon who, fortuitously, were scheduled at the end of the day and therefore able to withdraw when the news came through.
There are three Americans in the top 10, with world team gold medallist John Williams in fourth on Carrick, despite the horse pulling a shoe after about the eighth fence, David O’Connor eighth on Tigger Too and veteran Bruce Davidson ninth on Little Tricky. New Zealander Blyth Tait, the inner in 1998 and 2001, makes a return to the big time, with sixth place on Eze, who is a good show jumper, at this stage.
Full results on www.burghley-horse.co.uk
Results: 1, Zara Phillips (Toytown) 41.8; 2, Pippa Funnell (Primmore’s Pride, USA) 41.8; 3, Andrew Nicholson (Lord Killinghurst.NZL) 42.4; 4, John Williams (Carrick, USA) 49; 5, Caroline Pratt (Primitive Control) 50.4; 6, Blyth Tait (Eze,NZL); 7, Sarah Cutteridge (The Wexford Lady) 54; 8, David O’Connor (Tigger Too, USA) 54.2; 9, Bruce Davidson (Little Tricky, USA) 54.4; 10, Polly Stockton (Eye Spy ll) 55.2; 11, Marie-Louise Thomas (The Psephologist) 55.4; 12, Leslie Law (Shear H20) 57.2; 13, Andrew Hoy (Master Monarch, AUS) 59.4; 14, King Richard (Mary King) 59.,6; 15, Matt Ryan (Balmoral Mr Slinky, AUS) 61.4.