Gemma put in the first – and so far, only – clear inside the time riding the home-bred Chilli Knight, who belongs to Christopher Stone, adding nothing to her ninth-placed dressage score of 27.8.
“It’s just the biggest relief and elation – the horse was just unbelievable,” said Gemma. “For me he’s become one of best cross-country horses in world now; he’s proved himself over and over again. He’s unbelievably fast and so honest.
“He’s only a little horse and seeing him at home, you’d never know he has a big stride because he just ponies along, but on the cross-country he turns into a lion.”
Pippa Funnell was eighth after dressage on her first ride, Majas Hope, but – having survived a dicey moment at The Burghley Brushes (19abcde) – she lost time due to an incident near the end of the course.
“I came out of the woods and before I knew it he was over the string and with the spectators, so that cost me 15 or 20 seconds so I’m gutted,” said Pippa, who had problems getting back over the string onto the course and finished with 15.6 time-faults to add to her eighth-placed dressage score.
Tim Price was the rider before Gemma on course, lying fifth overnight on Ringwood Sky Boy, but he broke a frangible pin at the rail into the Ariat Combination (fence 16abc) so added 11 jumping penalties.
Tim said: “It’s a tough jump and with the way you get punished now [with penalties for breaking a frangible] – it’s tough to try to execute it, especially on a horse like him. He’s been things like that for so many years and he just does get a bit lower and these days you just can’t afford to do that.”
The horse also lost his left front shoe just before fence 16, which meant Tim had to take a bit of extra time to avoid a serious slip and he came home with six time-faults.
In the current standings, Tim sits just behind Padraig McCarthy, who was the third to start and the first rider to finish the course, having taken all the direct routes on the five-star first-timer HHS Noble Call. He finished with 7.2 time-faults.
“He is outstanding. We bought him as a six-year-old from Marion Hughes. He was always going to be a bit challenging in the dressage, but he always had the stamp of a five-star horse and I’m glad he’s proved it here today,” said Padraig.
Padraig withdrew his second horse, Leonidas II, earlier this morning.
The Bicton Horse Trials cross-country continues until around 4pm this afternoon.
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