Pippa Funnell has won the 2019 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials 16 years since her first victory at the CCI5*-L.
The British rider and MGH Grafton Street, owned by Jonathan and Jane Clarke, led from the first phase to secure the win by 0.1 of a penalty over 2019 Badminton winners Piggy French and Vanir Kamira.
The last time Pippa took the Burghley title was in 2003 aboard Primmore’s Pride, which also secured her place in history as the first winner of the Rolex Grand Slam.
“It’s been such an amazing journey and hopefully it will continue, but it’s the horses that have kept me going,” said Pippa, 50, thanking all the owners who have had horses with her over the years.
“I would like to say the horses keep me young — it’s the belief in them and the belief in their talent.
“As I said earlier in the week, it’s that pure love of that day-to-day graft, working with them.”
Pippa added she “didn’t really think” she would win another major event.
“I took pressure off myself by just thinking I would do the sport I really love and enjoy every moment of it, working with the lovely horses I have,” said Pippa, who helped the British team to a silver medal at last week’s Longines FEI European Eventing Championships in Luhmühlen.
“The last two weeks have been a surreal experience and I just feel like I haven’t had a chance to touch the ground. I hope in many ways it does inspire a lot of other riders, as it took me a long time to win my first championship and it’s taken even longer to win a big major. It’s been 14 years since my last [Badminton 2005 with Primmore’s Pride] and there have been a lot of blood, sweat and tears, but there’s also been some very special moments.”
Runner-up Piggy said Pippa has been “such a mentor” to her over many years.
“My sister Nini was head girl to Pippa for five years while I was growing up, so just when I started eventing I would follow Pippa round quite a bit,” said Piggy. “She’s just been an amazing inspiration and I think it is the attention to detail and her absolute love for the horses. She’s a legend, a proper professional and no-one deserves this more.”
The final result went down to the wire — just 0.5 of a penalty separated the top-three ahead of the showjumping — and all of the top three combinations had a pole.
Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class, winners here in 2017 and runners-up in 2018, were lying in third after the first two phases with three fences in hand over Ludwig Svennerstal (Stinger).
Ballaghmor Class rolled the pole at fence two in an otherwise foot-perfect round. While this didn’t drop him down the leaderboard, any of the top three would have won if they had jumped clear.
Oliver’s four faults gave Piggy a fence in hand, which she used at the first. This meant Pippa had a 4.1 penalty lead going into the ring.
MGH Grafton Street did not look easy and the pair jumped through the top rail at fence eight, to gasps from the crowd. But the 11-year-old gelding kept his legs up to clear the remaining seven fences and claimed the win.
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“I think the whole event has just been fabulous,” said Oliver, congratulating Piggy and Pippa. “Of course it would have been more fabulous if I had won it but at the same time, when you are not winning it and you still think the event is amazing, it makes it even more special.
“We are at a very special point at the top of the sport as British riders. We’ve all competed at a lot of five-star events, but this year I’ve been lucky enough to win Kentucky, Piggy’s been lucky enough to win Badminton, now Pippa has won Burghley. I get sick of everybody putting the Germans on this pedestal and saying ‘they are so far in front of us’. Put the Germany’s round there and see where they go! I think we are in a very good position.”
This year’s event was far from a dressage competition, with both jumping phases proving a strong deciding factor on the final leaderboard.
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Double jumping clears from Sarah Bullimore (Reve Du Rouet) and last year’s winning rider Tim Price (Bango) resulted in both moving up from equal 11th after dressage to fourth and fifth respectively.
Imogen Murray’s clean jumping sheet with Ivar Gooden was rewarded with a meteoric rise from 60th ahead of cross-country to sixth.
Gemma Tattersall had an emotional rollercoaster of an event, putting the disappointment of a cross-country fall from her seasoned campaigner Arctic Soul behind her to claim seventh place on her rising star mare Santiago Bay.
Sweden’s Ludwig Svennersall (Stinger), US rider Lauren Kieffer (Vermiculus) and her compatriot Ariel Grald (Leamore Master Plan) completed the top-10 in eighth, ninth and 10th respectively.
Don’t miss this week’s issue of Horse & Hound — on sale Thursday, 12 September — for the full report from Burghley, plus all the usual news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more