The Funnell family is unstoppable. Only a week after Pippa landed her third Badminton victory, her husband, William, won the Antonia Grand Prix at the Royal Windsor Horse Show.
It was the first time Royal Windsor took place at its new venue in the glorious setting of Home Park Private, and the grand prix ran in the eminently jumpable Castle Arena, whose £500,000 all-weather surface was an instant success with competitors. But all eyes were trained on the horses and their riders after a nail-biting first round turned up some unexpected results.
The Windsor course punished some hot favourites, including last year’s grand prix winner Nick Skelton, British Open winner Robert Smith, and the entire Whitaker contingent. But Funnell, Mark Armstrong, James Fisher, Billy Twomey, Lisa Ashe and Sebastian Pellon Maison all jumped a clear first round.
Twomey led the six-horse jump-off, clearing the track in 48.05sec with Anastasia. Mark Armstrong and Theasaura, who had landed the Jaeger Gentlemen’s Jumping Championship the previous day, promptly went 0.29sec better than Twomey, with a superb clear in 47.76sec.
Funnell, who rode Denise Stamp’s Amber de Montois, had had the fastest time in the first round, earning the right to go last in the jump-off. He saw all his rivals go clear before him and knew he and Amber would have to jump clear — and fast. And so they did. After cautiously negotiating the planks in jump five, the pair flew across the rest of the track to finish in 46.31sec, beating runners-up Armstrong and Theasaura by 1.45sec.
Their victory was all the more enjoyable because Amber, 15, has been plagued by injuries in the past. Previously been ridden by Peter Charles and John Whitaker, she went to Funnell in 2001 and the pair was short-listed for the World Equestrian Games in Jerez a year later, after winning the Barcelona grand prix. But Amber injured a tendon while competing at the Dublin Horse Show and had to be sidelined.
Just after she recovered, she suffered another injury to her other front leg at the Oslo grand prix in the autumn of 2003. Owner Denise Stamp tired to put her in foal, but that didn’t work either. By Christmas, Amber had absorbed her foal and Stamp decided she should go back to jumping. This was her third competition after returning to work, and the results so far are promising.
“I think it is fantastic. William Funnell is a superb rider and that horse is not the easiest, but he has the tune of her,” says Jacky Knightley of the BSJA. “And bless the horse has recovered [from her injury] and gone on to do brilliantly at grand prix.”
Funnell, however, is likely to stick to Mondriaan for his next outing, which is the second leg of the Samsung Super League in Rome at the end of the month. “He has the luxury of two very good horses on form,” says Knightley.
Mark Armstrong and Theasaura will also be members of the Samsung Super League team.
Antonia Grand Prix, sponsored by De Havillande Holdings, results
1. William Funnell, CORTAFLEX AMBER DE MONTOIS, clear, 46.31;
2. Mark Armstrong, THEASAURA, clear, 47.76;
3. James Fisher, OCOLADO, clear, 47.78;
4. Billy Twomey, ANASTASIA, clear, 48.05;
5. Lisa Ashe, COSMIC LADY, clear, 52.70;
6. Sebastian Pellon Maison, GYPSY DE BACON, clear, 50.68.