Equestrianism: Funnell makes unexpected challenge

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OWEN MOORE held the lead on Gildernstern after the conclusion of yesterday's dressage phase of the Horse and Hound Eventing Grand Prix at the Traxdata Royal International Horse Show, with last year's winner, Pippa Funnell, close behind on Henkie.

Whereas Moore had been fully expected to achieve a good mark on the former show hunter, Funnell seemed very likely to be lagging behind on Henkie for this was the first time that the horse had ever appeared in a dressage arena. Pippa had borrowed the bay from her show-jumping husband, William, after last year's winning horse, The Tourmaline Rose, went lame last week.

"I'm always telling William that he's a girl's horse - although he can be a bit strong. I love jumping him," Pippa said of Henkie, who was her mount when she and William won the Pet Plan Family Pair Relay at Olympia last year. She has, however, no idea how her mount will cope with today's combined show-jumping and cross-country course of 28 fences, which begins and ends in the international arena.

"I took him for a cross-country school at Tweseldown, so he has seen water," she said. Some of the other obstacles may, however, be totally unfamiliar to him and Pippa Funnell is aware that her mount "could do anything" when it comes to today's second half of the competition.

Moore's mount, Gildernstern, retired from full-scale three-day events more than two years ago after several injuries to his near-foreleg. He was expected to retire completely but, to Moore's pleasure and surprise, the leg has held up well to less demanding tests of endurance.

Good marks have been converted to penalty seconds for today's jumping test, which will be run in the reverse order of merit, with Moore starting on a zero score and Pippa Funnell on one second.

Lucinda Fredericks is now lying third on Simply Red III, with Kristina Gifford fourth on The Gangster V, who is short-listed for September's European Three-Day Event Championships after finishing fourth at Lexington in Kentucky this year.

Fifth place is shared by Rodney Powell on Flintstone and Sweden's Anna Hilton (the former Miss Hermann) on Home Run II, who had an extended holiday this year while the rider gave birth to a daughter in May.

Michael Whitaker, who was due to be one of the show-jumping riders in the contest, had to abandon that plan because he was required to take a young horse to the vet. Peter Charles, who is lying 11th on Traxdata T'Aime, is at present the best placed of the participating show jumpers.

Today's section of the Eventing Grand Prix includes cross-country type obstacles which can be dislodged.

It will be judged on time, with five seconds added for each fence that is lowered. Looking back to last year's inaugural contest (in which Funnell's winning mount was the only one to leave all the fences intact) most riders have decided to aim for accuracy rather than flat-out speed.

TRAXDATA ROYAL INTERNATIONAL HORSE SHOW (Hickstead): Horse and Hound Eventing Grand Prix: 1 Gildernstern (O Moore), 0; 2 Henkie (P Funnell) at 1sec; 3 Simply Red III (L Fredericks) 5sec; 4 The Gangster V (K Gifford) 6sec; 5 Home Run II (A Hilton, Swe) and Flintstone (R Powell) 6sec.