EQUESTRIANISM: Funnell steams into Hickstead

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The Independent Online


William Funnell's week could not have begun on a brighter note. On Sunday, he rode Comex to victory in the Eindhoven Derby while his wife, Pippa, was winning the Windsor Three-Day Event. Then he had a late call-up for the British squad competing in the Nations' Cup which begins today at Hickstead.

Comex, Funnell's 11-year-old mount, knows the Sussex course well, having competed there regularly from the age of six. If the horse can produce his usual Hickstead form in tomorrow's ENZA New Zealand Grand Prix, Funnell should get his first Nations' Cup chance. Funnell joins John and Michael Whitaker, Geoff Billington and Emma-Jane Mac in the British squad, from which four will be chosen for Sunday's team.

Five other countries will be in contention for the Nations' Cup: France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and the United States. Germany's riders are unknown names, while the French and Dutch are a long way short of full strength.

The American team may therefore be the one they all have to beat. It includes Chris Kappler and McLain Ward, who both finished in the top 10 at the Volvo World Cup final in Gothenburg. Ward, still only 19, is 20th in the world rankings - the highest placing of any of the overseas riders.

Nick Skelton, ranked 10th, has chosen to miss this meeting because he dislikes the heavy poles used on the Hickstead fences. Di Lampard, originally chosen for the British squad, has had to withdraw Abbervail Dream because the seven-year-old has a bruised sole.