Funnell sounds a warning to the field

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The Independent Online
Pippa Funnell, winner of the CCI division of the Windsor International Horse Trials last year, is in a strong position to repeat that success today. She is leading by a useful 10.4 points on the grey Marshland Rubio and is also in third place on Rainbow Magic.

These good young horses, both seven years old, are divided by the Irishman Sam Moore riding Culnagrew, who pulled up from 15th after the dressage phase. Avril Johnston, second to Funnell's grey after dressage, dropped back to 40th place of the 41 finishers, with a fall at fence five which contributed to her 62 time-penalties. Funnell was well satisfied with her horses.

"They were ready for this. Both were bold and honest," she said. Funnell was grateful for a good dressage score, as it allowed Marshland Rubio to collect 9.2 time-faults without forfeiting the lead. "He is not a thoroughbred," she said, "and is still learning to gallop fast."

Rainbow Magic was only marginally quicker with eight penalties. "The going here has never been better," Funnell said, "and I had two really good rides."

Both horses normally showjump well, although Funnell, wife of the Olympic showjumping contender William would prefer bigger obstacles than those expected today.

Sam Moore is unknown in England and at the age of 34 is competing here for the first time. Moore is a full-time horseman in Coleraine and with Culnagrew won at Rademon last year, after a fifth at Blarney Castle in 1994. Moore's best horse, Solomon's Seal, died of a heart attack at Necarne in April.

Culnagrew was equal fastest on the cross-country while Kristina Gifford on Mr Macauley incurred just two penalties for time. A fellow Irishman, the experienced ex-steeplechase jockey George Mernagh, also went fast on The Black Touch and stands sixth close behind Jeanette Brakewell on Rain Dancer, fourth, and Daisy Dick with For The Crack in fifth. The Olympic champion Matt Ryan, on Kibah Sandstone, lies just ahead of Gifford's other ride, O'Leary.