Equestrianism: Funnell closes on famous fifth

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Pippa Funnell is back on top at the Blenheim International Horse trials. This time riding Ensign, aged 11, she is on track for a remarkable fifth win here.

Having led the 71-horse field after dressage, Funnell rode with all her old dash and precision to maintain her advantage. But the 4.8pt time penalty incurred across country gives them only a 3.6pt lead - less than a rail - over Daisy Dick and Springbok IX going into today's final show-jumping test. William Fox-Pitt, Dick's fellow silver medallist at the World Equestrian Games in Aachen last weekend, is just 0.8pt away in third place on his third ride of the day, Parkmore Ed, with the British team regular Jeanette Breakwell next, riding Equinox Sidewinder. She also holds seventh place on her other horse, Running On Empty, and both look destined for the top.

Funnell chose three-star Blenheim for Ensign over four-star Burghley next week after the horse fell with her at Badminton in May. She now feels he can compete with the best: "He's getting better and better. He learns not to exert himself too much as a racehorse, but he's not ungenuine, just clever."

Hard as they have tried, taking all the direct routes, they could not get inside the tight optimum time of 10min 31sec. Only Francis Whittington on Sir Percival III managed that, riding from 29th place into fifth position, just ahead of the veteran Rodney Powell riding Major Sweep.