Equestrianism: Funnell finds joy in first and third spots

Pippa Funnell extended her phenomenal run of success when she filled first and third places, with Jurassic Rising and Viceroy II, at the Blenheim International Horse Trials. Australia's Phillip Dutton was the only rider to achieve the feat of scraping ahead of her when he was runner-up on Nova Top.

This year Funnell has won the distinguished trio of events that carry four stars - Lexington, Badminton and Burghley. Following her victory at Saumur in France, the Blenheim success was her second at three-star level. She has been defeated in only one of her six three-day events this year, which was when Jurassic Rising dropped from first to third after three show jumping errors at Bramham.

"I've had my best year ever in competitions," Funnell said, "but I've also had more heart-ache than ever before." She was referring to the death of two horses, the prospect (which was averted) of having the 26-year-old Sir Barnaby put down, the disappearance of her two dogs who never returned, plus injuries to two of her top horses, Supreme Rock and Cornerman.

But despite the success and the sad distractions, she has continued to seek means of improving her performance. Her decision to ride Jurassic Rising on a longer rein, instead of keeping hold of his head, paid rich dividends. Anne Burnet's eleven-year-old could afford two show jumping errors yesterday, but this time he had only one fence down. Dutton, lying sixth overnight, advanced to second place with one of only five clear rounds.

Polly Stockton, who was fourth on Tom Quigley, moved up six places with another of those elusive clears. This was some compensation for having to drop out of this week's European Championships at Punchestown in Ireland because her intended partner, Tangleman, has a bruised sole. Kristina Cook, who was dropped off the British squad after her fall at Burghley, has been reinstated as a result.

Australia won the Asia Pacific Championship, but the New Zealanders achieved their principal goal by securing the last qualifying place for next year's Olympic Games when they finished second. They were given a scare on Saturday, however, when the first two members of the Japanese trio jumped clear cross-country rounds. There was relief in the Kiwi camp when Japan's third rider was eliminated for cumulative refusals.

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