Equestrianism: Funnell pays penalty for bravery

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The Independent Online

Pippa Funnell held a 5.2pt lead over her Olympic team-mate, William Fox-Pitt, when the dressage phase of the Mitsubishi Motors Horse Trials was completed yesterday. Funnell's lovely test was briefly marred by one very obvious error with Primmore's Pride in the second extended trot.

"I came round the corner thinking this is one movement I can really go for, as I did in Athens, but he broke into canter," Funnell said. "That was my fault. I was being brave but sometimes you pay the penalty."

Fox-Pitt, despite his second place with 46.1 penalties on Tamarillo, did not have a comfortable ride. "He felt ready to explode, at one stage I thought I was looking 70-odd penalties in the face," Fox-Pitt said. "Tamarillo worked very well this morning, but he was in the wrong frame of mind this afternoon." Thanks to his own skillful riding, he is still in with a chance of repeating last year's victory.

Francis Whittington, who used to regard dressage as his worst phase, is now in the happy position of lying third - between Fox-Pitt and the Olympic gold medallist Leslie Law on Shear l'Eau - in his first attempt at Badminton. He has been working hard on Spin Doctor's dressage - and the four days he spent with Bettina Hoy have helped to polish off the horse's movements. Law is 0.7pt ahead of Fox-Pitt's other mount, Ballincoola, who had led after the first day of dressage.

Riders are all too well aware that one minor misjudgement over today's 31-fence cross-country course can ruin any advantage that they may have attained in the dressage.

Funnell appeared reluctant to say too much about her chances. "We'll have to see how it goes," she said. She is remembering her wonderful ride when she won at Belton Park this year on Primmore's Pride, rather than her two falls here with other horses last year.

Happily the ground, which was horribly muddy last year, should be just about perfect.