Equestrianism: Funnell produces rich Burghley form

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The Independent Online

Pippa Funnell gave another exemplary display of finely-tuned dressage yesterday, when she and Cornerman produced the outstanding test of the Burghley Horse Trials. As they go into today's demanding cross-country phase, the British rider has an advantage of 5.2 points over New Zealand's Andrew Nicholson, on Lord Killingshurst, who had led after the dressage at Badminton. Funnell's Olympic team-mate, William Fox-Pitt, is a close third on Ballincoola.

Funnell, who attended the launch party of her autobiography here yesterday evening, was well placed with Cornerman at Badminton before falling at the only gate on the cross-country course. She is all too well aware that there are three gates to be jumped today. "I just hope he'll have learnt his lesson," she said of the 12-year-old. "I've always felt there's a decent performance in him; whether it can happen this weekend remains to be seen."

Cornerman blew up in the dressage here two years ago, so Funnell had given him plenty of work before his test. "Every time I asked him to trot, he cantered," she said of his inauspicious preparations. He had settled before he went into the arena, however, and produced a lovely test.

After the relatively easy course at the Olympic Games, the Burghley cross-country, designed by Germany's Wolfgang Feld, is a serious return to tough four-star standards. "It's certainly imposing and it's the longest Burghley I've ever been round," Fox-Pitt said. "But normally Wolfgang's courses look more scary than they ride."

This is the final competition for the former Olympic and dual world champion Blyth Tait, who returns to his native New Zealand immediately after Burghley. Lying equal 39th on Eze, he now has little hope of ending his distinguished career with a third victory here.

BURGHLEY HORSE TRIALS (Stamford, Lincs): Standings after dressage: 1 Cornerman (P Funnell, GB) 35.4 penalties; 2 Lord Killinghurst (A Nicholson, NZ) 40.2; 3 Ballincoola (W Fox-Pitt, GB) 42.4; 4 Moon Fleet (A Hoy, Aus) 44.4; 5 Tangle Man (P Stockton, GB) 44.8; 6= Shear H20 (L Law, GB) and Tom Quigley (P Stockton, GB) 46.0.