Equestrianism: Funnell rising closer to French teenager

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Nobody could better the dressage score of the French overnight leader, Amelia Billard on Derby de Longueval, at the Blenheim International Horse Trials yesterday, but Pippa Funnell crept closer to it on her second mount, Jurassic Rising.

The French 18-year-old teenager, who will soon be reading law at Angers University, now has 3.4pts in hand over Funnell, who lies second on Jurassic Rising and fifth on Viceroy. William Fox-Pitt is third on this year's Bramham winner, Wallow, with New Zealand's Neil Spratt fourth on The Astonomer.

Unlike most of the spectators, Funnell was already aware that Billard is capable of producing an excellent dressage test, having also been second to her after the first phase at Fontainebleau this year.

Funnell is also aware that Jurassic Rising dislikes firm ground, so she may not chase the cross-country time too seriously if the horse feels at all unhappy. Viceroy may therefore give Funnell a better chance of adding another success to her fabulous Burghley victory. After the pressure of last weekend, she said that she was "feeling human again, but tired".

Fox-Pitt was delighted with the way Wallow coped with the atmosphere in the dressage arena, where the tented stands gave it a far more buzzy feel than at Bramham. The horse has already completed two three-star contests and he may move up a level next spring.

"I hope Wallow will tell me that he's ready for Kentucky next year," he said. Fox-Pitt is also hoping that his Luhmuhlen winner, Tom Cruise II who is now lying equal 21st, will give him "a good feel" today over Mike Etherington-Smith's 29-fence cross-country course.

Funnell and Fox-Pitt are also preoccupied with next week's European Three-Day Event Championships at Punchestown in Ireland, where they are both members of the British team that will be aiming for a third win in a row, with Funnell trying to win her third consecutive individual title.

All the championship horses are here, so they were able to have a workout in the dressage arena after the first phase of the competition was completed yesterday afternoon. Horses and riders will begin their journey to Ireland early on Monday morning.

Blenheim international horse trials (Woodstock, Oxon): Standings after dressage: 1 Derby de Longueval (A Billard, Fr) 33.6 penalties; 2 Jurassic Rising (P Funnell, GB) 37.0; 3 Wallow (W Fox-Pitt, GB) 37.6; 4 The Astronomer (N Spratt, NZ) 38.4; 5 Viceroy II (P Funnell, GB) 42.0; 6= Spring Along (D Dick, GB) and Chase the Melody (D Scaife, GB) 42.8; 8 Welton Envoy (B Tait, NZ) 43.0; 9 Horton Who (M Kulak, US) 43.2; 10 Doubtless William (E Mackenzie, GB) 43.4.