Equestrianism: Funnell shines aboard Amber

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The Independent Online

William Funnell, who was competing in France when his wife, Pippa, won at Badminton last weekend, had his own good news when he rode the mare Amber du Montois to win yesterday's Antonia Grand Prix on the closing day of the Royal Windsor Horse Show.

William Funnell, who was competing in France when his wife, Pippa, won at Badminton last weekend, had his own good news when he rode the mare Amber du Montois to win yesterday's Antonia Grand Prix on the closing day of the Royal Windsor Horse Show.

He defeated Mark Armstrong and another mare, Theasaura, who were the victors in Saturday's Jaguar Gentlemen's Jumping Championship. Both Funnell and Armstrong will be on the British team for this month's Super League Show in Rome in 10 days' time, when they will be joined by Michael Whitaker and his niece, Ellen.

Amber du Montois, formerly ridden by Peter Charles, John Whitaker and again by Charles before she went to Funnell, has had a chequered career. She and Funnell were selected for the 2002 World Equestrian Games before she tweaked a leg in Dublin and had to be left out. She tweaked the other leg at Oslo in the autumn of 2003, so it was decided to breed from her in May last year only for her to absorb her foal. At 14, she is no longer under consideration for major contests, but Funnell is hoping to make his senior championship debut this year with Mondriaan, who will be his top mount in Rome.

Funnell nevertheless enjoys riding Amber, having learnt to go along with her rather than make demands. "In some ways that makes her the easiest to ride, because it cuts down on decision making - you just let her decide for you," he said.

Armstrong, who rode Corella for Britain's silver medal team in the 1993 European Championships at Gijon, believes that his nine-year-old Theasaura (a daughter of the hugely successful Belgian sire, Darco) is even better. "She's careful, scopey and fast," he said. After Rome, he plans to take Theasaura to the series of four shows at Calgary in Canada, where she will have the chance to gain experience against some of the top American show jumpers.

Royal Windsor Horse Show (Berks): Saturday: Jaguar Gentlemen's Jumping Championship: 1 Theasaura (M Armstrong) clear, 37.80sec; 2 Red Dawn (D McPherson) clear, 40.11; 3 Lavaletto (R Smith) 4 faults, 37.26. Ladies' Championship: 1 Cosmic Lady (L Ashe) clear, 45.60; 2 Continue B (G Plumley) clear, 47.22; 3 Sodexico (E Rust) clear, 48.06.

Yesterday: Antonia Grand Prix: 1 Cortaflex Amber du Montois (W Funnell) clear, 46.31; 2 Theasaura (M Armstrong) clear, 47.76; 3 Ocolado (J Fisher) clear, 47.78.

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