Equestrianism: Funnell targets Grand Slam fortune

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The Independent Online

With a small fortune at stake, Pippa Funnell could be in for the most stressful three-day event of her life when she rides Primmore's Pride and Walk on Star at the Burghley Horse Trials, which begin today in Lincolnshire.

Having won two other four-star contests this year - at Lexington and Badminton - she would be able to claim the $250,000 (£160,000) on offer in the Rolex Grand Slam if she were to win Burghley as well.

It is, of course, a tall order. Since 1998, when this richest ever prize in three-day eventing was first on offer, no other rider has achieved two consecutive wins at this level - let alone three. If Funnell is in close contention after Saturday's cross-country, the final show jumping could be almost unbearably fraught. But at least she will get the agony out of the way early, the demands of television having dictated that the three-day event jumping will be completed by lunchtime. In the afternoon her husband, William, and other leading show jumpers will be competing for £20,000 worth of prize money.

Primmore's Pride, who led after the dressage at Burghley last year and eventually finished in sixth place, was Pippa Funnell's winning partner at Lexington in Kentucky in April.

Having defeated the United States riders on their home ground, she will be up against a formidable contingent from that country again this week. The 16 American riders in contention include three members of last year's winning team at the World Equestrian Games: David O'Connor (the Olympic champion), John Williams and Amy Tryon.

Captain Mark Phillips, who trains the American riders, will presumably be forgiven if they do not have his undivided attention throughout the contest.

He will naturally want to keep an eye on his 22-year-old daughter, Zara Phillips, who is competing at Burghley for the first time.

She has the distinction of being the only rider who can claim that both parents are past winners of the big event - her mother, the Princess Royal, having triumphed in 1971, with her father following suit two years later.