Stamford, Lincolnshire, England—Sept. 7
Just .1 faults separate British team standouts Pippa Funnell and Piggy French heading into show jumping after a Land Rover Burghley CCI5*-L cross-country day that saw just one double-clear round (French on Vanir Kamira) and 33 finishers from a starting field of 64.
Funnell retained her dressage lead with MGH Grafton Street with 4 time faults to sit on 26.8, while the U.S. riders stacked up just outside the top 10: Lauren Kieffer is in 11th with Vermiculus, Ariel Grald jumped up the leaderboard 36 spots with Leamore Master Plan to move into 12th, and Andrea Baxter went from 46th after dressage to 13th on Indy 500. Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z are in 15th after a clear round, and Lillian Heard also jumped clean with LCC Barnaby to move up from 54th to 20th.
England’s Oliver Townend completed the top three with Ballaghmor Class. They stopped the clock 5 seconds over the optimum time to finish on 27.6. Despite Townend being somewhat handicapped by a bulging slipped disk in his back, the pair’s round was poetry in motion, and he said it was probably the best round he’s ever had on the 12-year-old gelding.
Funnell had to work slightly harder on MGH Grafton Street and admitted having to draw on her experience at times.
“He’s a bit of a comedian and has had the last laugh and let me down on a few occasions in the past, but I was determined he wasn’t going to have the last laugh today,” she said. “It was a whopper of a course, but there were no tricks. You had to stay focused and brave and correct any mistakes while still moving forward. My round wasn’t the prettiest, but last week [at the FEI European Championships (Germany), where the British team finished second] gave me a lot of confidence, and that helped me enormously today.”
“I made the time,” exclaimed a delighted French immediately after her round. “I’ve been frustratingly close before, but this is the first time I’ve actually done it. [Vanir Kamira] is great isn’t she? The heart on her! Her head goes down, her ears go back, and she just says, ‘Come on, Mum.’ That said, she felt tired for the first time ever between minutes 3 and 4, but she perked up again after I let her freewheel down some of the hills.”
The third combination out of the start box, Sweden’s Ludwig Svennerstal and Stinger, led the field for a big chunk of the day but ended it in fourth on 38.8. “I’m very happy with the horse,” he said. “It was the first really long track he has faced, and maybe I started a bit slowly because he still felt very fresh at the end.”
British rider Sarah Bullimore and Reve Du Rouet ended the day in fifth on 39.6. They had a foot-perfect round other than one nerve-wracking moment at the second egg box at Clarence Court at the Dairy Farm (fence 20) where the horse was originally awarded 15 penalties for allegedly not jumping inside the flags. These were later removed after review by the ground jury.
Gemma Tattersall made up for an uncharacteristic mistake on Arctic Soul early in the day with a fantastic round on her second ride, Santiago Bay, to lie sixth on 41.1 after clocking up 11.2 time penalties.
Trailblazers Tim Price and Bango ended the day in seventh place on 41.6, but Price suffered disappointments with his other two rides, Xavier Faer and 2018 winner Ringwood Sky Boy. Xavier Faer was one of several horses to activate the frangible pin at the parallel before the Trout Hatchery and later retired. Last to go, Ringwood Sky Boy was traveling beautifully before losing his footing and falling while galloping through the final water.
Imogen Murray and Ivar Gooden’s fantastic cross-country round saw them make a meteoric leap up the leaderboard from 60th after dressage to eighth, thanks to posting one of the fastest rounds of the day with just four time penalties.
“He’s so cool,” said Murray with a smile. “He made an incredibly difficult course feel easy today.”
France’s Sebastien Cavaillon and Sarah D’Argouges are ninth on 49.0. The pair was stopped by the ground jury just before the iconic Cottesmore Leap (fence 18) so the veterinary officer could check the mare after she hit the corner at the Joules At The Maltings combination (fence 13).
“The track was really, really big,” said Cavaillon, “but she jumped extremely well.”
Highs And Lows For Team USA
Lauren Kieffer, who had been fourth after dressage and the best-placed of the U.S. riders, retained the latter role but dropped to 11th with time faults aboard Vermiculus. She endured a long hold on course, which she said made it a bit difficult to get “Bug” going again.
“I wouldn’t say it was that much fun, but I’m really pleased with my horse making it home,” she said. “It was a long time out there, especially after getting held for a long time. It’s very hard to get your adrenaline up, especially when you get held that late. I was very pleased with him. He kept going. Having to start back up at the very bottom of Winter’s Avenue, which is a very long full minute uphill drag, is very demoralizing for them. It’s really hard to get going again. But that was the cards we were dealt. It is definitely the hardest course I’ve had to work around before, especially with him—he’s usually pretty easy to cruise around on. That was a lot of hard work for us.”
Five U.S. riders sit in the top 20, with Will Coleman on Tight Lines (28th), Chris Talley on Unmarked Bills (32nd) and honorary U.S. rider Dom Schramm on Bolytair B (29th) rounded out the contingent from the States. All three activated a frangible pin for 11 penalties, and Coleman and Tight Lines picked up a runout at the Leaf Pit.
Hannah Sue Burnett retired Harbour Pilot after a stop late in the course. Doug Payne (Vandiver), Buck Davidson (Jak My Style), Savannah “Woodge” Fulton (Captain Jack) were all eliminated for horse falls, but Jenni Autry, the U.S. Equestrian Federation managing director of eventing, confirmed that all riders and horses were OK.
Tomorrow’s final horse inspection will take place at 9 a.m. GMT in the main arena, with the first session of show jumping following at 10:30. The second session starts at 2:30.