Brits dominate Burghley as Pippa Funnell bags second win

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Burghley top three, from left, Oliver Townend (3rd), winner Pippa Funnell, and second placegetter Piggy French.
Burghley top three, from left, Oliver Townend (3rd), winner Pippa Funnell, and second placegetter Piggy French. © Mike Bain

The top three at Burghley Horse Trials kept their places after the final showjumping phase at the weekend, with Pippa Funnell making a popular return to the podium.

Funnell, the last British woman to win Burghley — 16 years ago with Primmore’s Pride — took out the coveted trophy aboard Jonathan and Jane Clarke’s MGH Grafton Street.

Both she, Piggy French (second with Vanir Kamira) and Oliver Townend (third with Ballaghmor Class) all lowered a pole in the final phase as the competition went down to the wire.

Funnell’s initial response to her win was typically self-deprecating and analytical: “I’m really embarrassed by that round and in shock – big shock,” she commented, struggling to gather her composure after what was clearly a very emotional win.

Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street took a rail but kept their lead to win Burghley.
Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street took a rail but kept their lead to win Burghley. © Steph Freeman

“He’s not the best showjumper but I’ve always been convinced he had a big win in him – what an incredible two weeks with this and the Europeans.”

The omens were good from the outset when Pippa was drawn 77th in the starting order, as 77 is the number the character Tilly in her series of childrens’ books always rides in. Funnell also sees the number 7 as being lucky after wearing it when Primmore’s Pride won in 2003 as part of her historic Rolex Grand Slam.

2019 Badminton winners Piggy French and Vanir Kamira finished second, just .1 of a penalty behind the winners, on 30.9. Their showjumping round started ominously when they had the first fence down but the mare picked up after this.

“It could easily have been four down,” admitted French “so I’m delighted to be second, to be honest. She owes me nothing after everything she’s achieved so I’ve got to be happy.”

Runners-up Piggy French and Vanir Kamira.
Runners-up Piggy French and Vanir Kamira. © Mike Bain

2017 winners and 2018 runners-up Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class jumped a beautifully smooth round after lowering fence two.

“It’s been a wonderful competition all week,” he said. “It was a bit of a cheap fence to have if I’m honest as he barely touched it, but Piggy and Pippa have been amazing all week and their horses were just too good. I think British eventing is in a really good place right now as we’ve all had big wins between us this year.”

Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class
Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class finished third, adding to their win in 2017 and runner-up spot last year.

Below the top three, showjumping faults played a significant role in the fine shape of the leaderboard. Only 10 of the 31 finishers managed to go clear.

A clear round bumped Sarah Bullimore and Reve Du Rouet up one place to fourth on 39.6, equalling their 2018 result.

Last year’s winner Tim Price finished fifth with Bango, bettering the 10th place they achieved here last year.

“It was a lovely round and I’m really pleased for the horse as it’s finally feeling like everything is starting to come together for him – he’s not always been the easiest,” Price said.

“That was a great advancement in his career. He has been excelling and demonstrating his ability to jump around tracks and to be like a 5* horse, but this time was a bit better where he was able to be composed on the flat, closer to the time in the cross country and the in the showjumping he jumped yet again another nice clear round. I am really pleased with him,” Price said.

A clear round also moved Imogen Murray and Ivar Gooden up another place to finally finish sixth after lying 60th after dressage. By contrast, a fence down dropped Gemma Tattersall and Santiago Bay down to seventh and two down dropped Sweden’s Ludwig Svennerstal and Stinger from fourth overnight to eighth.

Two US riders completed the top ten – Lauren Kieffer and Vermiculus were ninth on 53.1, with Burghley first-timers Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan’s clear round moving them up two places to 10th.

Another first-timer, New Zealand’s Samantha Lissington and Ricker Ridge Rui, completed in 30th place on 101.1. “Yay, I’m so excited to have completed,” Lissington said. “There’s not going to be that many finishers from this year’s field so I’m really glad to have done my horse justice. He jumped really, really well, I just got a bit caught out on the turn to fence four and we had it down.”

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