Defending champion Pippa Funnell believes she could be even higher up the standings at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials despite sitting third after her dressage test, writes James Reid.
Crowborough-born Funnell, back to win the crown she has claimed since 2019, posted a score of 26.2 on Billy Walk On, to sit behind Sarah Bullimore and Piggy March.
The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials is back for 2022 bigger and better than ever after two missed years due to Covid-19, and Funnell is raring to go as riders descend on Lincolnshire to take her title.
But the three-time Olympic medallist, who is also riding on Majas Hope, felt harshly marked despite being pleased overall with her performance.
“I was delighted with him, really chuffed,” said Funnell, who won team silver at Sydney and Athens Olympics.
“If I’m honest, I’m really gutted with one of the judges’ marks – five, six percent out on the other two.
“That was very disappointing because I’ve done enough tests over the years and I thought that was as nice a test as he’s done at this level and I think I nailed a clear round.
“He might not be the most elegant of movers but I absolutely felt he deserved the marks the other two judges gave him.”
The performance puts Funnell in a good position to once more be competitive amidst the iconic rolling hills of one of eventing’s flagship competitions in Stamford, Lincolnshire.
After completing their dressage test, riders face Burghley’s gruelling cross-country course, widely regarded as the toughest eventing has to offer.
With a new course designer in Derek di Grazia, there could be plenty of new challenges for riders but Funnell is not overthinking it despite her strong position.
“It’s still got to be jumped,” said Funnell. “I’ve been in the same position where I’ve gone back to Badminton after winning.
“Both horses have got plenty of ability but it’s been a difficult summer with the ground.
“It’s about trying to keep them fresh coming into here and keeping them good in the body as the ground has been hard.
“It’s been a balancing act to try and get here in the best shape possible.”
Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (1-4 September 2022) returns after a two-year hiatus, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A major international sporting and social event for over 50 years it attracts 80 of the world’s top equestrians and over 170,000 visitors. For more information visit www.burghley-horse.co.uk