British riders are out in front following two days of dressage at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.
Hot off the podium in Luhmühlen, Pippa Funnell and Oliver Townend take the one-two positions, while Izzy Taylor is hot on their heels with young gun Springpower.
Pippa Funnell came to Burghley with two rides, but it's Jonathan and Jane Clarke's MGH Grafton Street who produced the better score in the dressage with 22.8. This may be the horse's first CCI5*, but he's always been known for his ability between the white boards and it's not uncommon to find them leading after the first phase. However, he's known for being, in Pippa's words, '"a bit of a comedian".
She explained in the press conference: "We were in a really strong position at Tattersalls this spring and he should have won it, but he had a very naughty moment on the cross-country course[resulting in 20 penalties]. He’s had a few of those in his career. He’s got loads of ability but somewhere along the line he’s got to have the last laugh. My exact words at Tattersalls were ‘I’m not retiring until I get on top of the little b****r!'. He’s cheeky, but he’s got plenty of ability."
Pippa is feeling well-prepared for any naughty moments on the cross-country course, however – following course-walk with Team GBR coach Chris Bartle on Thursday, on Friday she walked it 'properly, properly, properly' with best friend and Luhmühlen team mate Tina Cook.
"I’ve had a good look and it’s very big. Dimensionally, there are some very big fences out there and you have to concentrate from beginning to end. Because of the size of those fences, it’s really important to give your horse a really good ride over them as much as you can. If you’re starting to not see good distances to these big fences, they get even bigger. There’s a cumulative effect of big fence after big fence, so we need to be riding accurately and to the best we can. I’ve really got to concentrate because, as I’ve said, this horse is a bit of a comedian."
It's not surprise to see Oliver Townend near the top of the leaderboard with his consistent campaigner, Karyn Shuter, Angela Hislop and Val Ryan's 12-year-old gelding Ballaghmor Class. The combination won here in 2017, on the horse's CCI5* debut, and they haven't been outside of the top five in their following three outings at the level. They were the penultimate pair into the dressage arena, ahead of last year's winners, Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy, and produced a solid test to earn them a score of 25.3.
Burghley is challenging enough when you're on top form, but Oliver is facing the additional challenge of back pain caused by a slipped disc. However, he was quick to praise the work of the Team GBR support team in helping him be able to compete here this week.
"I’m used to being in pain one way or another," he said in the end-of-day press conference. "My back is getting better and better and I’ve just got to say a massive thank you to Ash Wallace, the British team physio. I’ve had a lot of other physio treatment over my career, obviously, but what she has done from Wednesday to now is no less than a miracle. It’s seriously, seriously good, so thank you to her, and to Dr Pippa Bennett, again of the British team. Together they’ve figured out my back and are sorting it out, and it’s improving all the time."
Izzy Taylor is another rider here with a young horse looking for his first CCI5* completion in Jeremy and Andrea Brereton and Linda Mars' 10-year-old Springpower. Although the combination contested Badminton in the spring, Izzy chose to retire the horse on the cross-country course after they picked up 20 penalties.
Now, they sit in overnight third on a dressage score of 25.6. Commenting on her test, Izzy said: "I'm very pleased with Springpower. He’s very green at this level and he came into the arena and held his breath a little, but he soon relaxed and got on with it. There were a few little mistakes so there's still a lot more to come – he’s very exciting for the future."
Two other British riders sit inside the top ten after the dressage – Badminton winners Piggy French and Vanir Kamira on 26.9 in =5, and Thursday's leaders Eliza Stoddart and Priorspark Opposition Free on 28.7 in =9.
For the full dressage results and times for the cross-country, click here.