Piggy March produced the cross-country round of the day to take the lead in the Chedington Bicton Park 5* Horse Trials after an exciting day in which the cream rose to the top and a bumper crowd basked in the sunshine.

The scene is set for a thrilling finale tomorrow, as Piggy and Trevor Dicken’s gallant mare Vanir Kamira have no margin for error over Gemma Tattersall and Chilli Knight in second place or third-placed Pippa Funnell on the long-striding Billy Walk On.

World champion Ros Canter had a brilliant first five-star ride on Pencos Crown Jewel to lie fourth going into the final showjumping phase and OIiver Townend is in fifth place on Tregilder despite incurring a frustrating 11 penalties for triggering a MIM safety clip.

Piggy was fulsome in her praise of her bold mare. “She puts her snout down and off she goes. She’s all heart and guts. That track was by far the hardest terrain I’ve ridden, but it was probably made for her.”

Captain Mark Phillips awarded the 2TheBarn Horsemanship Award to Piggy; this award was created in conjunction with Event Director Andrew Fell and FEI Rider Representative William Fox-Pitt to reward the rider who, in the opinion of the course-designer, had demonstrated good judgement and intelligent riding.

Gemma Tattersall has fulfilled every eventer’s dream of knowing a horse from foal to five-star: she was there when Chilli Knight (“Alfie”) was born and, at Bicton, she was the first rider to finish inside the optimum time of 11 minutes 16 seconds. “It’s just the biggest relief and elation. He’s now become one of the best cross-country horses in the world. He feels like a little pony at home, but on the cross-country he turns into a lion.”

Pippa Funnell was the only rider to complete on two horses — she is eighth on Majas Hope having lost time when getting tangled up in string. The 52-year-old admitted she was wondering if this would be her last five-star, but a brilliant day has reinvigorated her and she described her round on Billy Walk On as one of the best rides of her career.

“I’m elated,” she said. “He’s not the fastest horse but my horses do a lot of hillwork in the Surrey Hills and it was nice to come here knowing that your horse is fit enough for you to ask the questions. I really enjoyed it. I came here thinking I should retire, but I’ve had a really good time. Bicton has put on an outstanding event and it has been so lovely to have crowds again.”

Nineteen of the 31 cross-country starters completed with 12 penalty-free rounds — four riders triggered a MIM clip —and three achieved the optimum time. Richard Jones rose impressively up the order to sixth place with a good clear for 8.8 time penalties. Padraig McCarthy was the first rider around clear, on the elegant grey HHS Noble Call, and is now seventh.

“We have all enjoyed watching the top-class action at Bicton Park today,” said Event Director Andrew Fell. “The course lived up to its expectations and was a true and fair five-star cross-country test over Captain Mark Phillips’ course. It will be a worthy winner that takes home the trophy tomorrow.”

The first horse inspection is scheduled for 9.00am tomorrow and the showjumping phase at 1.30pm. Follow the action with live scores on www.eventingscores.co.uk and livestreaming on www.horseandcountry.tv/eliteeventing



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