The best was saved until last when Pippa Funnell, the penultimate rider in the Chedington Bicton 5* Horse Trials, rode into the lead on Nick and Barbara Walkinshaw’s majestic Billy Walk On with a mark of 23.9. She holds a 1.6-penalty advantage over her great friend Piggy March and the feisty little mare Vanir Kamira.
Will Rawlin, 27, finds himself in elevated company, having produced a brilliant performance on his CCI5* debut, riding VIP Vinnie, a handsome 13-year-old Hanoverian, to score 25.6. “It’s amazing to be in this place at the moment, but my main aim is to get around my first five-star,” he said modestly. “I’m not expecting to be in this position on Sunday.”
While Will is at the start of his international career, Piggy and Pippa won the last two CCI5*s on British soil: Badminton and Burghley respectively in 2019. “Billy Walk On is a wonderful horse and I am delighted with him,” said Pippa, who earned a 10 for her final halt from ground jury president Andrew Bennie.
“It’s brilliant that Bicton has put on this five-star for us. It takes so many years to get a horse to this stage and we’ve lost two years in the pandemic, so we’re just very pleased to be here.”
Vanir Kamira is a horse that tends to shine on the big stage, so it has been a particularly truncated two seasons for her, as Piggy explained: “It’s such a fine line with her – she has a delicate temperament. She feels pretty ordinary at one-day events and then she rises to the big occasion. Today it feels as if our sport is back.”
Izzy Taylor has had an interrupted summer with a broken collarbone, but she conjured an elegant test from the handsome grey Fonbherna Lancer and completes a British top four. New Zealander Tim Price, who led at the halfway stage, is now fifth on Ringwood Sky Boy, but scores are tightly packed and the cost of one cross-country mistake covers the top 20 horses.
Tim Downes, a judge and trainer who was commentating for Horse & Country TV and watched every horse, praised the overall standard of riding. “What stood out was the consistent quality,” he said. “All the riders knew how to rebalance their horses, put errors behind them and correct their mistakes. Riders were on top of their game.”
Riders are looking forward to tomorrow’s cross-country phase, which starts at 12 noon, with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. “It’s big, meaty and I love it,” said Tim Price.
“The first day of competition at Bicton Park has come to a close and what a day it has been!” said Event Director Andrew Fell. “We have witnessed some stunning tests from competitors in the TopSpec Main Arena.”
Follow the action with live scoring on www.eventingscores.co.uk, or livestreaming on Horse & Country (www.horseandcountry.tv/en-us/pay-per-view/eliteeventing). Spectator tickets are available (www.bicton-arena.co.uk).
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