Peterborough man crashes out as Pippa squeaks past Piggy for Burghley triumph

Pippa Funnell  riding MGH GRAFTON STREET during the cross country phase of the  Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.
Pippa Funnell riding MGH GRAFTON STREET during the cross country phase of the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.
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It’s 16 years since Pippa Funnell was the toast of the eventing world after becoming the first person to win her sport’s fabled Grand Slam with champagne drenched victory at Burghley.

After wins in Kentucky and Badminton, the then 34-year old arrived at the grand 16th century English Elizabethan estate and completed the set with her brilliant gelding Primmore’s Pride.

Local rider  Richard Skelt on Credo III in the dressage at Burghley. Photo: David Lowndes.

Local rider Richard Skelt on Credo III in the dressage at Burghley. Photo: David Lowndes.

Now, finally, she’s a winner again.

Funnell, 50, and rookie horse MGH Grafton Street led the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials from start to finish, edging out Piggy French by the narrowest of margins in a dramatic show jumping finale.

It was the three-time Olympic medallist’s first top-level win in 14 years - her passion for the sport rediscovered to prove that sporting life can begin at 50.

“I’m in a state of shock. The whole week has been incredible and it just shows how fortunes can change. I never thought I would win it,” Pippa said.

“I can honestly say a lot of my love for the sport has come back because I have a better balance in my life now. That’s shown this week.

“I’m enjoying splitting my time with other projects and it’s making me enjoy my eventing more. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt pressure like that but it was amazing to see it through.

“What I find really special is the love and support I’ve had from so many people. You want to do it for them because they give you so much and thankfully I’ve been able to do that.”

With Olympic selectors watching, three Brits topped the leaderboard with French just behind Funnell and former winner Oliver Townend completing the podium.

New Zealander Tim Price, the defending champion, came fifth while Lauren Kieffer was the pick of a big contingent of American all-comers.

Having previously finished runner-up at Burghley on Vanir Kamir two years ago, French appeared in prime position to go one better and underline her number three world ranking.

Funnell though made 0.1 penalties less - the eventing equivalent of winning by the thickness of a vest.

Peterborough-based Richard Skelt and Credo III crashed out at the 16th obstacle during Saturday’s cross country stage.

*The multi-award winning Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (September 5 - 8) has been established as a major international equestrian and social event in the Autumn Sporting Calendar for over 50 years. For more information visit burghley-horse.co.uk