Tattersalls CCI4*-L: Best of British as Pippa Funnell Heads Dressage

Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street deliver another top performance to head the Irish Field CCI4*-L at Tattersalls. Photo courtesy of Tatts.ie.

He might not be sitting atop the leaderboard with his own ride, Rosemaber Lancuest (24th on a 37.5), but it’s been a good day in the office nevertheless for Irish rider Padraig McCarthy. Two of his competitors’ horses in the Irish Field-sponsored CCI4*-L at Tattersalls today were produced and sold from his Devon-based sporthorse empire, and both of them nabbed spots in the top five at the conclusion of the thirty-strong class.

One of them took top spot, a not unfamiliar haunt for the eleven-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding. Jonathan and Jane Clarke’s MGH Grafton Street (OBOS Quality) has established himself as a consistent first-phase performer with Pippa Funnell in the irons, and he delivered on that consistency yet again today, earning scores of well over 70% from judges Tim DownesAnnabel Scrimgeour, and Dane Rawlins. His final mark of 25.4 sees him lead the first phase by three full points, relegating the morning’s leaders, Laura Collett and Dacapo, into second place on 28.4.

Laura Collett and Dacapo get off to a flying start in the horse’s first CCI4*-L. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“It wouldn’t have been his best test he’s ever done; the halts and the first flying change weren’t great, but everything else felt really nice – that’s the easy part on him. Normally, he’s really good at the changes, but he actually got a bit lazy in there; he came out yesterday like a raging bull but today he was like, ‘I’m over it now!’ But he’s so consistent in his dressage, and it’s nice to go in there with him, because you know he’s not going to blow,” says Laura of ‘Cal’ (Diarado x Tosca VII). Owned by Gillian Morris-Adams, Diana Chappell, Carolyn Taylor, and Michael and Alison Smedley, the ten-year-old gelding is as reliable a performer as the overnight leader, but where MGH Grafton Street can boast two-and-a-half seasons at this level, including an eighth-place finish here in 2017, Dacapo makes his CCI4*-L debut this week.

“The aim is to go out and be competitive – he’s been super at all his short-formats, and the only reason he didn’t go and do a CCI4*-L last year is because I didn’t think he was ready. He’s come on from the great note he finished on last year, and jumping-wise, he’s been phenomenal this season – the fact-finding mission will just be that he’s never gone this far [on cross-country] before. But he’s been foot-perfect all year so far,” says Laura, who praised the efforts of the organising team for their hard work on the track. “[The course] has been beefed up from normal, and there are some decent questions out there, but I think it’s a very fair track. It’s very much in front of them and not trappy at all. I’ve never seen the going so good here; for me, it’s the best ground I’ve seen all year.”

Kazuma Tomoto and Bernadette Utopia make great strides towards a longer-term goal. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

He’s known around the lorry park as King Kazu, and rightly so: Kazuma Tomoto, the exceptionally talented Japanese rider who started eventing just three years ago, has set himself a huge goal this season – and so far, it’s coming good.

“I’m not expecting to win this time, just to qualify for Tokyo – we just need a good round,” he explains. Kazu is on a mission to qualify all four of his top horses for next year’s Olympics, at which he hopes to help his team to a home medal and, after much work by both the Japanese federation and its riders, newfound popularity for the sport in Japan. Just three weeks after taking his first CCI4*-S win, which he claimed at Chatsworth aboard Brookpark Vikenti, Kazu is back for more with yet another of his enviable string. Today, he started off his first-ever trip to Tatts with a bang, producing a competitive test with Bernadette Utopia – the second of the Padraig McCarthy-sourced horses in the class – to post a 29.2 and take third place as we look ahead to cross-country.

“She did a really good job today; she can do every movement and she’s a big mover, too, so I tried to make her relax. She can be a hot horse, so I need to ride her once or twice before a test – but this time I rode her once and she was much better.”

His score just edges New Zealand’s Dan Jocelyn into fourth place with Blackthorn Cruise, with whom he earned a 29.3.

Tina Cook brings forward an unknown quantity in Killadeas. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Fifth place is held overnight by Tina Cook and Ella Boyle’s under-the-radar Killadeas. The nine-year-old by Hermes de Reve stepped up to four-star last season, though his campaign at the level has been a learning curve thus far: he jumped clear around his debut at Hartpury, but notched up 40 penalties at his first long-format at Boekelo, and again at Burnham Market’s CCI4*-S earlier this year.

Pippa Funnell makes a second appearance in the top ten, this time riding Billy Beware and tying for sixth place with lone US competitor Will Coleman. Will opted to bring his up-and-comer Off the Record to Tatts after a productive and successful trip to the event last season with OBOS O’Reilly.

“I really thought it was a good course, and where it’s this guy’s first four-star long, I thought it would be the perfect event for him,” says Will. “It gives him a bit of experience at getting to travel, and it’s a nice ten-plus minute course without being a killer. It’s big, but it’s very fair – I think Ian does a great job. For me, I thought the footing was amazing last year, and this year, it’s even better; they put forward a class effort and I thought this would fit really well into the two-year plan for the horse. The owners agreed, so lucky me!”

This will be a debut CCI4*-L for the ten-year-old (VDL Arkansas), who hasn’t been out of the top ten in his last ten internationals, a lucky streak that takes us back to mid-2017. Even more excitingly, he’s only added time in three of those ten runs, and the most he’s added in those instances is a paltry 7.2.

“We’ll know a lot more about him after this weekend, but he’s performed so well in his lead-ups over the last few years. He’s become a really consistent horse, so hopefully that continues. We’re quietly excited about him having a bright future.

[AN: due to a bit of a technical hitch this morning, we’re unfortunately lacking in a photo of Will and Off The Record – for now, you’ll have to take our word (and the judges’!) for it that their test was lovely. We’ll be bringing you lots more of this fantastic pair this weekend!]

Our CCI4*-L competitors will enjoy a day off tomorrow, while we focus on the small but hugely competitive CCI4*-S class, presented by the George Mernagh Memorial Fund. It all kicks off at the enormously civilised time of 11.00 a.m. BST/6.00 a.m. EST – presumably to allow for plenty of whiskey-quaffing at tonight’s Goresbridge Select Event Horse sale – with Alex Bragg and mega-hunk Zagreb kicking off proceedings. Can he top the leaderboard with one of his three exciting entries? Will Luhmühlen-bound Sam Watson notch up a win in his final run with Ballindenisk victor Imperial Sky? Will King Kazu reign supreme with the exceptional Vinci de la Vigne? Or will newly-minted World Number One Tim Price run away laughing with the crown aboard the feisty, flashy mare Ascona M? It’s all still to play for. Go Eventing!

The top ten at the conclusion of the first phase of the Irish Field CCI4*-L at Tattersalls International Horse Trials.

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