William Funnell and Billy Congo delivered a classy display to end day two of the Equestrian.com Liverpool International Horse Show in winning fashion.
The 1.50-metre jump-off class, sponsored by Horse & Hound, saw 2013 European Championships Great Britain team gold medalists Funnell and the 15-year-old stallion at their brilliant best, and another bumper Liverpool Echo Arena crowd loved every minute.
Twelve combinations made it through to the jump-off, and Funnell’s time of 35.28 seconds proved too much for the rest, although Ireland’s Billy Twomey actually went quicker on Diaghilev, but they had the last fence down.
Liverpool-born Peter Charles, part of Great Britain’s London 2012 Olympic gold medal-winning team, finished second with the richly-promising Dauphin, while Irish challenger Dermott Lennon was third aboard Fleur IV.
Funnell collected a first prize of £6,000, and he was understandably delighted after an immaculate display that showcased everything about the horse’s poise and power.
“I wasn’t going to do anything daft tonight,” he said. “I kept everything tight and neat, and luckily it forced a few errors.
“He has won at five-star level, he has won more than £600,000 in his career, and he is a class act.
“His results speak for themselves. I have won a five-star grand prix with him, and he is a horse of a lifetime. It’s lovely to have a horse of that quality.”
Funnell, meanwhile, offered high praise for inaugural Liverpool show. The Echo Arena rocked to the rafters on Saturday as bumper crowds packed out the venue.
“You run out of superlatives for this show,” he added.
“We have tried to give entertainment, and you can see with the riders that we are really enjoying the show. The whole thing is just fantastic.”
Italian Piergiorgio Bucci also lavished praise after claiming an impressive victory aboard his Nations Cup campaigner Casallo Z.
Bucci made it another successful Italian job following his compatriot Emanuele Gaudiano’s victory on Friday, and there was no doubting his supremacy in the 1.45 metre class against the clock, sponsored by Equo.
“I have enjoyed this show so much,” he said.
“I must say congratulations to Nina (Barbour) and all the organisers. This is the first year at Liverpool, and they have done an amazing job. It is so impressive.
“It is a super arena, and you get a really good, warm feeling in there.”
Bucci prevailed in a time of 46.44 seconds after Britain’s Laura Renwick had set a scorching pace aboard Heliodor Hybris, clocking 47.50 seconds, while Twomey challenged strongly with Tin Tin, but ultimately they had to settle for second and third places, respectively.
Three other combinations — Nicole Pavitt (Victor Blue), John Whitaker (Lord of Arabia) and Johnny Pals (Urjul van Generhese) — all clocked a quicker time than Bucci, but each of them had a fence down.
Reflecting on his £6,000 triumph, Bucci added: “It was a tough class.
“Normally, he is my grand prix horse. He has jumped many clear rounds, but it was good for my horse to have the turns to do today. I am very pleased.”
There were ghostly goings-on at the Echo Arena as the mini major relay class, sponsored by Jolly Good Vehicle Leasing, made a Saturday night appearance.
Cheshire showjumper Corinne Collins, dressed in her finest Ghostbuster outfit, teamed up with young Wiltshire pony rider Oscar Hobby to win a thrilling competition where the top three finishers were separated by just 82 hundredths of a second.
Oscar, who was among 12 pony riders from throughout the country invited to take part at Liverpool, set a scorching pace on Blue, before Corinne, aboard Bugatti B, expertly finished the job in a combined time of 51.47 seconds.
Guy Williams, proudly displaying a fine Captain America outfit, was second in partnership with Maddie Heath, while Nicole Pavitt — dressed as Catwoman — and Goldie Morgan took third.
Source: Debra Hargrave/Liverpool International Horse Show