Sarah Carless reports …
Australia’s Christopher Burton retained his lead at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials with Nobilis 18 following a weather affected cross country day, putting him on course for his first win at the event.
The first riders out on course got the best of the weather, but the course still provided a challenge with only four of the first 20 horses coming home clear, with none close to the optimum time. The rain arrived at lunchtime making the course slippery for those heading out on course later in the day.
Despite his late draw, Burton piloted the 11 year old gelding masterfully around Captain Mark Phillips cross country course, collecting just 3.2 time penalties. He goes into the show jumping with an 11.5 penalty lead.
Afterwards he said: “I am over the moon. The horse tried really hard. He was very tired early on and I thought I might take a few long routes at the water but then I got there and I thought I really don’t like time faults so I go the fast way. It’s quite unusual for me to change and go the other way. I guess I was lucky today that the distances were coming to me and he’s a good easy horse to ride forwards to a fence so it was nice that he came in so well. He originally came from [German Olympian] Dirk Schrade. When I went to try him I asked Dirk how much blood he had in him and he told me he had more than anything I’d ever sat on before.”
Tim Price used all of his experience and great relationship to partner Ringwood Sky Boy into second
place, collecting just six time penalties. Price was held on course after Australian Shane Rose and Virgil broke the frangible in at Fence 25 (The Cross Rails).
Price said: “Given the conditions I was really pleased. He’s not a mud plugger but he has learnt to be a mud plugger. He’s experienced at this level and we had so much fun. We know each other inside and out and we were able to take full advantage of that today. It’s a tough course but he has so much scope and I didn’t need to pressure him anywhere. He coped without it very well. He grew a leg where he needed to and he wasn’t affected by the going. I enjoyed it.”
Andrew Nicholson rounded out the top three with Nereo. Adding 12 penalties to his dressage score he was able to maintain his position, but felt perhaps he could have gone a little quicker.
He said: “I have always had a bit of a soft spot for him (Nereo). He is a big string horse and always found everything a bit harder than Avebury. Whenever he has to he comes up with the good for me and I am very proud of him. A couple of times I wasn’t in the place I wanted to be – up at the Dairy Mound was one of them – and he just took himself to it. He knows his job very well. The ground felt fine. Maybe they were sinking in a little further than perhaps at the beginning of the day but it felt fine to me and I’ve got time faults but it’s not because the ground felt too soft, it’s because I didn’t go fast enough.”
The top British rider after cross country is Oliver Townend, with his second ride of the day Samuel Thomas II. He also lies in 19th with his first horse Dromgurrihy Blue, but called it a day with his last horse MHS King Joules following a stop at the C element of Fence 24 (Discovery Valley).
Of his top placed horse he commented: “He’s a horse that is fairly inexperienced at this level and he’s just grinded his way down to the finish line. He travelled beautifully and jumped very well in places and green in others and I couldn’t be more happy with him. The going is soft every step of the way and the fences aren’t getting any smaller.”
Out of the 68 starters 28 went clear, 16 combinations were eliminated and 11 combinations retired. The closest to the optimum time of 11 minutes 11 seconds was New Zealander Jonelle Price on Classic Moet who finished the day in fourth.
Course designer Captain Mark Phillips commented: “It was harder work for the riders than I thought it was going to be. I think all the combinations required a forward ride. For me the disappointing thing was the number of falls we had today. You look at the Trout Hatchery and ten horses land in there normally and then we had three in a row fall over. The bottom was fine, we picked up one shoe out of there earlier in the day as it is checked every time. It was just of those things. It was a big log in, a 180 drop and actually a number of incidences the riders weren’t there when the horses landed and that happened a lot today. The rain didn’t help but you so every fence ridden really well – a lot of people made every fence look fantastic. I would have like to have seen a better picture over all but I think it is because they had to work harder.”
What the riders had to say……
Holly Payne Caravella and Never Outfoxed completed their first Burghley with 18.4 time penalties (17th position).
“It was amazing. He was really good the whole way. There was so much trouble out there this morning that my goal was to try and get him round clean. I knew I wanted to take direct routes if possible and he was so honest and tried so hard. It wasn’t easy but it was good. I sat in the tent and watched almost every rider until it was time for me to go get ready. I planned to go out on course and I couldn’t leave the camera. I think it’s very helpful as you saw how many people varied the line and had quick reactions when things weren’t going well so it helped solidify my plans that if something wasn’t going to plan I had a back up. I have taken the horse to Kentucky twice and both years it has been like this (wet / rain) so I think that’s his four star way of going. It wasn’t ideal but the footing held up fairly well.”
First-timer Becky Woolven completed with Charlton Down Riverdance on a score of 84.1 (22nd position).
“It was a long way round as anticipated but he was so good. He was so straight and even when I didn’t have him totally right he was like sure I’ll sort it out. He is so unbelievable. I didn’t quite anticipate how hard those fences would be to ride when they are tired. He was getting tired towards to the end. I picked my way quite a bit – there were some bits that were really boggy and I just moved over a bit.”
Jonelle Price and Classic Moet added just 1.6 time penalties to their dressage score to finish on a score of 50.1 (fourth position).
“It’s disappointment to finish five seconds over the time – she doesn’t deserve that. If there was going to be one horse to come home within the time today it deserved to be her. But I felt we weren’t quite right coming out of the Dairy Mound and I think it was the right decision in hindsight. She answers all the questions and she is so gutsy. To come home five seconds over on a day like today she has been pretty foot perfect.”
Kristina Cook and Star Witness completed on a score of 64.9 having added 12 time penalties on cross country (12th position).
“He is an amazing horse to ride cross country which is why I put up with him in the first phase. He is bred to be a racehorse not to be an event horse. He doesn’t have the best movements. But he is so special – to be riding round this sort of course on a horse like him with that much blood and quality, and a bit like a pony brain – he can find a leg anywhere and he even makes me look fast. It’s always enormous and it’s always scary but it’s an amazing course to rise round and you pick your horses to come here and he is a true four star horse. And to have that class and that much energy to jump those big fences it makes my job so much easier.”
Abigail Boulton completed her second Burghley on Tilston Toc Toc with 20 jumping and 67.6 time penalties (38th position).
“I was really pleased with how he felt with everything. I wasn’t helping him some places. If I have a mistake I like to admit to it and I know what I did wrong this year. That turn I walked 8 strides every single time. And I watched a couple go and they were doing it on 7 so I thought I will see how he is feeling. He jumped the first one quite big and I thought I will go on the 7 and I got that huge stride over and completely lost my balance. But he was absolutely amazing the rest of the round. I couldn’t have wished for any more. It was so nice to ride here again.”
Mark Kyle and Jesmond Justice completed with 37.2 time penalties (23rd position).
“He started off lovely and got into a good rhythm – it’s his first four star so I wasn’t quite sure with how he would cope. And it started to rain just as we left the start. He was great everywhere and he was jumping everything so the atop came just at the wrong time with the water coming up, which has caused quite a few problems today. He went in there cold and he did well. I’m chuffed with him. He’s very straight cross country. The owner is here and he is over the moon. We’re at Burghley so it’s always tough.”
Imogen Gloag and Brendonhill Doublet completed their first Burghley cross country with 20 jumping and 77.2 time penalties (40th position).
“I am over the moon. He was amazing. I’m so thrilled. The weather doesn’t help as your reins get slippy but you don’t really notice. I had a long wait and I just kept going over the course. Not everything went to plan, I had a problem at the Dairy Mound, and he was a bit shocked when he went out – he has never seen crowds like this but he got over this and he was amazing.”
Sarah Bullimore completed clear on Reve Du Rouet with 22 time faults (14th position).
“He was a little bit hard work. The first six fences he went a bit green on me despite all that he has done. He is so genuine and so honest on a line that he just kept jumping. And then he picked up and got going and was amazing. It’s a big enough track and it’s not a dressage competition. And you have to get out there and do the job.”
Charlotte Brear came home with Manor Missile with 20 jumping and 57.2 time penalties (37th position).
“It was really tough. Even half way round I was thinking I oh my god I’ve still got half way left to go. After I had that not of a blip at the corner I thought there was not point pushing him too hard now, I took a few longer routes. He fell in the water again – he did the same last year – he just jumped in and he trips – I don’t know whether it is deeper. So I then went the long way and brought him home. In really pleased. It’s incredibly hard and he’s such an honest horse.”
Mark Todd came home with NZB Campino with no jumping and 18.8 time to complete on a score of 59.0 (sixth position).
“He was great. He gets very long and he gets quite strong and he’s not quite as manoeuvrable as you want sometimes but I had a really good ride. He isn’t the fastest thing on four legs and I was always worried about the ups and downs, and when it started raining a few more concerns but honestly he went out there and he was great. I was very confident on my horse and that I could get round as well and pretty much stuck to plan.”
Louise Harwood and Mr Potts completed clear with 41.6 time (26th position).
“It was certainly tough – it was hard from the beginning. He was looking at the crowds a little bit at the start – he should know better as he’s been here a few times before. It just took some riding. Whether it’s because I opted for the longer routes that made it feel more twisty I don’t know. Next time I come I’m going all the straight ways. It felt way bigger than other ones I have done. It’s hard the way they have the course, like it was last year, going uphill, there so much at the beginning it just tires them out. You need a little thoroughbred really. I’m just so proud of him. He isn’t built for going round here flat out. He’s homebred and he’s very special and he looks after me and we made it home.”
Joseph Murphy completed on DHI Top Story with 17.2 time faults (16th position).
“It’s good Irish weather. It got slippy all of a sudden. The ground has been so good and the rain is just lying at the moment and it’s like an ice rink. Unfortunately my horse pulled a shoe at fence four which made it tricky to be a little bit quicker. But he was phenomenal. I’m over the moon. This year the course looks big, and my horse realised that at fence two and he just started to really jump. And I think he found a jump I never knew he had because I was out the back door quite a bit. It was great for me and a great course. Full compliments to Mark Phillips because he gave us a lot of options. The straight way will fortune the brave.”
Bill Levett completed with 20 time penalties on Improvise for a score of 62.5 (ninth position).
“It’s a very tough track. The ground is taking a little bit. Some experienced guys have been around and their feedback was throw the watch away, don’t use your horse up too early as there won’t be anything left at he finish. And that’s what I did. I gave him not as hard a ride and quick a ride as I wanted to in the first four minutes and then it gets busy. So the only time to chase home is after the Leaf Pit. And even then my horse gets very strong and sometimes I’m taking all sorts of weird lines to get him to listen to me. So it was hard to chase down that time.”
Kirsty Short and Cossan Lad came home with 37.2 time penalties (30th position).
“I’m absolutely thrilled. He was my pony club horse and I have bad him since he was a four year old – he was mega. He lost a shoe at fence four and he was still honest. It became so greasy out there, especially using that shoe – it made him quite worried. I’m so proud of him.”
Dan Jocelyn and Dassett Cool Touch finished with 15.6 time penalties (18th position).
“It was challenging right from the beginning. Having had the opportunity to watch 10 horses or so you could see it was going to be a big effort, and then it started to rain. It just adds to the big endurance test out there, and I’m just glad my horse was fit enough for the job. I always thought he could be a horse that could run around a track like this and he ha proven that today.”
Bettina Hoy and Designer 10 10 ollected 19.2 time penalties for a score of 53.7 (fifth position).
“It was tough. I think I rode a little bit backwards to start with. I felt a little bit intimidated I must admit. But what a horse. I had some sticky moments but he just kept fighting. He kept focussing and concentrating on the fences. The weather hasn’t made a lot of difference so far but it’s going to get heavy. I could feel him in some places having to work harder. But when I was going it was still alright.”
American rider Elisa Wallace came home clear on Simply Priceless, collecting 30.4 time penalties (20th position).
“My horse tried his heart out so I couldn’t be happier. I was extremely focused. Everybody says its Burghley and Burghley is big. I have a lot of supporters behind me and it’s like we have to go get this done buddy. It was hard and really an amazing feeling to start knocking out these famous fences. One of my favourite was the Cottesmore Leap. He just pinged over it. And I was like we’re going to get this done today.”
Tim Price collected 20 penalties and 29.2 time faults on his first horse Bango (27th position).
“It was tough and I think the time is going to be really tight, even through I wasn’t going for the clock. It’s big and wide and keeps coming. It demands the best out of you and if you don’t put that into application you have a little bit of a moment. This horse is a new kettle of fish to me at a big track like this. It rode the way I thought it would based on my experience with regard to the people, the lanes, the hills. New horse, new day, everything is different and it’s not easy on a horse like him as you have to do a lot of thinking for him in places. It’s about finding he right balance.”
Andrew Hoy and Rutherglen collected 23.6 time penalties to finish on 73.0 (15th position).
“You should never underestimate Burghley. It’s a good and a fair course, but there are big jumping efforts all the way round. I took my time to jump every fence and give Rutherglen a good experience, and had made the call to take my two long routes before I set off.”
Ros Canter Eventing and Allstar B collected 20 penalties and 33.2 time faults (28th position).
“It was tough. It rode much trickier than last year. The jumps felt bigger than last year. My horse was quite strong from the off so he got more wound up at the start than last year – he definitely knew where he was. But I am delighted with him. He is very careful and he got me out of some tricky situations. Unfortunately we crossed or tracks – I have no idea I had done. And I’m not quite sure what I did to get 20 which I am very disappointed about.”
Arthur Duffort and Herbst Golden Eclipse went clear picking up 50.8 time faults (32nd position).
“It’s tough. Like I said, you know what you get when you come here. The course never really rides he way you walk it, especially when you don’t have much experience. You sort of have to adapt yourself and I hope I did a good job. I’m thrilled – I’m here for he experience and you have to complete to get the experience. I’m very happy I made it.”
Alan Nolan and Bronze Flight picked up two stops and 49.2 time faults (39th position).
“It’s hard work out there. I had keep kicking him and encouraging him the whole way. He’s quite an experienced horse but he started out and was looking at the crowd. They are quite close his year. He just got a bit lucky in a few places but he answered most of my questions. There were a few times when I was off the fences and he picked up and went for me. The two run outs were pilot error. He was brilliant and I am very lucky to be on him.”
Oliver Townend and Dromgurrihy Blue came home clear wth 25.2 time penalties (19th position).
“The course rode good. He wasn’t travelling as I would have hoped, he wasn’t a little bit one paced. But he had unbelievable genuineness to keep going and keep throwing himself over whatever I pointed him at. He is an unbelievable horse from that point of view. He is just point and go and keep kicking. You have to ride the course with your brain every step of the way.”
Paul Sims and Glengarnock finished with 20 jumping and 34.4 time penalties (29th position).
“I had a fantastic ride right until the end. He was absolutely fantastic and tried his heart out. I can’t really fault him. I don’t really know what happened – it’s one of those things. The course rode a little bit tougher than I expected – I thought the first four or five minutes would be a really nice and flowing and get you into it but at four minutes I was already down. I think the time will be very influential.”
Photographs courtesy of Lorraine Porter