Sarah Carless reports ….
Australia’s Christopher Burton stormed into a commanding lead at The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials with Nobilis 18.
Riding Sue Lawson, Carolyn Townsend and his own 11 year old gelding, he received a rapturous applause from the grandstand when his score of 30.2 went up – and he goes into tomorrow’s cross country 4.3 penalties ahead of second placed rider Bettina Hoy and Designer 10.
Burton said afterwards: “It’s always exciting to see a good score but we don’t really think like that. I was happy he let me ride him in the test – he felt very relaxed. He’s done good tests before but it’s exciting to be in front of these guys. Burghley is always nerve wracking for me. It’s always big and tough and relentless. I think he (Captain Mark Phillips) has built a good track – I think he is an excellent course designer and I’m looking forward to having a go but I can’t say I am excited about it.
Overnight leader Bettina Hoy now lies in second place but she said after the conclusion of the dressage that she expected Burton to go ahead of her. She said: “It was a beautiful test – it was technically well ridden and the mark is well deserved.”
Andrew Nicholson piloted the experienced Nereo to a score of 35.2 putting him into third going into the cross country. By the time the New Zealander went into the arena, the ground was getting a little soft which led the horse to lose some power in certain movement.
But he was pleased with the horses performance commenting: “He is a pleasure to ride and knows what he has to do. I trust him to behave with the crowd and sure enough he goes in and concentrates 100% for you. This is as good as we could have done. A couple of bits of the arena are a little muddy, they aren’t deep but he’s been around a long time and he would know that if the green grass becomes brown and black it must be soft so he was shutting his power off which I presume they would mark me down.”
The top British rider after dressage is Oliver Townend and MHS King Joules. The pair were last into the dressage arena and came away with a score of 38.1, putting them into fifth position.
Seventy riders will head into tomorrow’s cross country after France’s Rodolphe Scherer was eliminated in the dressage after the Ground Jury unanimously considered his horse Makara De Montiege to be undeveloped and unfortunately not fit to continue.
All of the riders re-iterated that this event will not be based on the dressage scores alone, commenting that the course is long, technical and big, providing a true four-star challenge. Here’s what riders completing their dressage tests on Friday had to say.
Kirsty Johnston was first into the arena today with Opposition Detective to score 52.9.
“For me it’s quite good to be first, I’d rather be first today than last yesterday. For me I am greatly disappointed. Usually the strongest phase for me is the dressage. For once he went in the ring and was very relaxed and I perhaps wasn’t quite brave enough and made a few costly mistakes. Some of the good bits were exceptional and the bad bits were bad. Tomorrow is. another day – it certainly won’t be a dressage competition. The cross country course is serious. I’m really looking forward to it. I had a great ride around Badminton and Pau so you have to go out there with a bit of confidence and for sure you need to be attacking from the first fence. There are a few fences that might catch a few out but every fence has to be respected.”
Charlotte Brear recorded a score of 67.5 with Manor Missile.
“It’s not the phase we look forward to. It’s not the phase we are good at but its done and we can look forward to the rest of the week. He did good and tried his best, he was going really well until his changes but job done. The course is big, it’s bold but it’s Burghley. He’s an out and out jumper. If he can get over the jumps he will get over and he’ll go quick. I’m hoping this course will suit him.”
Louise Harwood scored 54.3 with Mr Potts.
“I’m really pleased. A lot of it has improved a lot. Over the last year his dressage has improved a lot. He used to put the brakes on in the test, and today a little bit in the canter he still had the brakes on but the trot work is improving. Another year and we’ll be ready for a winning test. To me the course looks just as tough as every other year. The Dairy Mound looks 10 out of 10 for toughness if you are going to go the straight way, and it’s slow going the long way. The Rolex is an interesting one – a different sort of thing than we have seen before, and the Trout Hatchery is going to be interesting viewing for spectators because who know which way people will go.”
Sonja Johnson and Parkiarrup Illicit Liason are visiting Burghley for the first time. They scored 46.9.
“I’m pretty happy with that. It’s was particularly good in parts but I can name four quite major mistakes so to have got a 46.9 the rest must have been quite good. I’ve learnt a long time ago I am old enough that hopefully I have a little bit of wisdom under my belt that the hardest fence I have to jump is the next one I am coming to and I’m going to be concentrating very hard out there for every fence. I think the Dairy Mound is tough, I think the all the waters deserve respect. The leaf peat is a mystery to me. There are a lot of fences out there and the only one I’m looking forward to is the finish flags.”
Matthew Glentworth is a Burghley first timer with Ultimatt. They scored 64.5.
“It’s amazing. We haven’t had the easiest run up in getting here and we have been taking it day by day. Then suddenly Monday was a bit manic. Once you’re here you’re in your field in a lorry and you do it every weekend. You put it out of your mind that it is Burghley. The test was to be as expected. He isn’t very good at the flying changes so it’s trying to keep the rest of the test mistake free which he managed to do. The course is big. The fences themselves are fine. It’s just where they are positioned here with the hills. It’s very hard not have ridden here to imagine all the people around the course that could distract him. It’s been one of his stronger phases so hopefully that will continue.”
Nilson Moreira Da Silva is a first timer to Burghley who trains with Mark Todd. He scored 57.5 with Muggle.
“It’s a good experience for me. It’s my first time here. I’m really happy with my test. I know my horse can work better but it’s Burghley. You can see lots of good riders not having good tests and that’s because it’s Burghley. It’s the big one. I’ve walked the course twice already and I believe the first five minutes is really intense. We’ll see how the horse starts and go the best we can. My goal is to get a clear round.”
Ibby Macpherson and Ballingowan Diamond are both new to four star competition. They got off to a great start scoring 47.2.
“He was really good – I was pleased with him. It’s my first four star and he horses first four star so I’m really proud of him and how he coped with he atmosphere in there. He is usually really rideable in the dressage and he was today. It’s quite a lot for a first four star atmosphere so he was good. I was quite excited – it’s an amazing event, the best in the world. I’ve had several looks at the course, Cottesmore Leap doesn’t look any more friendly the more you walk it. But it’s a lovely course, I think it should suit us.
Libby Head came over Britain for Badminton with Sir Rockstar, and stayed on to compete at Burghley. They scored 53.7.
“I couldn’t be happier. He was so good. I usually struggle to keep him calm in an atmosphere like this but he went I there and did some of his best work and I’m really happy he held it together. I think the course looks like there is stuff to do out there but I think it looks doable and I couldn’t have a better horse to do it with. So I am excited. He is a crazy jumper and he loves to do it so it’s so much fun. Being in the UK has been really fun and easy different and it’s been so cool to be here.”
Ben Hobday is back at Burghley with Ramilo, who scored 54.6.
“I focused on keeping the horse together and keeping his focus on me. It’s pretty amazing to be back here. I’m pleased with the horse, just a little bit disappointed with the mark but we have to crack on. Bring on tomorrow. You can never come into this course without being cautious and respecting the jumps. He (Mark Phillips) has done a good job of building a big technical course so hopefully my horse is up to it and so am I. It’s the horses first four star so to complete and give him a safe round is the number one priority and number two is try and chase the leaders as best we can.”
Sam Griffiths was one of the eight riders to break the 40 barrier. With Happy Times he scored 39.6.
“My horse is a really old campaigner and he’s been here a few times before. Warming him up he was actually quite tense and I thought this could go pear shaped. We trotted out into the middle of the arena and he went oh it’s Burghley I’ll just relax and do a nice test. There were a couple of little mistakes in there but he went really nice. Any time you break the 40 barrier is a good effort. It’s got me really competitive but there’s a couple more days to go. It’s a daunting cross country and a tough competition so you can never fully relax buy I’ve been a couple of times and know I can do well. I’d love to win it. My horse is getting towards the end of his career and I feel he could still win it but a lot has got to right over the next couple of days.”
Riding his second horse of the competition, Alex Bragg scored scored 64.8 with Redpath Ransom.
“The horse warmed up well for him. We have been working really hard because his stress levels sometimes get the better of him. We tried to keep him relaxed but the atmosphere got to him a little bit and he bubbled over throughout the test which was really unfortunate. I’m very excited to take on the course tomorrow. My horses are great jumping horses so that’s the bit we are looking forward to most, especially this dressage score with this horses wasn’t the best so we’re going to need to chip a few off to work our way up the leaderboard.”
Gubby Leach last competed at Burghley 11 years ago. With Xavier he scored 46.4.
“I’m pretty ecstatic. I’m delighted with how he went. He can be a tight horse especially in a big atmosphere so he really let me get in and ride him. He had one mistake coming into our shoulder in to half pass and he broke into canter which is a pity but apart from that he settled into it and let me ride it. What I have been working on in training we out into practice in the arena and that’s all we can ask for. To be in this position going cross country is a dream. To give it a go on Saturday I am really excited.”
Andrew Hoy is riding The Blue Frontier in the horses first four star competition. They scored 38.3 in the dressage.
“This is the first time he has been at this level and I’m absolutely thrilled that the result is as it is and there are more riders to come, and very good riders, so we won’t get too excited yet. But I am absolutely thrilled with the horses performance and the way he was in the arena. That’s all that I can ask for.”
Olivia Wilmot recorded her best four star mark with Cool Dancer scoring 52.3.
“I’m really happy. Axil tried really hard. He does find the dressage a little bit tricky but he went in there and tried quite hard. We fluffed a couple of movements buy we got our first nine so it’s a good place to get them at Burghley. He scored 52 which his best four star score to date – not quite the 40 I was dreaming of but not far off. I don’t think it’s going to be a dressage competition so I think by tomorrow night we will have forgotten by today. Tomorrow will be another challenging day. The cross country course is quite big, quite technical, quite long, so it will be an exciting day.”
American Holly Payne Caravella and Never Outfoxed scored 55.8 at their first Burghley.
“I was just trying to pretend it was any other show. I was trying to stay calm to keep him calm – he’s quite a hot horse. I was pretty pleased with him. I think the hardest part going in there is the applause – I wanted to get him in there as quick as possible so he could soak it in. I don’t think he noticed there was a crowd straight away until they started applauding so that was a little bit difficult. But he came back to me and he tried hard. He’s a young horse and he has a big future, so this was a step in the right direction. The course is really challenging and goes on forever. But I think it is fair and there are plenty of options to take. But it’s definitely the hardest four star I have ever seen.”
Harry Dzenis completed the dressage with Xam on a score of 51.3.
“I was really pleased with him. It was always going to be tough on Friday afternoon being the last big slot for the atmosphere but he coped really well. We made a few mistakes but the main thing is he got a decent enough score. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow – we had a bit of a whoopsie at Badminton and I’m really determined to put that behind us. I’ve had some really great rides on him at Burghley before and hopefully he’ll go out there and have a good ride.”
Stacey Shimmons and Orions Promise completed their dressage at their first Burghley with a score of 70.8
“It was a little panicked at the beginning. He went down the centre line and suddenly saw all the people and I thought the whole test was going to be a little anxious but then he settled after the first movement. So it could have been a complete disaster but he held it together towards the end. It’s the first time at Burghley so he’s never seen crowds like this – hopefully if he comes back next year he’ll know what to expect. It’s a fantastic course and I hope we get through the finishing line. But it’s one of those courses you need to attack and the horses need to be on your side so hopefully it goes my way tomorrow and he gets round.”
Becky Woolven and Charlton Down Riverdance scored 51.3 on their first appearance at Burghley.
“I’m really pleased with him. He was a little bit tense but there was a lot to look at in there and I couldn’t have asked for much more. One of the changes wasn’t quite right and that was me and that’s fine. My childhood dream was to canter down that centre line and it’s very strange to actually do it. I’ve walked the course three times and each time it has looked a little bit better. The Dairy Mound is the one to watch – it’s quite tricky, and the Trout Hatchery is always quite tough.”
Photographs courtesy of Lorraine Porter