Sarah Carless reports..
Australia’s Christopher Burton took victory at The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials in a nail biting finale.
Having led from the dressage, he guided Nobilis 18 to claim the title for the first time, and in doing so led an antipodean one, two three. But he used nearly all of his nine lives in doing so. With other riders faulting, he had an 19.8 penalty cushion as he entered the arena but had four rails down to bring his winning margin down to 3.8.
With pressure on him to win he said: “It was very special. I have learnt to enjoy those moments because it’s good fun on the last day when the sun is shining and you get to canter into the main arena in the lead. However I tried to keep it as interesting for every one by making it as close as I could. I don’t know if I’ll win a four star in such a way again.in the end he got a bit tired and had a few down. I thought the ground in the show jumping was a little bit dead today along with tired horses.”
Burton said he didn’t think he would lead from the outset adding: “On Wednesday I walked up Winners Avenue and saw all these old boys names there, and thought how amazing it would be to have your name on a plaque here one day.”
Five time winner Andrew Nicholson finished the competition in second with Nereo, a horse whom he has a real soft spot for. Third after dressage, the New Zealander moved up one spot with one rail down and two time penalties.
He said: “I’m very proud of him. He’s getting on a little bit now and it’s the third time he has been second here. It’s one of the few places he feels like he doesn’t really enjoy going around the terrain. The up and down of the course is quite hard for him as he takes a very big stride. But he still does it – he does what he has to do.”
Jonelle Price rose from 22nd after the dressage to round out the top three with her super mare Classic Moet, with just four faults in the final phase. Afterwards she said she had spent the past couple of days trying the dig herself out of a hole following the dressage.
“Right from the dressage and then when I took the long route out of the Dairy Mound I thought I was in a right hole after that,” she said. “But we’ve managed to stay in the competition and claw our way back. I’m delighted to be in the top three.”
Of the show jumping she commented: “I think it was perhaps a bit more technical than we have seen here for the past few years. The terrain cross country day is always influential and you really noticed it perhaps with the top end those who have gone faster perhaps than the rest of the field. I thought the horses came out well this morning and looked really good. I think it was just more of a difficult track.”
The best British finisher was Oliver Townend. With Samuel Thomas II he produced one of the very few clear rounds – there were only five in total – to finish in seventh, having been 42nd following the first phase.
Christina Cook was the only other British rider to finish inside the top 10 on Star Witness. Having been 40th after the dressage they finished in 10th with just four faults in the show jumping.
Becky Woolven and Charlton Down River Dance finished the competition in 19th position, being the highest placed first time rider at the event. At the first horse inspection, she also won the the Horse Care Award, with Harriet Waldron grooming for her.
A delighted Becky commented: “I feel he tried really hard and he jumped really well. We were just unlucky on a couple of them and didn’t get high enough. But I couldn’t be disappointed with the way he came out in that arena. There’s so much to look at and he’s only ten – he hasn’t seen anything like this before and it’s a lot to take in. It’s been totally amazing.”
Beckys horse will now have a holiday but she is aiming to get to Badminton next spring adding: “It’s a dream to come here. But Badminton is local so we would love to get there.”
Of his show jumping course Richard Jeffery said he felt the footing did have an influence. He commented: “I think it is interesting that the cross country courses are getting more technical, dressage is getting lower scores and I think show jumping has to stay with it. When we built the course it was very wet and holding and this morning we came in and walked it, it was in between. We were very generous with the time as we didn’t want the horses slipping. But when the first three horses went we felt we could have done with tightening up the time a little bit. I don’t look at how many clear rounds I have but how many people have moved because that’s the influence.”
The competition also incorporated an International Pairs Challenge, and this was won by Christopher Burton and Louise Harwood.
Of the 2016 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, Event Director Elizabeth Inman commented: “I think it’s been a fantastic event. As Christopher (Burton) said it’s fun when the sun comes out but qasn’t quite such fun yesterday (Saturday cross country). But it’s a challenging four days and I think we had a very successful event.”