Sonia Chapman reports ..
All eyes were on Burnham market over the weekend, as the first “Big B” event to take place this year and the only one until Bicton in June. With Olympic and European selection potentially in the offering and opportunities to prove one’s form limited; this was always due to be an exciting weekend. With the selection process always having that slight air of mystery about it, however this year must have the selectors scratching their heads already with potentially two teams to pick. For example, Oliver Townend who has won a four-star short at Burnham Market every year for what seems like the last 30 years, has taken the decision to run his top horses / Olympic hopefuls at Kentucky five star. Tom McEwen chose not to enter Toledeo de Kerser and Laura Collett swept the board in the dressage and showjumping but chose to save her horses for goals later in the season. Despite these observations this was a very exciting competition with the lead changing and a challenging cross-country course to be attacked and completed.
As forementioned, Laura Collett who for a long time has been regarded as a highly proficient dressage rider lead both four-star sections with London 52 and Mr Bass, while third ride Dacapo slipped into second behind Mr Bass. Laura followed this up by jumping three beautiful clear rounds in the show jumping, but then chose to withdraw due to the unnaturally dry ground already in April. This then opened the door for it to become the Piggy and Kitty show, with both riders taking a section and second place a piece. The interesting point to note here is that both riders winning rides are currently not qualified for the Olympics or Europeans. Cristal Fontaine, Kitty Kings precious 9 year old, is probably considered too young for an Olympics but expect some more good results from this classy combination. Piggy March and Dargun, have manged to turn nearly every class they enter into a win. However, this horse has had some management issues in the past and in fact with previous rider Emily King travelled to the 2016 young rider Europeans in Montelibretti but was then unable to compete due to travel sickness, so even if qualified would the selectors take the risk with a trip to Tokoyo? Dargun won section C by finishing on his dressage score and Piggy stated it was the first time that she felt there partnership could be competitive at this level, so does this not include there second place at Little Downham four star last autumn? Kitty King and Vendredi Biats showed that they are back on form after a blip at the end of last season, by gaining second place. Izzy Taylor and Monkeying Around dropped to third after a pole in the showjumping, but did make the time cross country. This combination seem to be gaining more consistency at this level and at only 10 years old must be in the back of the selectors minds, but maybe for the Europeans. Tom Jackson continues to pick up good results with a 6th place on Fire Fly in this section, plus 4th and 5th place in Section B on Capels Hollow Drift and Billy Cuckoo respectively. Section B saw Cristal Fontaine and Kitty, head Piggy and still reigning Badminton champion Vanir Kamira. Tilly only gets to run fast at 3 days normally due to be very hot in the brain, but with no spring 3 day to aim for it was her opportunity to be competive, Tilly will now be kept ticking over with hopefully a run at Burghley the aim for the autumn. Gemma Tattersall and the consistent Chilli Knight gained third place, with a great double clear. This horse is really consistent in the jumping and could be thought of as maybe the new Over to You or Opposition Buzz as pathfinder for the British team, with Gemma working on his dressage all the time.
Burnham has a tradition of having tough showjumping and cross country tracks, with this year being no exception. The intermediate class cross country was exactly the same track as the three-star short while the advanced was the same as the four star short. Which could attribute to the fact that cross country statics were approximately 73% clear in the four star and three star, but the advanced only had 59% clear cross country with the intermediate at 71%. In the advanced and four star the influential fences were the sundials through the quarry and the tricky line to the corner out of the water. While the frangible pin was activated a couple of times on the jump in the water. Even Piggy French and Brookfield Inocent, were caught out at the corner, although Piggy stated that it was a good kick up the backside for later in the season to concentrate more and remember that the horse can be very spooky and times, while also being brilliant.
Tim Price and Sue Bensons Falco IV aced the advanced class being one of only 2 inside the time cross country, after producing the best dressage score in the section. Falco is an extremely classy jumper who Tim has been quietly producing through the levels, but who has been slightly unlucky when on track for great result previously so best of the luck for the rest of the season. Tim also picked up an 8th place on new ride Vitali who is apparently “an absolute pleasure to ride in all three phases”, this is a combination to watch out for. Piggy March again featured high in this section finishing second on Brookfield Quality, it was interesting listening to Piggy explain that Brookfield Quality does not like horses close to him and the dust in the dressage warm up also upset him. So, Piggy took the sensible decision to just warm up the muscles, trust that the horse knows the movements and then got down to the arena as soon as possible to allow a couple of rounds around the arena to get into mode. This approach then produced a 29.6 which just shows that you have to work with what you can at that moment in time. Pippa Funnell and Maybach finished third, with young rider Heidi Coy and Halenza finsihgin fourth. Tom Mcewen and Dream Big were the only other pair to obtain the cross country time to finish 6th in the combination first advanced.
Oliver Townend may have allowed someone else to win the four star short, for this year only. However he and the classy seven year old Cooley Rosalent claimed the Three star short, expect to see this mare make a return to Le Lion this year. Young Rider Daisy Proctor picked up second and 10th respectively on Quarry Man and CDS LU CA. Gemma Tattersall and new ride Flash Cooley, who was produced by Liz Halliday Sharp claimed 5th place. With Georgie Spence nearly gaining 2 spots in the top ten, but had to settled for 8th (Fanta Boy) and 11th (Feloupe). What a great result for a 6 week partnership with Fanta Boy. Gaspard Maksud and Zaragoza II continued there consistent run of results with a 7th.
Piggy March topped the leader board again in the open intermediate on I Diablo Joe, who aced the dressage with a 20 enabling a win by some 11 points even with a pole and sometime penalties cross country. This section saw the return to competition of Gemma Tattersall and the ERA Lignieres winner from 2019 Jalapeno after an injury picked up at Pau 2019, Jala was apparently “dreamy” to ride.
Flora Harris was the Classy rider in the novice sections, picking up two sections on Class Spec and Class Vista respectively.
Aoife Clarke and Dondarrion made it 2 in a row with a win in Intermediate section M, after a win at Aston a few weeks earlier. Aoife has owned Diego since he was 3 and is now 8, although lacking mileage and experience apparently he feels the real deal and finds everything very easy.
Images courtesy of Eventing Focus