Ruth Gregory reports …
Following the disappointing loss of Blenheim Palace International this Autumn, Burnham Market was handed the honour of hosting its first CCI4*-L. With it being the only 4* long format class to run on UK soil in 2020 and the cancellation of Badminton and Burghley, it was the most prestigious event on the British eventing calendar. Its established short format competition is well known for proving to be a tough cross-country test with only 15 clears inside the time in 15 years of competition. So, all eyes were on course designer Alec Lochore and how he would decide to challenge the starstruck field of 97 starters.
There was certainly no monkey business from Izzy Taylor and Monkeying Around as they led from start to finish to be the first CCI4*-L winners of Burnham Market. The nine-year-old gelding who’s owned by Mark Sartori, put in a faultless performance to finish on a score of 23.2. A double celebration for Team Taylor as it was also Izzy’s lowest ever finishing score CCI4*-L taking her tally at this level to five.
“ I know he’s a good jumper but any horse can have a fence down. He’s a huge character, very cheeky but actually likes being good and my hopes for him paid off this weekend,” said Izzy.
Their win is a real stamp for the future for British team selectors looking ahead to the preponed Tokyo Olympics as they did battle with the crème de le crème of British partnerships.
As expected, Friday night’s standings were close with no margin for error going into the jumping phases. Piggy March had a strong hand by lying in equal second with her two newbies this season; Dargun and Fonbherna Lancer. However, the 2019 Badminton winner decided to save the two experienced partners for another day and withdrew before cross-country.
This enabled Nicola Wilson and Italy’s Vittoria Panizzon to move up the order going into cross-country day. As expected, the course was testing but under the current situation Alec was fair on his competitors to give them an honest run. This resulted in 50% of the field finishing clear inside of the time- a stat not often seen in ‘normal’ competition, so much so it was the highest seen at this level since 2010.
Izzy showed yet again why she is known as one of the world’s best cross-country specialists as her and Monkeying Around flew the course to keep a firm hold on top spot going into Sunday’s show jumping. Nicola also held onto second with JL Dublin and had reinforcements in the European bronze medallist Bulana being in fifth. With Vittoria Panizzon and Cheques Play the Game making up the top three, also being the only non-British representative within the top ten.
It was going to be a nail-biting finish on the Sunday afternoon as faults proved to be very costly with less than a fence separating the last four to jump. Corouet and Sarah Bullimore kept their cool to leave the rails up and put pressure on the others for a podium place. Cheques Play The Game definitely didn’t show he was out of practice, despite it being the long-time campaigner’s first internarial start sine 2018. He and Vittoria jumped a class round to finish nothing shy of third.
The pressure was on and unfortunately Nicola and JL Dublin were unable to match their performance from Burgham by rolling a pole dropping them to tenth and handing Vittoria second place. But she was not disappointed as the ever consistent Bulana left all the fences up to take fourth. Nicola had to cut her season short last year after suffering an serious injury, so her results here as even more significant considering its her first competition back at the level for over a year.
“I’ve enjoyed the last few days enormously. I was injured last year and it so good to be able to ride around a long format course like this.
The final standings spoke for themselves on why Britain are tipped to dominate the future of the sport with nine riders being within the final ten. It is certainly going to be tough for selectors as the young riders showed their capabilities. Yasmin Ingham added to her CCI4*-S victory by finishing sixth with Sandman 7 and eight on her young riders’ partner Rehy DJ. Her fellow young rider teammate Richard Coney was ninth on Kananaskis, a result which came off the back of their win in the OIu21 class at Aston-Le-Walls in July.
Another exciting young rider showing her future potential was Bubby Upton, who was contesting her very first CCI4*-L. She and her 2019 silver European medal winner Cola III put in an eye-catching performance to be within the final ten going into show jumping. However, they rolled two poled to finish a very respectable 27th on their debut.