Sarah Wells- Gaston ..
“Obviously you don’t set out to see only half the field finish. You like to see a lot more finish. This is Burghley. It’s big, you have to ride forward. We had a weakened field. And it showed. I don’t feel I made it too hard but I would have liked to have seen more people finish. People want Burghley to be Burghley and it was.”
This was how Course Designer Captain Mark Phillips summed up the cross country day at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.
As predicted by riders, the cross country course had a huge impact on the standings. And whilst there was a massive shake up of the field, dressage leader Pippa Funnell gave MGH Grafton Street a world class round to maintain her lead going into the final day. Finishing 10 seconds over the optimum time, she has a two phase score of 26.8.
Funnell, who last won at Burghley in 2003, commented: “I walked the track and had a good feeling about the track. I did think it was a whopper – dimensionally it was probably one of the biggest five star tracks I have ever seen. You had to stay focused and brave. It was MGH Grafton Street’a first time (at this level) and I fully admit it may not have been the prettiest of rounds and I just had to stay on what I was feeling. I think it was a fair course but it jumped every bit as big as it walked.”
Funnell has no room for manoeuvre ahead of tomorrow’s show jumping as two team mates from last week’s European Championships are hot on her heels.
Piggy French is just 0.1 penalties behind Funnell on a score of 26.9. With her Badminton winner Vanir Kamira, the pair were the only combination to come home under the optimum time of 11 minutes and 14 seconds to finish on their dressage score.
She commented; “The course rode as big as it walked I thought this time is going to be very hard. I’m very lucky that my horse has got the experience. I’ve never made the time before but she is a real trier.”
With his 2017 Burghley champion Ballaghmor Class, Oliver Townend found himself in third place on a score of 27.3. They finished five seconds over the optimum time. But Townend feels the horse is made for Burghley, commenting: “We know what he is capable of and we’re not going into the unknown anymore. So there’s more pressure on me to give him a nice ride at every fence. I thought he jumped fantastically today and I was happy with the ride I gave him. It’s probably the nicest round I’ve had on him at Burghley. He just feels like he is getting better and better. It feels like he is made for Burghley.”
How the day unfolded
First out on the course was defending champion Tim Price with the first of his three rides Bango. The pair came home clear, albeit with 12 time penalties.
Sweden’s Ludwig Svennerstall held the lead for a long time with his first ride Stinger, who picked up just six time penalties. He commented: “It’s a true challenge. The fences are amazingly built and very fair, but a test for the rider to ride the correct lines. Last year I set out a bit quick, so started a little slower this year and he felt nice and fresh at the end.” With his second ride Balham Mist, Svennerstal was eliminated at Joules at the Maltings (Fence 13).
Gemma Tattersall was a surprise faller from the experienced Arctic Soul – the first of two rides. The horse misread the corner at Joules at the Maltings (Fence 13), coming to an abrupt stop whilst Gemma continued over the fence. With her second ride, Santiago Bay – who was competing at CCI5*-L for the first time – she finished 28 seconds over the optimum time and ended the day in sixth on a score of 41.1.
Thursday’s dressage leaders Eliza Stoddart and Priorspark Opposition Free had a day to forget. The pair suffered a run out at the Rolex Grand Slam Triple Brush (Fence 6), a broken frangible pin at the Discovery Valley corner (Fence 8b), before suffering a horse fall at the first gate at Land Rover at the Lake (Fence 16).
Andrea Baxter was in 46th after the dressage, but was one of a number of riders who rocketed up the leader board. She ended the day in 13th on a score of 56.8.
Sarah Bullimore and Reve Du Rouet finished the day in fifth with a score of 39.6, adding ten time faults to the dressage score. Bullimore had originally been given 15 penalties for missing a flag at the Clarence Court (Fence 20) but these were later removed on review.
Imogen Murray and Ivar Gooden stormed an incredible 52 places up the leader board to lie in eighth after the cross country on 44.4.
On his second ride, Xavier Faer, Tim Price retired after issues at the Trout Hatchery (Fences 10, 11). Jonelle Price, who was held on course, also called it a day with Faerie Dianimo after braking a frangible pin at the Trout Hatchery (Fence 10, 11) And with defending champion Ringwood Sky Boy Tim tripped entering the water at the Lion Bridge close to the end of the course, and were sadly eliminated.
In all, there were 20 eliminations and 11 retirements. Pippa Funnell and Georgie Spence withdrew Billy Walk On and Wii Limbo before the cross-country, and Michael Owen decided to withdraw Jims Pal after a refusal with his first ride Bradeley Law.
Of those who started 23 completed with no jumping penalties. Of those who finished, six were penalised for frangible pin activations.
And 31 will currently come before the ground jury for the final horse inspection tomorrow morning.
How did the first timers fair?
The top 20 is littered with first time riders who have the cross country rounds of their lives.
Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan were 48th after the dressage, yet they are now in 12th with a score of 53.7. Fellow American Elizabeth Halliday-Sharpe and Deniro Z collected 34.4 time faults and now lie in 15th.
Arthur Chabert and Goldsmiths Imber accumulated 23.3 time faults and have a two phase score of 62.9 and they lie in 16th.
Alicia Hawker and Charles RR finished the day in 17th with a two day score of 64.1.
Images courtesy of Hannah Cole