Sarah Carless reports..
There was a new leader at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials following an action-packed day of cross country action.
Overnight leader Mark Todd and Kiltubrid Rhapsody provided the biggest shock of the day when they were eliminated following a fall at Fence 10 – the Ghurka Kukri, one of the easier fences on course. Prior to this the pair had a hairy moment at the Leaf Pit at fence 7 where the grey launched himself off the formidable drop, almost unseating his rider. Thankfully Todd had a better time on NZB Campino. Second to go this morning, this pair collected 14.8 time penalties to sit 19th.
This left the door open for a new leader. And Tim Price stepped forward on the experienced Ringwood Sky Boy to head the field going into the final phase. This combination has been second and fifth here in the past and their round was the epitome of judgement, control and composure.
They were just one second over the optimum time to finish on a score of 27.3. His lead is narrow one however, as just 0.6 penalties separate first and second with one fence down covering the top four riders.
The New Zealander admitted that his first ride on Bango had set him up for this round commenting: “On this occasion, and it is not always the case, I felt my first ride helped me a lot just to settle my nerves and calm me for the day. It gave me a feel of the ground and the jumps – that it was jumpable and I think it was an advantage today.”
Of Ringwood Sky Boy’s round, he commented: I’m just really happy. He’s not a fast horse by speed but I have to jump the jumps first with him; sometimes he’s been a bit disorganised but I have learnt how to ride him. I just wanted to do as good a job as possible and not really think about the clock.”
Price is also 17th with Bango with a score of 41.3, having added 9.2 time faults to their dressage score.
Heading out as the last combination of the day, defending champions Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class posted the fasted round of the day – 11 minutes and three seconds – to put himself into second place ahead of the final show jumping phase on a score of 27.9.
Of Ballaghmor Class he said: “After the first two rides I thought we’re going to be struggling today. I never thought he’d get the time as the terrain is extremely testing but he dug really deep for me. For him to open his stride – he’s by the same sire as Time (Price) horse and like his horse he isn’t the quickest on his feet but he has a huge stride and I just tried to open him up as much as possible as early as possible and stay in gear.”
Townend has all three of his rides in the top 15 at the end of the cross-country phase. First out was MHS King Joules, third after dressage. They set a good standard, finishing 26 seconds over the time for 10.4 penalties to finish in tenth. He had taken the long route at the Leaf Pit (Fence 7), a decision made ahead of time, with Townend explaining: “He can jump down drops rather oddly and then run on, so I was never going to go straight there. King Joules is probably the strongest horse I have ever ridden and he tried to take a hold for the first three minutes, but I couldn’t be happier with him – he put his head down and jumped everything in front of him.”
His second horse of the day was Cooley SRS, who finished with ten time faults for a score of 39.4 to lie in 13th.
Of his horses’ performances he added: “I’m unbelievably happy. It’s a dream day. You could come here and have three of the best horses in the world and not get round. So three for three to jump round clear is very special. It’s a credit to the team at home.”
Piggy French and Vanir Kamira, who were second here last year, finished the day in third. They gave hope that the optimum time could be achievable adding just 1.2 time penalties for a score of 31.1.
French commented: “I knew coming here that I had a Burghley horse because she ran here so well last year. It’s nice to have that confidence that she can do it. She’s a fabulous little mare. You could strap a monkey on her back across country and she’d keep going. My main job is to keep her balanced. I’m kicking myself for picking up the time penalties though as she finished full of running but I felt I had to give her time earlier on in the course to fill her lungs after going up the hills.”
Harry Meade finished on the same score as French but lies in fourth by virtue of the fact he was just one second slower than French. “He enjoyed it the whole way round,” said Meade, whose father Richard won here in 1964. “He didn’t stay the distance last year so my mission today was to save every second I could. In hindsight I could have asked him for a bit more as he finished strongly.”
Of the 68 cross country starters – two withdrew before competition got under way; Lissa Green and Hollyfield II and Simon Grieve and Douglas – only four made the optimum time.
The first of these was Tina Cook and Star Witness who jumped an incredible 50 places; they were in 62ndafter the dressage but leapt to 12thwith a fast-clear round. Elizabeth Power and Soladoun also jumped up the leader board from 37thto seventh. Andrew Nicholson (Swallow Springs) and Oliver Townend (Ballaghmor Class) were the others to make the time. There were also 35 clear rounds with x eliminations and x retirees.
Of the course, Course Designer Captain Mark Phillips commented: “The time was really a factor. I honestly thought nobody would get inside the time and up until Piggy went it looked like it was going to be really difficult. As it turned out we saw some world class riding and class horses. It was fantastic to see. What pleased me was the number of people who jumped round clear, and there were a lot of people who I didn’t think would get around but they must have ridden with their head and been sensible in taking some of the longer options; it was fantastic to see so many people getting round Burghley without jumping faults. The cross country had a real influence on the result and turned it upside down.”
Images Courtesy of Tanzy Lee