Townend sets the pace at Burghley

Sarah Carless ..

British riders dominated the on the first day of dressage at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, holding the top five positions.

First in front of the Ground Jury with the first of his three rides, last year’s champion Oliver Townend set the pace piloting MHS King Joules through a smooth test for a score of 27.7.

“I’m happy enough with that,” said the current FEI World Number One. “It’s always tough being first out but with three horses competing it’s to be expected. I’ve got no complaints – his test was pretty much mistake free and I was happy with his behaviour and how he stayed with me.” If MHS King Joules can stay on his dressage score of 27.2 I’ll be happy. Burghley is always very big but it’s as big as it’s been, in terms of dimensions, as I’ve seen it. I think it will be stamina sapping for the horses as there are three big hills and no real breathers. It will be tough.”

Second place changed hands rapidly in the afternoon session. Last year’s runner up Piggy French and Vanir Kamira took the position from New Zealander Mark Todd and NZB Campino with a score of 29.9 only to be pushed down by Harry Meade with Away Cruising. With some high-flying antics in the First Horse inspection Meade produced a calm test with Charlotte Opperman’s 11-year-old grey gelding for a score of 29.5.

Sarah Bullimore and Reve Du Rouet then came closest to Townend scoring 27.3. This is the fourth visit to Burghley for the experience pair, who have a best placing of 19that the event in 2014. Afterwards she said: “I’m really chuffed. He’s genuinely scared of the crowds so he was fabulous.”


Meade, who finished 15th last year, ended the day in third. Of Away Cruising he commented; “I’m delighted with him. I’ve felt all season that he was on the path to putting in a good test and today was a good day to execute our plan.”

At the end of the day, there were seven British riders in the top ten placings with this group of riders covered by 5.2 penalties. The highest placed non-British rider in the top ten is former winner Mark Todd with NZB Campino. Despite an error of course, the New Zealander scored 30.8 to lie in sixth place overnight.

Julie Tew and Simply Sox are the highest placed first-time combination at the end of the first day in equal eight place.

It has been an incredible journey for Tew, who is based near Cheltenham; She suffered a major setback when a tumour was discovered growing into her spinal cord which meant she had to take a back-seat for a number of years while the problem was successful treated.

“I can’t tell you how emotional it is being here,” admitted the 44-year-old. “I’ve been to virtually every event in the UK and Europe but never Burghley – it’s crazy. Sox has been difficult to manage over the years with a number of silly injuries and I’ve really suffered with pain in my back and legs over the last couple of years from when I had a tumour removed from my spine 18 years ago, so to be here is amazing.”

Another first-timer who had a good day was Tom Rowland who finished the day in 11th with Possible Mission on a score of 32.8.

He said; “I’m trying to treat it like any other event. The horse has done plenty of three-stars and he doesn’t know that this is different Sometimes he can be more Mission Impossible than Possible Mission, but I have had a lot of help from Pammy Hutton and he felt great in there. The crowd’s applause for Sarah Bullimore’s test really lifted him.”

Irish rider Ciaran Glynn and November Night will be the first combination before the Ground Jury tomorrow morning at 9.30am.

Images Courtesy of Tanzy Le

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