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Friday Video and UK Notes from World Equestrian Brands: Meet Ros Canter, Our New World Champion

You did it, Ros! Photo by Leslie Wylie.

We’ve all had nearly a week to recover from the excitement of the WEG eventing, but I know I’m not alone in periodically getting hit by the warm-and-fuzzies all over again — Ros Canter’s face when she realised she was World Champion! The Irish team’s long-awaited podium finish! The hugs, the tears, the horses who made it all happen! Dickie Waygood quietly murmuring ‘BOOM’ at his tiny protege, which isn’t a euphemism, but I appreciate that it sounds a bit like one. I’m a bit of an emotional wreck about eventing at the best of times but honestly, blub city over here.

Like the rest of the EN team, I’ve been enjoying watching some of the other disciplines this week, from cavorting-in-style (um, vaulting) to the seriously exciting showjumping. Mainly, if I’m honest, because I am OBSESSED with Danielle Goldstein‘s hair. She is an actual bird of paradise, and her feisty chestnut mare Lizziemary is game and gutsy and I. Am. Here. For. It.

UK Weekend Preview

Events Opening this Weekend

  • 21st: Aston-le-Walls (5) – BE80N – [EnterNorthamptonshire (October 26-27)
  • 21st: Horseheath (3) – BE80-BE105 – [EnterCambridgeshire (October 27-28)

Events Balloting this Weekend

  • 22nd: Broadway (2) – BE80-N – [EnterWorcestershire (October 13-14)

Friday Video: Go Behind-the-Scenes with Ros Canter

Softly-spoken, fiercely determined, and possessing an enormous work ethic that belies her tiny stature, World Champion Ros Canter is a new name to many eventing fans. But the 32-year-old, who has been, perhaps, Great Britain’s best-kept-secret, isn’t lacking in experience or time spent logging essential riding and competing hours. Take a look into life behind the scenes with Ros, her trainer and owner of Allstar B Caroline Moore, and the team behind them, and enjoy a snippet of what goes into producing the performance of a lifetime in this video from Team GB Equestrian. We’re willing to bet you’re going to love Ros, with her endless gratitude, graceful riding, and unabashed love for her horse, as much as we do.

Blenheim CCI3*: Bella Innes Ker Lands the Biggest Win of her Career

Bella Innes Ker and Carolyn. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

“I said that I was speechless yesterday, but today really is a complete dream come true,” said a delighted Bella Innes Ker in the collecting ring as all around her, the frantic scurry of prizegiving prep whirled around her. A moment later, runner-up William Fox-Pitt appeared and threw an arm around her.

“Absolutely brilliant, wasn’t she — and she’s only 24!”

As quickly as he’d appeared he was gone again, swallowed up by the hubbub, but the smile on Bella’s face was even bigger than it had been before. And who can blame her? Her victory in Blenheim’s CCI3* wasn’t just the biggest of her career — her previous best was fourth in last month’s Blair Castle CIC3* — it was also an incredible victory in its own right, with a colossal field of 101 horse-and-rider combinations vying for the title at the UK’s foremost autumn event.

Young guns blazing: Bella Innes Ker and Carolyn take the Blenheim CCI3*. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

To win is one thing, but to lead from start to finish is another beast entirely, and that’s exactly what Bella and Carolyn, owned by Bella’s mother, the Duchess of Roxburghe, did. Together, they posted a 24.4 dressage — a personal best at the three-star level, and equal to their personal best across all levels — proving that their upswing in scores this season has been no fluke.

Bella Innes Ker and Carolyn. Photo by Adam Fanthorpe.

The ‘dressage diva’, known at home as Princess, might have all the sparkle (and occasional sass) of royalty, but the young rider and her horse have grown up together over their seven year partnership, and Bella has learned the ins-and-outs of the fourteen-year-old Carolyn.

“Sometimes it’s her way or the highway, but I’ve learned how to do things her way. If I please her and do it by her system, then she’s great,” she said.

A dream come true: Bella Innes Ker and Carolyn hold the lead in the CCI3*. Photo by Adam Fanthorpe.

Saturday was always going to be a big test over David Evans‘ huge track, but for Bella and Carolyn, who had never yet made the time in a CCI, the pressure was on to maintain their lead. They did exactly that, romping home exactly on the optimum time to lead without a pole to spare on the final day.

Though some had lamented the fact that the cross-country phase had been perhaps less influential than in previous years, Di Boddy‘s showjumping test more than made up for it. The time was tight and the fences were up-to-height, with related distances and combinations that didn’t allow for a moment of lost focus. As the poles started to tumble, Bella suddenly found herself with a fence in hand as she entered the ring.

As it turned out, she’d need it — the pair added four penalties but, as they landed over the last, the pin-drop-quiet crowd erupted and Bella’s elation was writ large in a beaming grin and a celebratory fist-pump. They’d done it.

“I’m thrilled for the whole team,” she said, extricating herself from a mass of well-wishers. “Carolyn has done her best all week, and has outdone every expectation, and I knew I just had to keep my cool in there. She’s one in a million, she really is — she’s a wonder horse. She’s a quirky little thing, and I’ve probably fallen off her more times that not, so it’s amazing to do this together after the journey we’ve had.”

Bella Innes-Ker and Carolyn. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Bella admitted that she’d taken a moment to dream earlier in the week, when she spotted one of the prizes on offer for the eventual winner.

“I looked at the winners’ rug on Thursday and wondered if I’d ever get my hands on it,” she said. “Now it’s mine!”

It was a fitting end to Bella’s time in the UK — she heads to Ireland to start a new job on an eventing yard this autumn. But there was one person missing when her big moment came: “The one person I’m gutted for is Gill Buckley, who’s been with me for nine years, but couldn’t be here as she had a baby last week.”

With a CCI3* victory under her belt and the blank slate of a new home and new job awaiting her, what’s next for Bella?

“We’re going to regroup and maybe think about Badminton in the spring — it’s scary to even say it!” she laughed.

William Fox-Pitt and Oratorio rise to the top. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

“It was all very jolly, wasn’t it — it was my lucky day!” said William Fox-Pitt, who finished second on Oratorio. They added nothing to their dressage score of 28.7 to climb from an initial fifth place, and the tricky but talented young horse proved what he was made of throughout the week.

“I certainly came here hopeful of being up there, especially after he showed us at Bramham that he’s competitive, but when it’s a competitive field full of top four-star horses like Ceylor LAN and Zagreb, you sort of think the writing’s on the wall.”

Although their first-phase mark wasn’t quite what William had hoped for, the takeaways for the horse’s ongoing education were exactly what he’d hoped they would be.

“I was a bit disappointed after dressage — he can be quite flash, but it was just a bit lacking,” he said. But on the cross-country course? “He’s absolutely blood, and he doesn’t know the meaning of ‘hard’ in any phase, on any day, ever. It’s exhausting at my age — I’m quite looking forward to the day when he says, ‘right, okay, let’s go onto the bridle a bit now!’ At my age, I quite like them to purr around a bit, but he’s a double handful. Sometimes the ‘woah’ can take 25 strides!”

William Fox-Pitt and Oratorio. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

Brimming with an enthusiasm only matched by his undeniable scope and talent, Oratorio finished Saturday’s test looking as well as he’d started, and he didn’t disappoint on the final day, either.

“He’s come out so well — dare I say, he’s a tough old chap. He doesn’t jump like [his sire, four-star winner] Oslo, but he gallops better. He’s got that go in him, and he’s a bit of a fighter, but when you go in before Pippa and Oliver, you don’t expect to climb — you just hope not to fall down the leaderboard.”

A Badminton campaign could be next on the cards for Oratorio, who will be aimed either at the spring feature or at Luhmühlen for his debut.

“We’ll work this winter on a bit of control and beauty. He’s never sorry or fragile — he’s just class, although the showjumping has always been his weaker link. I said to his owners that a clear round would come, he just won’t purr.”

Alex Bragg and Zagreb complete a successful post-Burghley campaign. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

Alex Bragg and Zagreb posted a pleasing result in their Burghley reroute, finishing on their dressage score of 29.6 and rising from 9th to 3rd place.

“The aim was to come in the top three, but I didn’t think we’d done enough on the first day,” admitted Alex. “I think the time being tight in the showjumping made up for the cross country, though.”

The fourteen-year-old gelding is well-established at the top levels now, but after an early fall at Burghley, Alex was doubly pleased with how Zagreb, known at home as Rhett, went.

“He’s feeling so well being here — he was jumping around in the trot-up and very lively in the dressage, and for a fourteen-year-old horse to feel that well is something special.”

Alex Bragg produces the results on up-and-comer Barrichello, who he took over this spring. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

Alex also finished ninth with new ride Barrichello, owned by Sarah Hughes. They rose from 17th after the dressage, cementing a developing partnership throughout the week and adding just two time penalties in the final phase to their 30.9 dressage score.

“I’m really pleased with him. He really showed his class, and those clear rounds are what it’s all about.”

Fourth place went to Selina Milnes, whose long-strided, plucky Iron IV had captured everyone’s attention the day before. They finished on their dressage score of 30.2.

“It’s all just gone to plan, to be honest — I’d have liked to get into the top ten, but I honestly didn’t think we’d be this high up!”

Kitty King and Vendredi Biats. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

Kitty King‘s week might have ended early with her Olympic mount Ceylor L A N, who refused at the B element of fence four on Saturday and was retired, but redemption came in the form of a fifth-place finish with Vendredi Biats, who picked up 20 penalties here in 2017. Below them, Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street relinquished their grasp on second place with a single pole that saw them finish sixth, and seventh place went to Emily Philp and Camembert, who recorded their 21st consecutive clear round over the poles in an international competition and rounded out a fantastic autumn campaign, which also saw them finish on the podium in Blair Castle’s ERM finale.

Emily Philp and Camembert prove their worth once again. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

Franky Reid-Warrilow, a former winner of the Mark Todd Bridging the Gap scholarship, which helps talented riders transition from the young rider programme into senior competition, finished 8th with Dolley Whisper after a steady climb from 20th in the first phase. Australia’s Amanda Ross and her Koko Popping Candy rounded out the top ten and made the only non-British appearance in the upper echelons of the class — an exciting finish to the competition for the pair who travelled over as first reserves for Australia’s WEG team.

And that’s a wrap on what has been one heck of a week for eventing fans the world over — I’m off to  rewatch the final five minutes of the WEG showjumping on an endless loop while quietly and happily sobbing into a bucket of gin (no tonic, in true Tryon fashion). Catch you all at the next one — in the meantime, Go Eventing!

Blenheim Palace: WebsiteStart Times & ScoringEN’s CoverageEN’s TwitterEN’s Instagram

Balancing the Lows with the Highs: Laura Collett and London 52 Take Blenheim CIC3*

Laura Collett and London 52 take top honours in the eight- and nine-year-old CIC3*. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

It’s been one hell of a season for Laura Collett, and in more ways than one: second in the Event Rider Masters series standings, a win at Houghton CICO3*, third at Haras du Pin CICO3*, and second at Luhmühlen’s CCI4* with Mr Bass, and top 10 placings at ERM legs at Chatsworth, Arville, Barbury and Blair makes for an enviable list of accomplishments by anyone’s standards. But when the World Equestrian Games team was announced last month, she and Mr Bass hadn’t made the cut, and the disappointment was staggering for Laura.

It’s a funny old sport, this, with its endless peaks and troughs, emotional buoyancy tempered by occasional skids along rock bottom. Had Laura gone to WEG, she may well have produced one of the phenomenal efforts we saw from the team yesterday. She may have finished well in the hunt for a medal, sitting out Sunday in anticipation of the biggest moment of her career thus far. Or, it could have gone the other way — perhaps, despite a brilliant form line, she might have had the sort of wobble that pushed the likes of Julia Krajewski, Sandra Auffarth and Boyd Martin out of contention. The what-ifs are endless, tantalising and damning, but one thing’s for certain: if Laura Collett had gone to Tryon, she wouldn’t have won at Blenheim.

Laura Collett and London 52. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The eight- and nine-year-old CIC3* at the SsangYong Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials is one of the most coveted CIC titles in the world. It’s bold, it’s beautifully presented, and its statistics are astonishing: since its inception in 2009, its victors have gone on to win four CCI4*s, often in the very next year.  To win here is to begin to feel very safe in the knowledge that the young talent you’re sitting on is going to be something very, very special.

Laura Collett and London 52 take top honours in the Blenheim eight- and nine-year-old CIC3*. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

London 52, owned by Laura, Karen Bartlett and Keith Scott, has certainly been special so far. He stepped up to three-star at the beginning of the 2018 after several very good results at two-star in 2017, including second place finishes at both Ballindenisk and Millstreet. In May of this year he had never even run at Advanced; in the months since he’s finished second in the Event Rider Masters CIC3* at Arville, 11th in the Jardy leg, and 8th in the series finale at Blair, despite testing conditions and a technical course that proved testing for more mature horses. Today, he added just 0.4 time penalties to his dressage score of 27.5 to take the win.

“It’s scary how easy he finds everything,” said a delighted — and slightly breathless — Laura. “He’s pure class, and he always has been. He’s been a bit tricky in his brain, but that’s just because he’s so talented — he stepped up the levels so quickly that he never really had much time to think about it.”

Laura found the nine-year-old by Landos when she went to Peter Thompson’s yard to look for a cheap resale project. Instead, she found the 16.3hh London 52, who bowled her over with his obvious talent. The then-seven-year-old had never evented, but had experience showjumping at the 1.30m level. In mid-2016, he made his eventing debut, and the quick ascent up the levels began.

“It’s yet another young horse I don’t want to get rid of — I’ve got no business brain in me, but I love to find the good ones,” she laughed. That formidable talent — and its accompanying quirks — took some time to hone, but Laura has evidently found the key to getting the best out of ‘Dan’.

“Now, when I say ‘go’, he says ‘okay’, rather than doubting me. He’s not that blood, but he really covers the ground — sometimes he scares me with how quick he’s able to gallop. I have to shorten him and set him up more, and give him that extra time to assess the situation, but he just finds it all so easy. The scary thing is how much more there is to come from him.”

The win is doubly special because Karen Bartlett has been an integral part of the Blenheim steering committee for many years, though has never had a horse run in the competition herself. All being well, Dan will now head to Boekelo for next month’s CCI3*.

Laura Collett and Dacapo finish third in the CIC3*. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

Laura also finished third on Diana Chappell’s Dacapo, who led after yesterday’s showjumping but added 3.2 time today to slip out of the top position. The Diarado-sired nine-year-old is quite a different ride to his victorious stablemate, but he, too, proved that his debut season at the level has been a productive one.

“He’s as honest as the day is long — as long as he can see the flags then he takes no setting up,” said Laura. “He takes longer than London 52 to get to that top gear, but once he’s there, you can keep motoring.”

Dacapo will finish his season now, as, explains Laura, he requires far more fitness work than his winning stablemate, but his early season plans are yet to be confirmed.

Izzy Taylor climbs with Springpower. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

Time proved a far more influential factor in today’s CIC3* cross country than it had in the CCI3*: where 20 pairs managed to come home clear inside the time yesterday, just one managed it today. That was Izzy Taylor, whose reputation for blazing speed and efficient riding precedes her, and today, we saw her produce the goods on a relatively new face in her string. Springpower, who moved to Izzy’s yard in the latter half of the 2017 season, is “nearly pure blood, with a bit of pony back there somewhere, too — so he’s fast, he’s cheeky, he’s fun, and he reads a fence like a pony does.”

“He’s quick and he travels across the ground very well,” said Izzy. “I’ve had him just over a year, and he’s very much become my horse now.”

The Irish-bred nine-year-old (Power Blade x April Imperator) made his CIC3* debut in this class last year with Izzy, finishing 7th and best of the eight-year-olds. Since then, he’s undergone a learning curve at three-star, with a slow early run at Belton and a CCI3* debut at Bramham in June. A dressage score of 28.7 put them well into the hunt going into the beefy cross-country phase, but it was there that an unravelling occurred: an inexplicable and uncharacteristic horse fall saw them eliminated, and left Izzy puzzling over what had gone wrong.

“It was a bit of an unfortunate fall. He just didn’t quite get his landing gear down — I watched and watched the video, but could never really figure it out.”

Izzy opted not to run the horse thereafter due to the hard ground at the height of the summer season: “but that’s not to say we didn’t do our homework, and I wasn’t worried coming here.”

Any worries would have been unwarranted: Springpower motored confidently across the ground today, cruising across the finish with thirteen seconds to spare and looking as though he’d been Izzy’s ride all along. It was enough to see them finish second on their dressage score of 29.5 — a climb of ten places from the first phase and the only FOD of the class.

Izzy, who also finished 13th with eight-year-old Direct Cassino, runner up at last year’s seven-year-old World Championships, was full of praise for David Evans‘ course, which had to both challenge and nurture a plethora of precociously talented up-and-comers.

“It’s a hard class to build for,” she said. “David always does a good job of using the ground to make us all pay a bit more attention. My eight-year-old was given confidence and finished feeling really well, while the nine-year-old was able to come out and feel more mature and competitive, so it worked for both.”

Richard Jones followed up a career high at Burghley, where he finished 7th, by adding just 0.4 time penalties to his dressage score of 31.7 and finishing 4th with Kilballyboy Bob. The nine-year-old is a half-brother to Burghley mount Alfies Clover — they’re both by the American Thoroughbred Tajraasi — and they share a few pertinent similarities.

“They’re both fast, although this one’s faster,” said Richard of the Sean Beston-bred gelding. “They’re class horses and they want to do the job.”

Richard first saw Kilballyboy Bob as a four-year-old, but turned him down as he thought he’d be too small: “He was gorgeous, though, and I ended up getting him as a just-broke five-year-old. He’s very game and just wants to do his job, so he’s been super easy to train.”

Despite this, Richard had his misgivings about fence 6AB, the Ariat Dew Pond. Contrary to the main, long water obstacle at 11, the Dew Pond featured just a small splash of water, framed by a hanging rail on the entry side and a house at the exit point.

“He used to be a bit ‘watery’, so I thought that would be a real test, more so than the lake, because horses often don’t really like or read those little puddles.”

It proved to be no issue, and, in fact, Kilballyboy Bob caught sight of the crowds bunched around the string and went up a gear.

“He got a bit lit up and little bit on my hand, so I probably lost some time there,” said Richard, ruing the lone second that precluded an FOD.

Vittoria Panizzon and Super Cillious overcome a minor mishap to finish 5th. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

Italy’s Vittoria Panizzon and the British-bred Super Cillious came in five seconds over the optimum time and climbed from 8th to 5th place. This is a second appearance at the level for the nine-year-old (Deans San Ciro Hit x Lady Priscilla), who made his debut at Arville in June but clocked up twenty penalties on course. Today he proved that he’d learned from his experience, but Vittoria’s week wasn’t without its hurdles.

“He had a sore toe on Friday, and I was off competing my youngsters at a one-day event, so my team and the farrier on site worked incredibly hard poulticing and icing him while I was away,” she explained. “He came out yesterday and felt absolutely fine, and then show jumped brilliantly, but I didn’t really get into my rhythm until the second part of the course today because I wanted to make sure he was okay. Otherwise, we should have been inside the time — he has a very good gallop stride and is good up hills, too. But then, my whole season has been a bit like that — good results on the surface, but quite a lot of paddling to make it happen, really.”

Vittoria has produced the horse from a four-year-old, and the qualities that helped him come second in 2013’s four-year-old Championships at Osberton have, she says, been present all along.

“He’s always been very genuine, very straight, and has always looked to stay between the flags. His balance has sometimes been a bit wobbly, but if you can get his head pointed at the flags, he’ll look to go between them. He’s more of a blood type to ride than he actually is on paper, and he’s always tried hard — he can just get a bit cheeky in the dressage, but he’s got enough charm that the judges seem to like him.”

New Zealand’s James Avery adds another promising result to Vitali’s resume. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

Dressage leaders James Avery and Vitali were looking for redemption today after a dropped rein led to a dropped rail in yesterday’s showjumping, knocking them to 7th place. They got it, but only just: a classy clear round with just 2.4 time penalties allowed them to climb a placing and finish 6th, another promising result for the eight-year-old in his first three-star. Last year, he finished in the same position in the World Championships for seven-year-olds, having led the dressage and cross-country, and the confidence with which the Holsteiner gelding tackled his first CIC3* — and, in fact, his first Advanced dimension track — bodes well for the future.

“I’m really pleased. We went out and rode it exactly how I had walked it,” said James, who rides for New Zealand. “There were a few places where he was a bit strong, and I had to take more pulls than I would have liked, but he’s very straight and bold and stays between the flags.”

Pippa Funnell and Maybach record a top ten finish. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

Time penalties saw Pippa Funnell and Maybach slip from 3rd to 7th, while new mother Zara Tindall piloted Class Affair to 8th, from 21st after the first phase. Laura Ritchie-Bland‘s Shadow Evergreen made the most impressive leap up the leaderboard, though — they were 39th after dressage, but a clear show jumping round and just two time penalties across the country saw them finish 9th overall, just above Ben Hobday and his 2017 Le Lion mount Shadow Man II.
The CCI3* wrapped this afternoon with an incredibly tense showjumping phase — we’ll be bringing you the full report soon. In the meantime, go Laura, go London, and Go Eventing!

Blenheim Palace: WebsiteStart Times & ScoringEN’s CoverageEN’s TwitterEN’s Instagram

Saturday at Blenheim: A Long, Slow Pull and a Leaderboard Romance

The Old Guard and the New Head CCI3*

“There’s a first time for everything, isn’t there!” laughed a delighted Bella Innes Ker as she and her longtime partner Carolyn romped home inside the time around Blenheim’s CCI3* to retain the lead — the first time the pair has made the time in a CCI.

A dream come true: Bella Innes Ker and Carolyn hold the lead in the CCI3*. Photo by Adam Fanthorpe.

“It’s a dream come true, especially when you’re in that position,” she said. “I’m slightly beyond words! I was very lucky out there to be on such an awesome horse, and it was a bold, attacking sort of course, which is right up my street.”

David Evans‘ course proved to be much less influential than we’ve seen it in previous years, and 20 of the 95 starters managed to come home clear within the time. Still, it was, as Bella says, big and bold, and required a positive approach to get the job done and to maintain a workable pace on the long, slow pull up its steady inclines.

“We got into the rhythm very early on, and it all came up so nicely,” she explained. “She can be quite heady and strong, but we know each other inside out, so I knew I had to keep my hands down and, as Chris Bartle says, just trust the system. I owe a huge amount of credit to Chris — he’s worked with me to be brave and to stop interfering and checking, which helped us get the time today and will help us in the future, too.”

Pippa Funnell, who remained in second place with MGH Grafton Street, agreed with Bella’s analysis of the course.

“If you go out there and you’re not thinking about getting the time, it doesn’t put you in the right frame of mind,” she said. “You need to ride forward to make these courses ride well at three-days.”

Pippa made the executive decision to cut down on her string of horses this spring, and now campaigns a select group. The change of pace was spearheaded by the sale of Sandman 7 to young rider Yasmin Ingham, a choice that Pippa said was “one of the hardest decisions to make. But now I’ve got this really classy bunch of horses I can focus on, and I’m enjoying it a bit more, so I’m very happy.”

Two years after his Blenheim debut, the Padraig McCarthy-sourced MGH Grafton Street showed his maturity when he and Pippa had a minor blip on course.

“He felt great. He really helped me out at 11 [a wide oxer hedge followed by a timber parallel] — he jumped the hedge lovely, and I thought, ‘right — I’m not going to take a pull back here, I’ll just sit up’, and then he sort of chipped in and put down again, but he really took care of me. I had to hold my mouth and just trust him.”

Oliver Townend brings forward a new star in Ulises. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

A double-clear saw fourth-placed Ulises move up a placing with Oliver Townend, and though the Chatsworth CIC3* has flown under the radar in Oliver’s formidable string of top-level contenders, it was easy to see why Oliver had him on the list as one of his potential Burghley mounts.

“He’s very fast and has endless gallop, like [half-brother] Armada,” said Oliver. “He made it feel very easy; he could have gone round twice. If he comes out of this well, he’ll be ready to step up to CCI4* next spring.”

Any comparison to the great Armada is one that oughtn’t be ignored: Oliver finished second at Badminton in 2014 on the horse, who amassed an incredible number of enviable results at the upper levels with both him and former rider Andrew Nicholson.

William Fox-Pitt and Oratorio. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

William Fox-Pitt was another British rider to move up a notch on the leaderboard, as he and Oratorio made light work of the course, in a season that’s proving to be the making of the tricky horse. William, who first competed at Blenheim in 1990, joked that it was nice to have his ‘old mate’ Pippa Funnell to keep him company in a class full of young faces.

“Isn’t that romantic — Pippa and I right up there on the leaderboard! Most of the field wasn’t even born when I first rode here — I felt like the schoolmaster at the riders’ briefing, I didn’t know anyone’s names or faces! I’m missing so many of my mates here,” he laughed.

Oratorio is brimming with talent, but the nine-year-old, who is one of the four offspring of William’s Pau winner Oslo and out of a friend’s racing mare, doesn’t come without his quirks.

“He’s absolutely blood, and he doesn’t know the meaning of ‘hard’ in any phase, on any day, ever. It’s exhausting at my age — I’m quite looking forward to the day when he says, ‘right, okay, let’s go onto the bridle a bit now!’ At my age, I quite like them to purr around a bit, but he’s a double handful. Sometimes the ‘woah’ can take 25 strides!”

Oratorio went clear inside the time at Bramham’s CCI3* too, finishing eleventh there after knocking two rails on the final day.

“He’s potentially a four-star horse next year, now. In the old days, I’d have taken him to Kentucky without a doubt, but then, the funding was in place and the GB machine was a different beast. Now, there’s no way we could do it ourselves with our own funding. On a day like today, he’d eat Badminton up, so we won’t count it out.”

William had had his doubts about the firm going on arrival at the event, but he praised the ministrations of the team on site for making the going considerably more rideable. Thus, “it was easy — but today was a bit easy, wasn’t it?”

Amanda Ross and Koko Popping Candy. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

Australia’s Amanda Ross moved up to fifth place — and finished the day as the only non-Brit in the top 10 — with a fast clear round aboard her ex-racehorse Koko Popping Candy. The pair were first reserves for the Australian team at WEG, and had planned to mount a British campaign in 2019, when their plans suddenly changed.

“Her owners and I were looking to come over next year with four or five horses for a big campaign — I didn’t want to come just for pre-WEG training if I was going to have to leave those horses behind, but then the selectors called and asked me to get on a plane,” explained Amanda. Although they didn’t get the final call-up, Amanda and the mare, known as Zazzie, were able to benefit from all the team’s training sessions with Gareth Hughes and Nelson Pessoa.

“She spent 40 hours travelling from door to door, and she got off the plane feeling like she’d been plugged into a USB port the entire time,” laughed Amanda. “So we were really able to enjoy those training sessions, and we got a lot out of them, so to aim here was a great alternative.”

Amanda first came over to the UK when she was 19, and admits that a visit to Badminton was “the straw that broke the camel’s back — I saw so much in terms of how things should be done.” In 1998 she was shortlisted for the WEG, and in 2000 she represented Australia at the Sydney Olympics, but a big European campaign is the missing piece in the puzzle. Zazzie will be aimed at a Luhmühlen entry for her first four-star, while Amanda hopes to run the gamut of UK events, including the Event Rider Masters series, in her season here next year. Used to the hard, dry ground of Australia’s eventing circuit, Amanda and her plucky Thoroughbred played to their strengths today.

“William [Fox-Pitt] said to me earlier in the week that the ground is the hardest he’d ever seen — I said, it’s great, I don’t want it any deeper than this!”

Kitty King had a day of mixed fortunes: she finished double-clear with Vendredi Biats, who had a run-out last year, and moved up to sixth place, but the experienced Ceylor L A N ran out at the influential corner at 4B, and she opted to retire.

Alex Bragg and Zagreb. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

Her fellow countryman Alex Bragg must have found himself in similar mixed spirits: his CIC3* mount, Shannondale Percy, dropped from 2nd to 17th after knocking two rails, but both his CCI3* mounts produced double-clears. This moved Burghley re-router Zagreb from 9th to 7th place, and new ride Barrichello, formerly piloted by William Fox-Pitt and Caroline March, from 17th to 10th.

“It’s nice to be sat on a four-star horse going around a three star, but after Burghley I nevertheless had to keep my wits about me and think about rhythm, line, and balance,” said Alex. After an early tumble on Burghley’s course, Zagreb had a few days’ rest, followed by some physio treatment and plenty of stretching work — the result of which, laughed Alex, meant that the rangy gelding “felt like a seven-year-old at the first horse inspection — he was very fresh!”

Alex, who considers himself ‘a cross country rider, sitting on a cross country horse,’ rued the fact that the time wasn’t as influential as it could have been.

“Seven or eight seconds off the optimum time would have made it more influential; it’s not changed the top of the leaderboard much, which is a bit of a shame. But it’s a nice, inviting, solid track.”

Alex Bragg produces the results on up-and-comer Barrichello, who he took over this spring. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

The nine-year-old Barrichello impressed not only the crowds, but Alex, too: “He did a fantastic job, and really flew around inside the time. I’m really proud of him; this is a step up in terms of atmosphere and the amount of people around. Coming into the long water at the lake feels like something from a film, and I think everyone enjoys that.”

But Barrichello’s cross country wasn’t without incident.

“There was a swan in the water, guarding the bridge like a Jack Russell guarding a driveway — it looked really tough until it saw Barrichello’s big feet storming at him, and then he thought better of it!”

“Everyone wants him”: Selina Milne’s Iron IV proves to be the horse of everyone’s dreams. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

Selina Milnes jumped into the top 10, moving up from 12th to 8th after a seriously classy round with Iron IV that had everyone — commentators included — discussing how on earth they might be able to sneak a ride on the long-strided horse.

“He’s not that blood, so we’ve done loads of millwork to get him fit enough to come here,” explained Selina. Her hard work has paid off: Iron IV had barely broken into a sweat and, as he cantered home, he looked as though he was just setting off. This isn’t just down to careful fitness work; his success today comes down to tactical management throughout the season, too.

“I run him slowly at one-day events, because he has such a long stride to work with. Here, I was adamant that I wouldn’t take a pull, because he only gets stronger if I do. I rode him this morning properly so that I could just do a five minute warm-up this afternoon — he tends to half run his race before he even goes if I try to do him normally, as he gets so buzzy when the tannoys are going. It’s something we’ve worked on — I’ve put up flags in the arena at home to try to get him to stay calm, and it’s making a difference.”

Selina sourced the horse from Ireland’s Richard Sheane, head of the Cooley enterprise, but she wasn’t convinced by him on first viewing.

“I didn’t even ride him because I had a couple of broken ribs, and when I watched him go, I thought he was just a bit slow looking. But I’m quite a forward rider, and everyone insisted that I’d make him fast.”

Emily Philp and Camembert make a habit out of double clears. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

Emily Philp and Camembert were incredibly impressive at Blair, where they made a surprise appearance on the Event Rider Masters podium, and they proved today that it was no fluke: another double-clear sees them in 9th after a seven place climb. Something to mull over? Blair’s three-star marked their 20th consecutive clear showjumping round at an international. They will be formidable tomorrow.

A Coup for Collett in the CIC3*

Laura Collett and Dacapo. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

Saturday morning at the SsangYong Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials saw the eight- and nine-year-olds tackle a formidable showjumping course set by Di Boddy, and if anyone thought they were in for an easy ride, they were swiftly proven wrong. A treble combination, approached on a curving line, saw perhaps the most action of the morning: many, having made a big adjustment for the first fence, came to grief at the second, and with a tightly-bunched set of scores, a pole here saw claims to the leaderboard tumble. Near the end of the course, too, a long and meandering turn back to the final couple of fences led more than one horse to fall asleep at the wheel, only to scatter a pole when presented with yet another obstacle.

James Avery and Vitali: a lost lead, but an impressive impression. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Overnight leaders James Avery and Vitali were the most high-profile pair to fault at the treble, and their four faults and two time penalties leaves them seventh on a score of 30.2 as they look towards tomorrow’s cross country.

But for all that, the young horse, who has historically become distracted in an atmospheric showjumping arena, looked focused and professional in his trip around the arena, and it was in fact a dropped rein that led to the pole: “If I’d been able to ride him at the fence as I’d planned to, he wouldn’t have had it down,” said James.

James Avery and Vitali: polished and professional despite a minor mishap. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

Though Vitali is tackling his first competition at the level, and in fact has yet to run at Advanced, he’s an exceptional cross-country horse. In eight international runs, he’s only ever faulted once in the phase, in his first one-star last year. Since then, he’s been clear every time, never adding more than 1.6 time penalties at two-star. He’ll be an interesting horse to keep an eye on tomorrow — there’s a lot to be said for the psychological effect of being able to head into the toughest phase without the pressure of the lead.

Laura Collett and Dacapo move into the lead in the CIC3*. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

That honour goes instead to Laura Collett, who produced clear rounds on both Dacapo and London 52, who moved from 4th and 5th place to 1st and 2nd, respectively. Both horses have begun to accumulate valuable experience at this level: Dacapo finished 6th in Houghton’s CICO3* in May and 9th in his ERM debut at Barbury in July, while London 52 has three ERM results to his name. He was 2nd in the tough class at Arville, while Jardy saw him in 11th place, and he powered through the heavy rain at Blair for 8th. Today’s CCI cross country taught us one thing: the time won’t be influential unless the horses and riders don’t make it, so Laura will have to draw on that experience against the clock to maintain her position and cruise home.

Pippa Funnell and Maybach sit in third going into Sunday’s cross country. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

Pippa Funnell and Maybach, and Katherine Coleman and Monte Classico each produced clears as well, with Pippa rising three places to sit third, and a delighted Katherine rising from eighth to fourth. Monte Classico had to step up to the big leagues in a major way this spring: his first three-star was also his first team appearance, as he helped the U.S. team to second place in the Houghton CICO3* Nations Cup competition.

Katherine Coleman and Monte Classico make a move up the leaderboard. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Katherine has planned his entire season with this class in mind, and like Laura, she’ll need to accept nothing less than a double clear tomorrow.

Izzy Taylor and Springpower jump a double clear to sit in sixth place. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

We’ll be bringing you all the action from the fast and furious cross country phase tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Blenheim Palace: WebsiteStart Times & ScoringEN’s CoverageEN’s TwitterEN’s Instagram

Friday Video and UK Notes from World Equestrian Brands: Behind the Scenes at Blenheim

What a week to be an eventing fan! The EN team is at large on both sides of the pond, with the dream team in situ in Tryon, bringing you absolutely everything you need to know — and some things you didn’t even know you needed to know! — from the World Equestrian Games, while I’m holding down the fort at Blenheim, keeping my eyes peeled for an early look at next year’s Badminton winner. If ever there was a weekend to just shut yourself off from the world, pour the morning wine, and surround yourself with live streams, this is absolutely it.

If you’re very good at multitasking, you might also be out competing, or preparing to make your final entries of the season. If so, check out our guide to this weekend’s events and opening dates — and, as always, Go Eventing!

UK Weekend Preview:

Events Opening this Weekend:

  • Norton Disney (2) – BE80-N, with BE100RF – [EnterLincolnshire (October 19-21)

Events Balloting this Weekend:

  • 14th: Weston Park (2) – BE80-N, with BE90RF and BE100RF – [EnterShropshire (October 6-7)
  • 15th: Askham Bryan College – BE80-N – [EnterYorkshire (October 6-7)

Friday Video: Your backstage pass to Blenheim

Always wanted to snoop through the high-security stabling at a world-class event? Now’s your chance, thanks to intrepid presenter Spencer Sturmey (no, not Stanley Tucci, although we’d consider casting him in the film). Join him as he meets #supergroom Frankie Murrell, head girl to Pippa Funnell, and find out what life is really like behind the barricades…


Blenheim Friday: Leaders Prove Unassailable as Pretenders Encroach

Sometimes dressage days feel relaxed and leisurely; just one seven-minute test after another, the faint strains of Dua Lipa less pumping, more weakly trickling out of the smattering of speakers. When dressage consists of two days, two three-stars, and just shy of 180 tests, it can feel more like a marathon sprint. The sensory overload is replete with an autumnal chill, a draping of fallen leaves, and the inexorable thrill of watching some of the world’s best horses at work. Somewhere in the distance, the ghost of Churchill prowls, looking stern and ending wars, maybe. Maybe not. Either way, there’s no better place in the United Kingdom to usher in a new chapter. Today, that’s exactly what we saw for one major four-star contender and an Olympian on the comeback trail.

King Moves in on the Kingdom of Ker

Though the top two spots on the leaderboard remained unchanged after yesterday’s dressage, with Bella Innes Ker and Carolyn heading the class, Kitty King produced the goods with her Rio Olympics mount Ceylor L A N. The 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood, known at home as Sprout, has had a quiet couple of years since his trip to Brazil, but has since re-established himself at the very top of the sport, taking fourth place at Luhmühlen CCI4* in June and ninth at Hartpury CIC3* last month. There, he posted an incredible 22.3 in this phase. Today, he earned a 27 in a class that Kitty remarked was quite harshly marked.

Kitty King and Ceylor L A N. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“I’m really pleased with him,” said Kitty. “He’s obviously quite established at this level, but we just made a silly mistake in the second change — he just got a bit ahead of me, because sometimes he thinks he knows what he’s doing better than I do! He did some really nice, positive work, but I was pleased with my horse yesterday and ended up disappointed with his score, so you never quite know.”

Kitty King and Vendredi Biats in yesterday’s dressage. Photo by William Carey Photography.

Kitty and her first ride, Vendredi Biats, currently sit in 9th place on yesterday’s mark of 29.6. The talented grey incurred 20 penalties on course last year at the highly influential coffin, and Kitty hopes to put those demons to bed this time around. But, she acknowledges, she’ll have a big task ahead of her: “There are plenty of places to have run-outs. It’s not that different to last year’s course, but it asks plenty of questions. The corner at 4 will come up fast if horses are running a bit keen, and then there’s another corner not too far along. The coffin caused carnage last year, and it’s not been changed much this year, so that could be interesting. I thought he might have changed it a bit more — that’ll definitely be a test!”

World number one Oliver Townend and up-and-comer Ulises produced a consistent and precise test to score 28, leaving them in fourth place overnight. The Spanish-bred horse might not be in Oliver’s first string, but he’s no new face at the level: he was previously campaigned by Andrew Nicholson, who debuted him at three-star in 2015, and who sent the horse to Oliver as part of a mass exodus following the major accident at Gatcombe that left him fighting to sustain his career. Though he didn’t have any international runs last year, he’s produced the goods on three occasions this season, with top ten placings at all of his three-star runs, including a win at Chatsworth CIC3* in May.

Former Junior team bronze medallist Richard Coney made a surprise entry onto the leaderboard with Kananaskis, who delivered a 28.7 to sit in equal fifth position with William Fox-Pitt and Oratorio. Richard and Kananaskis have amassed an impressive string of international results this season, never placing below 6th and adding just 9.2 time penalties across all four competitions. The pair finished seventh at last year’s Junior European Championships and thirteenth the year before. This is a CCI3* debut for both horse and rider, so we’ll be watching them closely across tomorrow’s cross country phase to see what they’re made of. We quietly suspect it might be rather a lot.

Alex Bragg and the experienced Zagreb. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

Despite an error of course, Will Rawlin and VIP Vinnie sit in 7th place overnight on a score of 29.3, while Alex Bragg and Zagreb round out the top ten after rerouting from an early tumble at Burghley.

“He felt great, although he always seems to get electric in that arena,” says Alex. “I think it’s because the arena itself is so far from the stands, and so sometimes they go in and seem to lose themselves in all that space, like they’re still working in the training area. Then, suddenly they realise where they are and they light up, which can be tricky to manage. There was a microphone at H, and he spotted it and spooked just as we were going into our walk transition, so that was a bit tricky too, as I then had to release the reins and trust that he would walk on nicely. We got away with that, but then some of the tension crept in when I picked him back up for the collected walk, so we dropped a few marks there. Without the mistakes, I think we’d have been around the 26 mark, but in a way, the dressage isn’t that different from the showjumping — you’re either clear, or you have errors. We didn’t manage a clear round today, but we’re still there or thereabouts.”

CIC3* Gives Alex a Reason to Brag

Nobody could usurp James Avery and Vitali‘s claim to the throne in the eight- and nine-year-old class, but Alex Bragg came closest, posting a 26.4 for second place with Shannondale Percy, with whom he’s been quietly developing a new partnership.

Alex Bragg and Shannondale Percy. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

“It’s been a really interesting season with this horse, because we’ve still been trying to progress him through the grades while I try to develop a partnership with him at the same time,” he explains. “We ran him gently at some early three-stars, where he jumped super, and it gave him an idea of the expectations of him coming into the autumn. We reaped the benefits of that approach today. We were hoping for a sub-30 score, but if things go your way and all the pieces fall into place, you can really get the marks that reflect the level you’re working at at home. He remained rideable today, which meant that we didn’t throw any marks out; if you make sure you’re not throwing anything away and you remain consistent, you suddenly find yourself in a very competitive position, and that’s what happened today. It’s brilliant to be here at this point in the competition.”

Laura Collett and London 52. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Laura Schroter and Willem Van Wup slipped into third place on 27.1, while Laura Collett‘s Blair ERM mount London 52 tailed yesterday’s mount Dacapo to take fifth place.

“London 52 is still green, but he tries so hard all the time,” says Laura. “Both of them are exciting horses, but this class wasn’t a definite plan for their autumn — we had it penciled in, but neither of them had done an Advanced this spring, so it was a big step up to look ahead to. It’s just so nice for Karen [Bartlett, London 52’s owner] as she’s been working at Blenheim for about 15 years, but she’s never had a horse here — so to finally have one, and for it to be one that’s so special, is very cool.”

“Just Wow”: a Sneak Peek at the Cross Country

We’d hate to be accused of being shallow, but David Evans really does build and dress a beautiful course. Blenheim is as much a feast for the eyes as it is a serious test of boldness and accuracy, and creatively nestled as it is within the grounds of Winston Churchill’s former estate, it’s a season highlight for riders, owners and spectators alike. Australia’s Amanda Ross has put together a preview of the course with some of her own notes about how to ride the combinations — click here to take a look around the tough CCI3* track. This weekend’s competition will be live-streamed; you can follow along with both days of cross country action here.

Blenheim Palace: WebsiteStart Times & ScoringEN’s CoverageEN’s TwitterEN’s Instagram

Thursday at Blenheim: The Incredible Influence of Age Classes

Bella Innes Ker and Carolyn. Photo by Adam Fanthorpe.

CCI3*: Good Times Never Seemed So Good for Bella Innes Ker

It was another show of consistency between the boards for Bella Innes Ker and her 14-year-old Hanoverian Carolyn today as they posted a 24.4 to lead the CCI3* at Blenheim overnight. They come to Blenheim off the back of a fourth place finish in Blair Castle’s CIC3* and, having finished 15th here last year, they’ve got their sights set on bigger things this time around.

“She’s on amazing form,” says Bella. “She’s a smart dressage diva on the best of days, so it’s nice when you can go in there and get a goodie. It can be hard when you’re on a great dressage horse, because sometimes you expect a result and don’t quite match it, but I’m delighted that it all worked out today.”

Bella Innes Ker and Carolyn. Photo by William Carey Photography.

This is a longtime partnership for Bella and the mare, who is owned by Bella’s mother, the Duchess of Roxburghe.

“We call Carolyn ‘Princess’ at home — sometimes it’s her way or the highway, but I’ve learned how to do things her way. If I please her and do it by her system, then she’s great.”

Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street produced yet another impressive test, posting a 26.7 to sit second overnight. The 10-year-old gelding, who was sourced and produced by Ireland’s Padraig McCarthy, hasn’t been the most straightforward of Pippa’s rides, but he’s an undeniable talent: He finished fifth in this class last year, adding nothing in the second phase, and he’s a graduate of the eight- and nine-year-old class, too, finishing 18th in 2016. This season, he’s had two clear CIC3* runs — at Chatsworth and Hartpury — but has had problems on the cross country course at three of his international runs. This is a course that the horse has proven form over, though, and Pippa will likely push for a confident clear round to end his 2018 campaign on.

Holding third place on 29.4 is new kid on the block Amanda Ross, who has made the journey over to the UK from her native Australia with Koko Popping Candy. Amanda, who competed at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, isn’t short of experience, and she and the ex-racehorse have clocked up an impressive resume on their home turf. In their last nine internationals, they’ve never been out of the top five, and they’ve completed each of their seventeen starts without any cross country jumping penalties bar an 11 penalty blot for activating a frangible pin last season. This is the pair’s first international outside of Australia.

Kitty King and Vendredi Biats were reliable as ever in this phase, scoring 29.6 to slot in at fourth place on the tightly-bunched leaderboard. Last year, they faulted at the incredibly influential 18th fence on course, but they’ve posted top five finishes in Chatsworth’s CIC3* and Bramham’s CCI3* this season. They come to Blenheim off the back of a forgettable Hartpury — they picked up 20 penalties and dropped to 63rd there — but the eye-catching Selle Français has proven time and time again that on his day, he’s remarkable: he’s been in the top 10 in 15 of his 21 internationals.

Pats all around: Hamilton 24 makes Plan B a top option for Josefa Sommer. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Josefa Sommer and Hamilton 24 made a positive early impression in what has generally been considered a harsh-marking day, posting a score of 29.7 to take fifth place overnight.

“He was good, and very relaxed, which is good for him — in Aachen, he was very nervous,” says Josefa of the 16-year-old Hanoverian. The pair were first reserves for Germany’s formidable WEG team, and though the disappointment of not making the trip to Tryon stung initially, Josefa’s outlook quickly changed on arriving at Blenheim with her homebred gelding.

“I’ve never been here before, and wow! I hacked out this morning and I just couldn’t believe it, it is so beautiful, just wow. The course is big, and it’s so beautiful — I think it will really suit him, and I can’t wait to go out there.”

Josefa and Hamilton have an impressive form line — they haven’t been seen out of the top 20 in an international since mid-2016, which was the last time they had a cross country jumping penalty, too. Since then, they’ve logged 16 of their 67 international starts, and Josefa, whose father Joachim rode Hamilton’s dam, Fiorella, will be a rider to keep an eye on this weekend.

CIC3*: From Le Lion to the Main Stage

We talk a lot about the career importance of a good result in Blenheim’s eight- and nine-year-0ld CIC3* — after all, previous winners have included 2017 victor Cooley Lands, who represents Australia this week at the WEG with Chris Burton. Further back, the winners’ list is a veritable who’s-who of top-level talent: Andrew Nicholson‘s Quimbo won in 2012 and went on to take top honours at Kentucky the following spring, William Fox-Pitt‘s Oslo took the title in 2011 and then won his four-star debut at Pau a month later, and Mark Todd‘s NZB Land Vision was victorious in 2010, clinching Badminton the next season. Jonelle Price‘s Luhmühlen winner Faerie Dianimo was a winner here too, rising to the top of the leaderboard in 2014. Since its inception in 2009, the class has been eventing’s Magic Eight Ball, predicting with almost frightening accuracy which young horses will go on to make big waves.

But when looking at what is essentially an age class, it’s just as valuable to look back as it is to look forward. As in every other year, many of this year’s competitors are graduates of the Young Horse World Championships at Le Lion d’Angers, which hosts a CCI1* for six-year-olds and a CCI2* for seven-year-olds. Following on from British Eventing’s four- and five-year-old national classes, you can start to neatly sew a piece of string through the form of these talented horses and, insomuch as you can predict anything in eventing, you can get a pretty good idea of the cream of the crop.

James Avery and Vitali lead the way in the CIC3*. Photo courtesy of Uptown Eventing/SsangYong Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials.

Today’s leader is one such horse. New Zealand’s James Avery piloted Vitali around last year’s seven-year-old World Championships, leading the dressage on a score of 28. This was the horse’s first CCI2*, but despite Le Lion’s intense atmosphere, he jumped a stunning double-clear around Pierre Michelet’s inventive track, adding just 1.6 time penalties to hold onto his lead. On an incredibly influential Sunday, we saw him lose the title with two poles — but his show jumping form, which was chequered throughout his seven-year-0ld year, has been considerably better this season. Today, he posted an impressive 24.2 — a personal best for the horse at any international level — to lead the CIC3* by three marks.

Blenheim is a level debut for Vitali, who was formerly piloted by Jock Paget, whose Hungerford yard, horses and major sponsors were passed over to James when Jock relocated back to New Zealand. This season, they’ve completed four clear Intermediate runs, won the CIC2* at Rockingham International, and place seventh at Tattersalls’ CCI2*, but interestingly, Vitali is yet to run at Advanced — he ran Aston’s eight- and nine-year-old Advanced as a combined test. But don’t go scrambling for your rule books — he is, in fact, qualified for CIC3*, which only requires qualifying results at Intermediate and CIC2*. Baffling? Yes, but endlessly muddling FEI rules aside, that’s no good reason to discount this pair.

“I’m really pleased with him; he was pretty focused and he enjoys his job, so I was able to go in the ring and do what we’ve been practising at home, which is always a good feeling. He’s been going really well, so I’d hoped we could produce a test that reflected that,” says James.

Despite Vitali’s inexperience at the level, James remains confident about the mammoth task ahead: “He’s a good cross country horse, so I haven’t been too worried about that bit. He went well at Tattersalls, and from that I learned that he needs to have two steady runs before a big event, because he just loves it so much. He loves his job and loves working, but he can be cheeky — he likes to make sure you’re switched on, and he can be quiet as anything one second, and the next second he makes you work for it.”

Since losing the seven-year-old title in the final phase, Vitali’s showjumping record has been on the up and up — this season, he’s recorded more clears than otherwise, though an atmospheric arena like Blenheim’s could still be a factor in his success here.

“He’s not had a lot of experience jumping in a big atmosphere, so sometimes he goes in and gets a bit distracted by things. That’s what got him at Le Lion. But you can’t protect him — you have to dare him a bit more, and ride him like a jumper. The more you dare him, the harder he tries.”

Laura Collett and Dacapo sit second in the CIC3*. Photo by William Carey Photography.

Laura Collett currently sits in second place on 27.2, despite an error of course in her test with Dacapo. The nine-year-old gelding has only had seven international starts, but he’s racked up considerable experience in those starts: he was sixth in Houghton’s CICO3* in May and came ninth in his Event Rider Masters debut at Barbury. His score today is a personal best; he’s consistently a point or two above this, but Laura has developed something of a reputation for eking out the best in her horses in this phase.

In third place, Pippa Funnell made a second appearance on a leaderboard today, posting a 27.7 with Maybach in his second appearance at the level. Pippa took over the ride last season from Sweden’s Hedvig Wik, and has since produced some promising results with him, including second in the CCI2* at Tattersalls.

“He’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a horse,” said Ben Hobday after his third-place finish at Blair CIC3* with Shadow Man, and the dream certainly didn’t die today: the pair scored 28.1 to sit fourth. Shadow Man is another Le Lion graduate — he finished 10th last year, and has since made his first team appearance, coming 16th in the Nations Cup at The Plains.

Monte Classico shows his talent with Katherine Coleman. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Five marks behind James and Vitali there’s a three-way tie for fifth place: Millie Dumas and Fabien, Italy’s Vittoria Panizzon and Super Cillious, and sole US representative Katherine Coleman and Monte Classico all scored 29.2 to share the spot after the first day of dressage.

For Katherine and her talented nine-year-old, this class has been a season-long target. The pair was given the call-up for the second-placed US team at Houghton’s Nations Cup in May — there, they added just 1.6 time penalties across the country and 2 time penalties in the showjumping to their dressage score of 33, despite the fact that it was the horse’s first run at the level. But it’s been the first phase that has historically precluded them from earning higher placings — the German sport horse, who Katherine sourced from Bettina Hoy, tends to be a mid-30s scorer.

Katherine Coleman and Monte Classico. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“I’m really excited about his test, because I feel like that’s actually where we’re at and really was the best we could do,” says Katherine. “He’s a little bit green in his changes, but he did them both today and got an 8 for one of them, so I’m thrilled. What’s so exciting is that there’s so much more to come – this is just barely scratching the surface. He’s such an amazing horse, and I’m so lucky to have him. I’m excited to hopefully do him a little bit of justice this weekend.”

We’ll be back with loads more dressage action from Blenheim tomorrow: stay tuned!

Blenheim Palace: WebsiteStart Times & ScoringEN’s CoverageEN’s TwitterEN’s Instagram

Blenheim: The Dancing Shoes Come Out for the First Horse Inspection

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall,” said Jordan in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and look, we’ll be honest with you — we don’t often relate to much in Gatsby, but that’s one line that hits home this week.

There’s something extra special about the SsangYong Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials. Held each year as the aftershocks of Burghley start to ebb away, it could get lost in a funny sort of end-of-season ennui, but each year, it heralds the start of autumn with a bang. You can always rely on Blenheim for a few things: sudden, crisp mornings and evenings, where the air smells faintly of log fires and the novelty value of digging out a proper jacket is still fresh, and new, and not at all soul-destroying. A feeling of real English luxury, too — the proper kind, in which chaise longues are populated by bevies of terriers, and wellies might be accepted in the ballroom with a bit of a wink at the Duchess, and the former seat of Winston Churchill looms over everything, golden and spectral and splendid. Most importantly of all, you can rely on Blenheim to deliver two enormous, exciting three-stars.

The World Equestrian Games might be in full swing across the pond, but it would be remiss to forget about Oxfordshire’s crown jewel — after all, its prestigious CIC3* for eight- and nine-year-olds has historically been a barometer of world-beating talent. Look to Tryon, and you’ll see Cooley Lands, competing under the Australian flag with Chris Burton — look back to Blenheim and you’ll see his victory in this class here just last season. This year, 78 horses come forward to prove to the world that they, too, could be the next big thing.

Kitty King’s Ceylor LAN is one of the many major names contesting the CCI3* this year – and can we all just take a second to admire how perfect he is? Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The CCI3*, too, is colossal — both in fence dimensions and in class size. 101 combinations from twelve nations presented to the ground jury this afternoon at the first horse inspection. This year, the trot-up took place on the Palace’s south lawn — an atmospheric first.

A handful of combinations were asked to re-present. Johnny Cash II, presented by Johan Lundin, was the first of these — he was asked to trot twice before being sent to the holding box, but subsequently passed. The Swedish rider will compete two horses in the CCI class — his other ride, Mind Me, was also accepted.

Edouard Chauvet is one of a serious contingent of French competitors here this weekend, and his Vesubio was also asked to trot twice, though was accepted straight away thereafter. Great Britain’s Francis Whittington had to re-present his experienced Hasty Imp, and will also go forward to the first phase.

Taking ridiculous photos at a trot-up is getting to be something of a habit, and, in Harry Meade‘s absence, Will Rawlin kindly offered himself up as EN’s victim this time. We’d like to know what he’s feeding VIP Vinnie, and if we might also be able to have some.

Will Furlong and best turned-out winner Cooley Zest. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Will Furlong‘s Cooley Zest was awarded the prize for the best turned-out horse, while HiHo Silver named David Britnell and Eilidh-Jane Costello as their best-dressed gent and lady.

Eilidh-Jane Costello and Westmur Quality. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

David Britnell and Continuity. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Both the CCI3* and the CIC3* begin in earnest tomorrow, with some top combinations on show, including Kitty King and Vendredi BiatsPippa Funnell and MGH Grafton StreetCarlos Parro and Summon Up The Blood, and Camilla Kruger and Biarritz II performing their tests in the CCI3*. In the CIC3*, we’ll be watching Izzy Taylor and her seven-year-old reserve World Champion Direct CassinoJames Avery‘s Vitali, who led the same class until the final phase, Katherine Coleman‘s impressive Monte Classico, and Laura Collett‘s DacapoBen Hobday brings forward Shadow Man II, who narrowly missed out on a win in Blair Castle’s CIC3* last month — as Ben told us then, he’s hungry for a three-star win. We could see him pulling out the big guns this week.

As always, keep it locked on to EN for all your Blenheim (okay, okay, and WEG) news as it happens — it’s going to be a spectacular week to be an eventing fan.

Blenheim Palace: WebsiteStart Times & ScoringEN’s CoverageEN’s TwitterEN’s Instagram

Reporter’s Notebook: Beyond the Burghley Headlines

It’s been a week since the exciting finale of the 2018 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, but it’s not been far from my mind since its conclusion — after all, reporters, riders, grooms and supporters alike immerse ourselves into what is effectively a bubble for the week at these major events, and finding ourselves back on terra firma, with all the mundanity that comes with it, can be a jarring transition.

Tim Price and Varenna Allen, owner of Ringwood Sky Boy, quietly celebrate their horse’s success before the world joins in at the prizegiving. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

I’m guilty of writing the occasional emotionally-charged event report — and I’m sure there are those who would argue that what I produce isn’t the real deal, the classic reporting of someone with the rock-solid willpower needed to turn off the superlatives and stick to cold, hard facts. But that’s fine — from where I stand, part of what makes eventing so special is the stuff that deviates from data on a page, whether that’s the raw emotions that abound at a competition, the internal and external battles fought to get there, or the performances that crest the waves of probability and send the stats into a tailspin.

And that, too.

EN’s own Jenni Autry put it best, and most succinctly, when she tweeted that you can’t quantify the will to win. Because who, really, was putting their money on Tim and Oz to lift the Burghley trophy?

I’ve been crossing my fingers for a big win for Tim all season, and was characteristically shouty and unabashed in voicing my support for him through the week — but had I been backed into a corner and asked to put my money where my mouth was, I admit I would have faltered. We know so much more than we ever have about the statistics of the sport, largely thanks to the tireless efforts of EquiRatings, who have somehow managed to make this sort of thing fun and captivating. We’re able to analyse form and probability so easily now, and when you see showjumping form like Oz’s, you begin to prepare yourself for disappointment.

“The joke’s on all of you. Every. Last. One.” Ringwood Sky Boy, or Oz, after his superb cross-country round. Photo by Peter Nixon.

But we did that at Badminton too, didn’t we — after all, Classic Moet hadn’t had a clear showjumping round in an international in four years then. It just wasn’t going to happen. Except that it did, and did again, and somehow, the numbers, the predictions, and the statistics were cast aside in favour of that irrepressible bit of magic that can’t be quantified in any way — that sparkling something that makes this sport equally special and damning.

Putting a Price on love

I wrote at length about the power of love in my final report from Burghley, so I won’t rehash it too much here — suffice it to say that Tim and Jonelle have created the sort of power couple dynamic that most Netflix original series can only dream of. Only one couple prior to them has done a four-star double in a year — that was Burghley course designer Captain Mark Phillips and his then-wife, Princess Anne, who won Badminton and the European Championships at Burghley, respectively, in 1971.

These little moments of synchronicity weave multiple narratives together and can almost make you believe in fate. Want another one? Ringwood Sky Boy’s ownership is split a few ways – though he’s primarily owned by Varenna Allen, and Tim himself retains a small share, it was by selling a leg to Robert Taylor a few years ago that Tim was able to buy an engagement ring for Jonelle. Nope, get out of my way, guys — I’m calling dibs on writing the novelisation of this one.

Lucy Miles videos as Tim Price leads the victory lap around Burghley’s main arena. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

As an aside — we rightly hail Tim and Jonelle for their incredible results this season, but it would be amiss not to mention their head girl, Lucy Miles, who is the lynchpin in a programme that’s consistently producing phenomenal results at the top level. Getting one horse to the final day of a four-star is difficult enough — to captain a ship that ferries three to a win in one season is mind-boggling. Her horses have recorded five international wins, thirteen national victories, and two flights to the World Equestrian Games so far in 2018. We need to celebrate the astonishing amount of hard work and dedication that makes these things happen (and maybe not put grooms in a tent — here’s looking at you, Tryon).

A coup for the Captain

We spend so much time — athletes, journalists, and clued-up eventing fans alike — speaking up when someone gets it wrong. Often, that someone is a fellow rider. Frequently, it’s an organiser or course designer. Should we keep quiet for the sake of keeping the peace? Not always — after all, by voicing our convictions, eventing’s inner sanctum has created a catalyst of change that has propelled safety and sports technology far further than we could ever have foreseen.

But we owe it to the sport to shout just as loudly when people get it right — and oh boy, did they ever get it right at Burghley. I’ve worn a number of hats in this industry — not least that of lifelong eventing enthusiast; the sort of, well, nerd that watched and rewatched and slowed down and analysed a single combination on course long before it was ever my job to do so — and I will happily climb aboard the well-worn soapbox to declare my uninhibited adoration for this year’s course.

So what did course designer Captain Mark Phillips and co. get so right? A lot of things — some down to forward thinking and meticulous planning, others down to a little sprinkle of jolly good luck (thanks, Eventing Jesus, your contribution to the weather and the ground’s moisture levels were much appreciated).

Andrew Nicholson, a man who has ridden more cross country rounds than most of us have had hot dinners, and who has never shied away from speaking his mind, put it best when he asked us in the mixed zone if anyone through the day had picked up 50 penalties for missing a flag.

“I bet they haven’t,” he said, without missing a beat. “Mark has got the measure of this flag rule. It was clear to the horses the whole way around where the flags were. They either jumped or they didn’t.”

He praised effusively, too, the scope for adaptability the course provided, citing examples — such as the Trout Hatchery — where you could change your mind about your route part of the way through without adding on 20 penalties. What he loved, he told us, was that there were no hidden traps to catch the riders and their horses out.

Harry Meade and Away Cruising jump the egg boxes at Clarence Court, the final combination on course. Photo by Peter Nixon.

This has never been a safe sport, and until the IOC forces a rule change that sees us strapped into harnesses and boinging around on trampolines with hobby horses between our legs, it never will be — not totally, anyway. When it comes to course design at the top levels, there are so many fine lines to negotiate that it must feel a bit like that classic diamond-heist trope — can you cross from the doorway to the gem without touching any of the criss-crossing laser wires? Can you cope with the fallout if the lace of your shoes breaks one of those laser beams, and a competitor is hurt, or worse?

What Phillips got right in his Burghley design was, as Andrew pointed out, a test that didn’t trick or trap horses. It didn’t encourage riders to take unnecessary risks to avoid clocking up 20 penalties — instead, they could see a safe path out of each question and reroute, rather than trying to stuff their horses over fences on a half-stride or an uncomfortable line.

The aftermath. Photo by Peter Nixon.

Sure, it was still a fiendishly difficult track, and it certainly separated the wheat from the chaff, but it worked in an almost miraculous harmony with this year’s dressage-sans-multiplier to create an enormous stamina test in which seconds in either direction could send you soaring or tumbling on the leaderboard. We saw a 66% completion rate, a 55% clear rate, and just a 6% double-clear rate on Saturday, with nobody faulting in the latter, single-fence heavy part of the course. Add to that the most perfect ground you could ask for — thanks to sunny days, dewy nights, and an endlessly dedicated team working tirelessly behind the scenes — and you create the sort of four-star we’ve all been sitting on our hands for for so long. You know what’s (absolutely miles) better than free wine and cupcakes at the evening press conference? Free wine and cupcakes that you can enjoy without a statement landing on your table about an injury to horse or rider. What was, perhaps, most heartening of all was that less than an hour after the conclusion of the cross-country phase, the Captain had already analysed and critiqued his own track, and was perfectly willing to declare where he had gone wrong — the Clarence Court combination at 21 didn’t see any faulters, but, he told us, it could have done, and will be changed for next year.

Oliver Townend and MHS King Joules jump the Gurkha Kuhkri fence that later dislodged Mark Todd and Kiltubrid Rhapsody. Photo by Peter Nixon.

One of the most important aspects of a successful competition is its watchability, too, and in particular, its ability to draw in casual or uninitiated spectators. On a personal level, we all felt our hearts break all over again for Mark Todd, who, for the second consecutive year, fell on cross-country while leading after dressage. But he was unhurt, Kiltubrid Rhapsody was unhurt, and, two fences earlier, he’d given us one of those heart-stopping and fist-clenching thrills-and-spills saves that ends up defining the sport in three minute video edits for years to come. If we take our own long-standing affiliations with the sport out of the equation, how does that serve the weekend’s television coverage? Spectacularly well, I should think — you might struggle to get your non-horsey partner, for example, to sit and watch a day of cross-country, but imagine how he or she might react if they turned over onto the BBC’s red button coverage, saw Toddy and Raps somehow get the job done at the Leaf Pit, discover from the commentator that they’re not just leading, but that Toddy is a veritable legend of the sport — then, two fences later, that legend comes unstuck. It’s fast, it’s furious, and the two leaders are very soon to start — suddenly, you’ve hooked another casual viewer, who might even tune in the next day.

Oh, and those eagle-eyed fans among you might have noticed something serendipitous — the optimum time was 11 minutes, 11 seconds. I know I made a wish.

All hail the Sons of Courage

The celebrations must have been rife at Ireland’s Kedrah House Stud, where the late stallion Courage II stands (in semen stock, if not in body), quietly asserting his continuing dominion over the eventing world. There are certain bloodlines we all pledge fealty to — one American trainer and former Olympian I know adores the talent and quirky nature of a Master Imp baby, while several friends swear by a bit of Jumbo to add quality to a blood horse. Me? Find me something sired by the late Holsteiner Courage II (Capitol x Cor De La Bryere), and I’ll be a very happy girl indeed.

Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Courage II not only sired winner and runner-up Ringwood Sky Boy and Ballaghmor Class, he’s also responsible for Jonty Evans‘ Cooley Rorkes Drift and Yoshi Oiwa‘s WEG mount The Duke of Cavan. Elsewhere in the Burghley field, he sired Proud Courage, the mount of Nicholas Lucey. While he doesn’t stamp particularly consistently in terms of looks — would you have guessed that Oz and Thomas were half-brothers? — he does pass on an almost preternatural ability to think on the job, jump from just about anywhere, and dig endlessly deep. The 1990-vintage stallion passed away a few years ago, but there are still a few straws left of his own particular love potion no. 9, if that’s the sort of impromptu purchase you’re into.

More characters than a Jilly Cooper novel

One of the most difficult things about reporting on a major event is balancing the need to tell the main story — who conquered, who crumbled, who did something so truly remarkable as to change the course of the entire competition — with the endless desire to delve into the incredible stories of fortitude and tenacity that some of the other riders are sitting on. And believe me — you don’t get to four-star without tallying up some pretty remarkable stories along the way.

There was, of course, the irrepressible Julie Tew, whose story I was able to tell when she delivered a brilliant dressage test with Simply Sox and strode into her rightful place on the leaderboard. Unfortunately, their weekend would end early — Julie opted to withdraw before the final horse inspection after delivering a clear round on Saturday that had a mixed zone full of hardened media types surreptitiously dabbing at our eyes — but for me, and for many others, Julie’s is the stand-out story of the week, the one so purely and simply Burghley that Joules ought to think about printing her face on their commemorative scarves next year.

Julie Tew and Simply Sox defy the odds on day one. Photo by Peter Nixon/Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.

Eighteen years ago, Julie was diagnosed with a tumour on her spine and told that the best-case scenario she could hope for was to walk with a stick, but certainly not to ride again. Despite this, she pushed through and continued to campaign a string of horses. Five years ago, following a sudden recurrence of debilitating pain and depression, she sought the help of a psychiatrist, who referred her to a neurologist.

“The neurologist took one look at me and said, ‘you’ve got 90% nerve damage in both your legs, and you really shouldn’t ride again,'” explained Julie, who, despite doctor’s orders, ‘fought immensely’ to keep doing what she loves. Now, she’s cut back on her string and manages her fitness levels carefully — the more exercise she does, the more pain she’s in, and so, she joked, she made it to Burghley on the back of months spent snacking on her sofa.

Her horse, too, has had his share of setbacks: he tore a ligament when he tripped on the horse walker, and injured himself in myriad ways in the field. Now, he has chronic arthritis in both hind fetlocks, presenting a further challenge to his already complicated management regime. But Julie and her team, through endless tenacity, and an enviable inability to take no for an answer, not only got the horse to Burghley, but got him round clear, too. They might not be our winners — hell, they’re not even on our short list of completions — but their story of grit, guts and glory is quintessential Burghley, and we’ll be following them closely (with our cheerleading pom-poms only just concealed behind our backs).

Richard Jones and Alfies Clover produce a career best. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Richard Jones and Alfies Clover produced the best result of Richard’s career, climbing from 33rd place after dressage to finish seventh in the competition. Last year at Bramham’s CCI3*, the pair looked set to achieve their best result yet, when a freak accident ended their week early: Richard slipped as he stepped out of his lorry’s living and, catching his wedding ring on the door as he tried to hang on, ended up losing his finger. He rode around Burghley last year with Alfies Clover, despite being in constant pain and lacking a huge amount of strength in his left arm, but this year, he’s put it all to bed, finishing seventh at both Bramham and Burghley. Also worth mentioning? There’s a serious back-catalogue of songs about him. Sort of.

“Pass me a bottle, Richard Jones.”

There were new faces, too, who made an impact — Burghley first-timer Camille Lejeune (not a girl, just French) was one of those huge characters who bowls into a room and leaves everyone grinning. At every juncture of the competition he would happily effuse, “it is a dream of a kid, no?” about his Burghley experience, and his incredibly Gallic, expressive face and smiling ease in front of a swarm of journalists was admirable. He and Tahina des Isles were the first combination to manage a clear round over Richard Jeffrey‘s seriously influential showjumping track, and once they did it — as cool and casual as you can imagine — everyone else started to see that it was possible. It’s always a fascinating domino effect to watch; over and over, in so many ways, we see the Bannister effect trickle through eventing. Anyway, more importantly, Camille and his plucky mare finished 16th and left us beaming in their wake.

The name’s Glynn. Ciaran Glynn. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ireland’s Ciaran Glynn took home the prize for best first-timer, riding the talented Irish mare November Night to 14th place. The mare is named for the November night on which she was bought at the Goresbridge sales — “quite a drunken one,” recalled Ciaran with a laugh. The mare has an enormous amount of jump in her, and more than one person has WhatsApped me asking me to photoshop Ciaran as James Bond, so for both reasons, keep an eye on this pair.

Esib Power and Soladoun make nothing of Burghley’s stamina test. Photo by Peter Nixon.

Esib Power‘s Soladoun was one of my stand-out horses of the weekend. The four-star first-timer was successful on the racetrack, and it absolutely showed as he produced the fastest round of the day on Saturday. He romped home eight seconds inside the optimum time, pulling up fresh as a daisy and looking rather bemused about why he’d had to stop at all. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Esib at this level, but it’s not for lack of talent — the tough-as-nails Irish rider also showjumps at the top level, contesting classes like the Hickstead Derby. Instead, it’s a lack of horsepower that’s kept her out of the spotlight — but with an impressive climb from 37th to ninth place, and the opportunity to base herself in the thick of it all at partner Oliver Townend‘s Gadlas Farm, hopefully we’ll see some more equine talent go her way. This season, we’ve seen her take over the ride on Oliver’s four-star partner Samuel Thomas II, too — and no doubt, with an extra horse or two to allow her to mount a committed campaign, she’ll be riding with Tokyo in her sights.

Pick your poison: a liberal top-up from Lucinda Green, or a healthy pour from former England player David Flatman. Photo courtesy of Pol Roger.

Party predictions

For the second year in a row, Pol Roger hosted their Bits v Balls charity shindig on Friday night, in their teepee-esque Lodge alongside the collecting ring. In aid of the My Name’5 Doddie foundation, which funds research on Motor Neurone Disease, the evening pits eventers against rugby players, ably compered by TV presenter Clare Balding and helped along by innumerable bottles of the bubbly stuff.

Interestingly, one of last year’s eventers was Oliver Townend, who won the squat challenge and went on to win Burghley. This year, Tim Price and Harry Meade went head-to-head in a plank challenge, tying for the win as they hit three minutes on the trot. Tim, for his part, went on to win the competition, while Harry produced what must be one of the best rounds of his career the next day, ultimately finishing sixth. We don’t want to say that Pol Roger picks the winners, per se, but if once is a fluke and twice is a coincidence, we’ll be keenly anticipating next year’s Bits v Balls to see if we can pin down an early winner once again. (Also because very, very good champagne tastes best when accompanied by the acting prowess of a Price, of course.)

Getting the fashion fix

Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows that I’m not really equestrian journalism’s “fashion person.” I appreciate a bit of effort, I like to dress up for a cocktail party, and I enjoy seeing what everyone wears at the trot-up, but I can’t abide the endless stream of articles that flood social media in the lead-up to a major event, all of which focus entirely on what to wear (and all offering the exact same advice). Look, it’s a nice, horsey day out; the odds are high that the weather will fluctuate between all four established seasons and probably a couple that only currently exist at the far reaches of our solar system, and really, no one cares what you wear to spectate. As long as you don’t fall victim to #jodhpurwatch, obviously.

But for all that — and for my endless griping — I do pay attention to what goes on at the horse inspections, and something caught my eye this year at both of them. The perennial and ever-popular Fairfax and Favor boots, ordinarily adorned with tassels to match an outfit, or to nod to the wearer’s cross country colours, were overwhelmingly going pink.

Lydia Hannon goes pink for British Cancer Care at the first horse inspection. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Now, if there’s one thing the eventing community is marvellous at, it’s making charity a fun and easy thing to fit into our busy and broke lives. We saw it earlier in the summer, when #weargreenforJonty wristbands could be spotted on every arm in the country, raising money for the David Foster Injured Riders’ Fund, and we’ve seen it sitting in the window of every single horsebox in Britain, in the form of a bescarfed Willberry Wonder Pony. This time, the beneficiary of choice was breast cancer awareness, and Fairfax and Favor, who officially launch the pink tassels in October, have been quietly making an enormous financial impact.

Since their first year supporting the charity, the British fashion house has raised a huge amount of money for British Cancer Care, which works to support breast cancer patients and their families. This makes the company one of the leading commercial donors to the charity — not too shabby, for a brand in only its fifth year of life and competing against huge corporate entities.

A new way to wear tassels, demonstrated by this errant rodent. A Chinchfluencer, if you will.

Chinch demanded that I outfit him with his own set of tassels (unfortunately the shoes didn’t quite run small enough) — you can get your own next month through the Fairfax and Favor website. 100% of proceeds go to the charity, giving us yet another reason to feel seriously warm and fuzzy about the power for positive change our eventing family demonstrates.

Team GB chef d’equipe Chris Bartle had made one “pull my finger” joke too many. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

A stiff upper lip

One of the hottest topics of conversation was the British WEG team selection, which was notable in its exclusion of World Number One Oliver Townend. Oliver, who led the first day of dressage but couldn’t attend the evening’s press conference, was ably represented by Team GB chef d’equipe Dickie Waygood. Poor Dickie. He must have known he’d walked into the snake pit. But the former Riding Master of the Household Cavalry is well-versed in the art of keeping mum, and he handled the question with aplomb. So does Dickie know why Oliver was left off the team?

Waygood for President 2020?

I could keep rambling on all night about all my wayward opinions and happy little memories of this year’s Burghley, but the world keeps turning, and the eventing world keeps moving, and it’s on to WEG and Blenheim next — thanks for indulging me in one last stroll down (recent) memory lane. Until next time, chums.

Burghley Links: WebsiteEntriesTimetableStart Times & Live Scoring, Live StreamEN’s CoverageEN’s TwitterEN’s Instagram, Form Guide

Friday Video and UK Notes from World Equestrian Brands: Ride Around Burghley with Tim Price

Even with the WEG looming over the horizon (a bit like the eponymous twister in the 1990s cinematic classic of the same name), it’s just impossible to shake off the mantle of a jolly good Burghley.

Diving into WEG like…

It’s not the Burghley Blues, exactly — it’s just that the Lincolnshire event, with its end-of-school vibes, its golden-era feel, and its endless top-ups of bubbly sort of wraps you in a shroud of merriment that makes it hard to step away from Stamford and re-enter the real world. Golden era to golden arches (on the motorway home at 1am), four-star horsepower to fifteen-year-old Peugeot horsepower … you get my drift. I’ll be bringing you my reporter’s notebook this weekend, full of all the best bits that didn’t make the reports, but in the meantime, I’ve got something even better (or at least, vastly more educational) to share with you. But first: the UK diary dates you need for the weekend ahead.

UK Weekend Preview:

West Wilts (3): [Website] [Ride Times]

Gatcombe International (2): [Website] [Ride Times] [Cross Country Videos]

Frickley Park (2): [Website] [Ride Times] [Live Scores]

Frenchfield (2): [Website] [Ride Times]

Burnham Market (2): [Website] [Ride Times]

Events Opening this Weekend:

7th: Bovington (2) – BE80-N, with 90RF – [EnterDorset (October 13-14)

7th: Oasby (2) – BE90-I – [EnterLincolnshire (October 13-14)

8th: Broadway (2) – BE80-N, with 100RF – [EnterWorcestershire (October 13-14)

Events Closing this Weekend:

8th: Bishop Burton (2) – BE90-N – [EnterEast Yorkshire (September 29-30)

8th: Little Downham (3) – BE80-A, with BE90RF and BE100RF – [EnterCambridgeshire (September 29 – October 1)

Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Friday Video: Ride Along with Burghley Winner Tim Price

Have you ever wondered what, exactly, goes into producing a foot-perfect round over an enormous CCI4* track? After all, it’s not just going fast and jumping big — there are an almost endless variety of factors to take into account, and there’s plenty of strategy involved, too.

Fortunately for us, sports technology is evolving, giving us more of a chance than ever before to break down the remarkable athletic achievements of both horses and riders at the very top of their game. Leading analytics company SAP has teamed up with Burghley winner Tim Price to bring you a video of his winning Burghley round aboard Ringwood Sky Boy that’s equal parts external footage, first-person views, up-to-the-second numerical data, and, best of all, running commentary from the man himself.

What makes this video so impressive isn’t just the ease with which Tim and Oz scale the colossal fences — although that is suitably mind-boggling, too — it’s the sheer amount of data we’re giving at any given point in time. Keep an eye on the left hand side to see the blistering speeds that the pair reached, particularly up the long and taxing Winners’ Avenue, and how changing gears for different combinations affects their speed accuracy and their ability to hit the minute markers. The future is a-comin’, folks, and it’s being carried in on the backs of companies like SAP, who marry the best of equestrian sport with quantifiable data and technology. Give them a like on Facebook to keep up to date with all of their projects.

Thanks for the Happy Times: Sam Griffiths’ Superstar Retires

Happy Times says goodbye to his happy hunting ground at Burghley. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Amidst the high excitement and guts-and-glory savoir faire of Burghley’s final day, there was also a poignant moment: we said goodbye to Sam Griffiths‘ long-time partner Happy Times, who cantered into the main arena one last time, ears aloft to the cheering crowds at his favourite event.

Happy Times (Heraldik x Hauptstutbuch Mandy, by Maraschino) has clocked up a remarkable string of achievements in his long and storied career, including eleven starts at CCI4* and coveted spots on the Australian team at the London 2012 Olympics and the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky.

Happy Times bows out at Burghley, alongside Sam Griffiths and former head girl Imogen Mercer. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Owned by Sam, Dinah Posford, and Juliet Donald, ‘Happy’ made an auspicious debut into the public’s attention in 2006 with his first major competitive appearance. This was at the Young Horse World Championships at Le Lion d’Angers, where he contested the seven-year-old CCIYH2*, finishing fourth and completing on his dressage score of 44.4 [29.6 revised]. The next year he would step up to three-star, gaining experiencing and demonstrating a remarkable upward curve in his performance, and culminating in a win at Saumur CCI3* in the midst of the 2008 season.

And from there? Well, there was no stopping him: he made the step up to four-star in 2009, finishing third at both Badminton and Burghley, making the time but rubbing a pole at the latter and adding just 0.8 time penalties across the country to his dressage score at the former.

The following year, he won early-season CIC3* classes at Belton and Chatsworth, cementing his place on the Australian team for that autumn’s Kentucky WEG where, unfortunately, their competition would come to an early end on the cross country course. Sam and Happy regrouped, came back out for the 2011 eventing season, and cruised around Badminton yet again, finishing fourth on their dressage score. If once is a fluke and twice is coincidence, three outings at four-star with barely anything — if anything at all — added to their dressage score proved that Sam’s remarkable Oldenburg was, in fact, the real deal.

Sam Griffiths and Happy Times at Burghley 2013.

They would finish 16th at Burghley in 2011 before heading to the London Olympics in 2012 — another Championship event that didn’t go quite to plan for the four-star specialist. They rerouted to the next month’s Burghley, finishing an easy ninth, and following it up with 15th and 12th at Badminton and Burghley, respectively, in 2013.

Sam Griffiths and Happy Times at Burghley’s Discovery Valley in 2014. Photo by Kate Samuels.

In 2014, they would add another third-place finish at Burghley to their impressive resume. Over the next couple of years they would complete yet another Burghley, as well as clocking up respectable finishes at Blenheim, Barbury, and Belton.

In 2017 Sam suffered a crack in his neck that was discovered after Burghley, and while he opted to take a few months’ break from riding to allow it to heal, he felt that he couldn’t let Happy, then 18-years-old, stand by and lose out on a season. Instead, he drafted in fellow Australian and close friend Shane Rose, who had based himself at Sam’s Symphony Farm in Dorset for the season. Ineligible for the competition’s Event Rider Masters leg by dint of their new partnership, they instead aimed for The Festival of British Eventing’s hotly-contested Advanced section, which they won easily. This season, Happy was lightly campaigned at ERM legs by Sam, enjoying a pressure-free final season on which to end his impressive career.

One last time for Happy Times: Sam Griffiths’ longtime partner enters the main arena at Burghley. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“I’d always planned for this to be his last season, but it wasn’t until my showjumping trainer Ros Morgan suggested Burghley that the idea to do it there came about. She pointed out that it would be a great send off, and it’s true – he competed there seven times and was always a Burghley horse; he always came into his best in the autumn,” says Sam.

Happy, who still looks and feels much younger than his nineteen years, is looking ahead to an active retirement – he’ll be making his show-ring debut in the in-hand and veteran showing classes with Mouse Berry, who groomed for the pair at the London 2012 Olympics, and who’s based just ten minutes from Sam’s Dorset base.

Happy Times completes a final lap of Burghley’s main arena. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

For Sam, riding into the main arena at Burghley was the perfect way to tie his long partnership up with a neat bow.

“I loved him from the moment I saw him,” says Sam, who was contacted by friend and dealer Ruth Wollerton about a young horse he ‘had to see’. “He was just so athletic – you could hardly hear him as he was trotting around the arena. He was always a bit of a star, but he was notoriously hard to train for the showjumping – he was terrified of poles, and would leap over them in the beginning when I tried to do polework with him. But when he came into the ring he really relaxed into it, and he was won of the only horses to jump a double-clear on the final day at Burghley one year. He loved the crowds, and to me he was the perfect event horse: he could move, he could jump, he was always so sound, and he had a great brain.”

Sam Griffiths and Happy Times at the 2016 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials. Photo by Nico Morgan.

Sam and Happy were joined in the main arena by former head girl Imogen Mercer, who worked for Sam from 2011, just after leaving school, until 2017, and enjoyed forays to many major events with her charge.

“It was a very special day — to be honest, I wasn’t expecting to go into the main arena,” says Imogen. “For me, it was mainly a day for Sam and Happy’s owners, Juliet and Dinah, to celebrate the journey that they’d been on with him, and it was great that they could do that and parade him around one of the events that he’s done the best at in his career.”

“I went to my first Badminton with Happy Times and Paulank Brockagh in 2013, and I was very fortunate to be there at the time when both horses were at the top of their career.” Imogen looks back on Happy and Sam’s third-place finish at Burghley in 2014, upon returning from the Normany WEG with Paulank Brockagh, as a particularly special point in her career. “The Sunday was an amazing day; he’d just gone so, so well all week, and it was amazing to be in the main arena at the prize giving, and to experience that camaraderie between the riders and the grooms. Burghley is just such an amazing event because it’s still got so much hype about it but it’s very friendly, and it’s towards the end of the year so it’s a little bit more relaxed, but it’s still a four-star.”

When you’re working alongside a horse who has made such an event his dominion, a place like Burghley becomes even more special — and it was clear, from the enthusiastic cheering of the gathered crowds that Happy had earned his place in the annals of Burghley history.

“It’s sad to retire him, but I’m just glad I could give him a fitting send-off,” says Sam. “He did so much for me; he was the first horse to really put me on the map and I still love riding him now.”

Team EN wishes Happy a long and, well, happy retirement. Thanks for the memories, old boy.

Sam and his evergreen Happy Times. Credit Griffiths Eventing Team.

 

Big, Bold and Boozy: The Best of Burghley Social Media

Hands up if you’re feeling the post-Burghley blues, in which real life seems to pale in comparison to fence-hopping, celeb-spotting, vitamin D-topping glorious Stamford and its microcosmic eventing mecca. Yeah, us too — in fact, it’s only an endless stream of social media (okay, and the thought of WEG and Blenheim next week!) that’s keeping us from Bridget Jones-ing our lives away.

Mostly.

In an effort to keep you all away from the liquid joy — your body is a temple, after all — we’ve compiled some of our favourite social media moments from last week’s competition. Nostalgia mode: activated.

Now, you might think of four-star eventers as one-trick ponies (see what we did there?), but several of them demonstrated some remarkable hidden talents through the week. For example:

Exhibit A: Andrew Nicholson, news hound

Exhibit B: Tim Price, “drawer”

Exhibit C: Harry Meade, Strictly Come Dancing’s 2019 winner

Exhibit D: Lucinda Green, supergroom

There were some seriously caption-contest worthy moments, too:

Eventing fans and riders alike did a marvellous job of demonstrating the sheer scale of the pants-wettingly gigantic fences the competitors had to tackle on Saturday. Sure, sometimes the very best make these things look small, but we beg to differ…

The Morgan’s on the Picnic table #burghleyhorsetrials #Family

A post shared by Alex (@alexander100594) on

#burghleyhorsetrials #bigfence #colouredcob

A post shared by Liz Carduss-taylor (@cardusstaylor) on

There was frivolous photoshopping. Your hard-working UK correspondent is easily led astray by a bottle of wine and a bad idea.

 

There was plenty to do for animals of all shapes and sizes, too — including small, grey, badly-behaved rodents.

There was the very best house porn of all in the form of Burghley House, which basked in a perpetual golden glow and kept a close eye on proceedings — as well as hosting the most exclusive party of the autumn, of course.

Glad Rags on…..

A post shared by Ciaran Glynn (@ciaranglynn1) on

🔗

A post shared by Emma Hobday (@emmahobday1) on

Many people will argue that fashion is just as important as function at an event like Burghley. We couldn’t agree more — but put your white jeans and feathered fedoras away, because there were some rather more unique options on show throughout the week…

Okay, okay, this hasn’t worked at all — we’re even desperate to go back to Stamford now. So we’ll leave you with this: Burghley’s own delightful little wrap-up video. All the best bits in under a minute. We’ll meet you at the booze cabinet.

Burghley Links: WebsiteEntriesTimetableStart Times & Live Scoring, Live StreamEN’s CoverageEN’s TwitterEN’s Instagram, Form Guide

 

Mo’ Money, No Problems: Tim Price Cashes in at Burghley

Tim and Jonelle Price: eventing’s winningest couple. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

As it turns out, you can put a price on success. Or two of them, actually, as long as those prices are actually Prices and those successes are actually the tangible culmination of a lifetime of intensely hard work, ineffable dreams, and a partnership deeply rooted in mutual ambitions, respect, and most of all, love: love for the sport, with all its inevitable ups and downs, love for the horses around whom everything orbits, and love, at the end of the day, for one another.

Does it seem a bit emotional and frivolous to talk about something as unknowable as love when we’re looking at something as grounded in cold, hard facts as eventing? Maybe. But at the end of the day, it’s the time spent on the immeasurables — the marginal gains in training that no one ever sees, the raw will to win that pushes horses and riders through seemingly career-ending injuries, the unquenchable passion that carves a path through the worst of times — that has the most effect on the measurables. Without love, and all its many shapes and forms, you don’t have numbers. You don’t have stats. You don’t have wins.

If the love don’t look like Price love (and 90s R&B, or whatever), we don’t want it. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

When Tim Price and Jonelle Richards, as she was known then, relocated to the UK from New Zealand in 2005, it was entirely on the strength of those immeasurables that they did so. Could they have, even then, anticipated that some thirteen years down the line, every sacrifice they had made would come good? Perhaps not — but then, perhaps sometimes you keep that flame of self-belief quietly flickering away, season after season.

So much has already been said about Jonelle Price’s incredible 2018 season: a first-ever — and long overdue — four-star victory at Badminton, swiftly followed up by another at Luhmühlen. But Tim has been quietly racking up some very good results indeed through the year, with a win in Blair Castle’s CCI3*, a second-place finish in Jardy’s ERM leg, and, of course, his nomination to the New Zealand World Equestrian Games team alongside Jonelle. But a major result? Well, that had narrowly eluded him.

When we talk about horses who are household names — in eventing families, at least — we’re often talking about four-star winners and Olympic medallists. But sometimes — as in the case of Classic Moet prior to Jonelle’s Badminton victory — we’re speaking of those perpetually consistent top-level horses, the triers, the ones who dig deep time, and time, and time again, with all the guts but just falling short of the glory. Some horses just deserve a four-star win. Ringwood Sky Boy is one of them.

Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy clear the final fence on the Burghley course. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Thirty-nine horses went forward to today’s showjumping test, but only eight of those produced clear rounds. Of those eight, only three were clear with no time penalties. In the morning’s session, not a single combination produced a clear round. Tim and Oz, as he’s known at home, had led after cross country, moving up from second after the dressage after coming home just a second over the optimum time on yesterday’s cross country course. He came into today’s showjumping test with a lead of just over half a penalty point, giving him no margin for error at all — but Ringwood Sky Boy, like Classic Moet before him, isn’t known for his showjumping prowess. In fact, he’d only ever jumped one clear showjumping round in a four-star, out of nine completions. Statistically, it wasn’t a matter of if they’d pull a fence — it was a matter of how many they’d send to the floor.

That moment when…you’ve absolutely nailed it, in every way, in every phase. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

The answer? None, nada, rien, nichego, niente. At the moment when it mattered most, they stayed fluid and communicative over a course that confounded much more reliable showjumpers, and they made it happen. Just as Jonelle and Classic Moet produced their first clear showjumping round in an international in four years to win Badminton, Tim and Oz defied every crunched number, produced the goods, and became the 2018 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials champions.

Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy’s owner Varenna Allen. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“He’s the sort of horse who deserves a big day, but he’s one of those who’s usually sort of in the mix somewhere in the class with a couple of good peaks during his competition,” said Tim, the easy grin he’s known for writ large on his face. “But to pull it all together in one week has been exceptional, and I couldn’t be more proud of him. Varenna Allen, his owner, makes a big effort to be everywhere with him, and it’s just a massive team effort. It wouldn’t be the same without the people in the sport and the team — I look for somebody to have a joke with on the way into the arena, because we’re all friends here.”

Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

For Tim, who also finished in tenth place aboard Bango, Burghley has long been the domain of the legends of the sport — legends who, whether he’s realised it or not, he’s carved a place for himself alongside.

“It’s always been a dream to do Burghley, ever since watching Andrew, Toddy, Blyth and those guys. We got inspired as youngsters, watching it on the television. To be doing it is unbelievable — beyond my wildest dreams,” he said. “It’s everything, isn’t it — it’s Burghley! I like to think of myself as a very natural rider; a horseman who’s just going through the motions of the competition. That’s my background — I work with young horses from the bottom on up, and I just look at Burghley as a place that exemplifies all of that. So to come here and to win it is pretty cool. It’s going to take a while to sink in. It’s amazing — amazing.”

Tim Price and Bango. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

It’s easy to forget the incredible work ethic that Tim, Jonelle, and their backstage team — ably helmed by head girl Lucy Miles — possess, particularly when their ceaseless positivity and good humour make it all look, frankly, rather relaxed, but it’s hard work that’s gotten the team here, and it’s hard work that engineered today’s clear round, too. From the winters spent showjumping on Spain’s Sunshine Tour to the expertly-managed fitness regimes that allow their horses to recover so well from efforts like yesterday’s, nothing is left to chance.

“I’m super proud of my horse for jumping a clear round; he had a couple of taps, but I’m happy with those sort of taps because they weren’t big, klutzy moments – they were just him trying hard,” said Tim about his horse’s performance. “It’s tough to crack the showjumping on that particular horse — he throws his heart over first, and sometimes his head gets left behind. It’s a challenging course, and Oz had given his all the day before and we really needed to work for that. I changed how I was going to ride the middle line after my round on Bango. But they’re different horses — you’ve just got to take your experience and ride them accordingly.”

Tim Price pilots 10th-placed Bango in the prizegiving and lap of honour. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Oz, who came to Tim as an ‘unruly’ six-year-old with a penchant for rearing and bolting, was never intended to stay at Mere Farm — in fact, he spent four years trying to sell him on and recoup the £3,000 he’d paid for him. But now? He wouldn’t be without him.

“He’s a character around the yard, and he’s the first horse I go and say hello to every morning. He’s got his special scratches, where he does this giraffe thing with his neck. He’s just been here so long, and he’s so happy, but that’s not necessarily the sort of horse that goes and wins these things.”

Tim Price – your Burghley 2018 champion. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Just one second over the optimum time on yesterday’s course precluded Tim and Oz from delivering the second FOD of the competition.

“That’s a disappointment, isn’t it?” he joked. “I’ll have to go home and work on it. I’m sure we’ll talk about it in the car on the way back!”

Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class finish second. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Last year’s winners Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class might have pulled a rail, but it didn’t drop them a single placing — in fact, it only served to give Tim the slimmest of margins to have his own rail, if needed. The eleven-year-old gelding, who has now been 1st, 2nd, and 5th in his three starts at the level, produced one of the two fastest rounds of the day yesterday, coming in eight seconds within the optimum time of 11:11.

“It’s very special to have him here again,” said a delighted Oliver. “I’ve had him since the word go, and he’s been tricky — I still gave to be careful with him when he’s fresh! — but with extreme talent come the quirks. Last year he came here and won it out of pure naivety — this time, he came and felt like he knew the job. He became a professional this year. There’s always something you can improve on, but I’m so happy — he couldn’t have given any more. To be consistent and to give better and better performances — that’s really special.”

Oliver, who admits that he’s often guilty of “keeping my head down and staying quiet”, has a special place in his heart for the tricky but talented son of Courage II. (Incidentally, this makes Ballaghmor Class a half-brother to winner Ringwood Sky Boy — they share the same sire.)

“He has the main box in the yard,” smiled Oliver. “It doesn’t matter which window I’m looking out of; I can always see Thomas, even from the bathroom! He’s the first horse I look at in the morning and the last horse I see at night. He’s as special a horse as I’ve ever ridden.”

Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Oliver, who came to the competition with three rides, finished it with just two after withdrawing MHS King Joules before this morning’s final horse inspection. Cooley SRS finished 12th, adding a pole in the final phase but climbing a placing from his cross-country result. For the incomparably hard-working rider, piloting multiple horses is old hat — but it still has its effect on him.

“Honestly, at this stage, it’s a big relief — I’m quite glad it’s over!” he said. “I couldn’t be happier with my horses; they’ve been unbelievable all week and their form through the year is just unbelievable. And that doesn’t just happen overnight. Full credit to their owners — it takes time to get to this point and I just kept on saying, ‘wait, just wait, we’ll get there.’ It’s very special, and I’m very proud to be on them.”

Second place to a Price is not a new experience for Oliver, who lost out on the final leg of the Rolex Grand Slam to Jonelle at Badminton, but the pragmatic Yorkshireman, for all his blunt exterior, is quick to celebrate his fellow competitors’ successes.

“I’ve got to congratulate Tim — that family has been in my backside all year!” he laughed.

Suited, booted, and sure-footed: Andrew Nicholson and Swallow Springs clock up Burghley’s only FOD. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

One of the most impressive performances across the week’s competition came from third-placed Swallow Springs, ridden by five-time Burghley winner Andrew Nicholson. The four-star debutante began his week in 16th place, after a test that Andrew felt was harshly marked by the ground jury, but an exceptional clear round inside the time across the country catapulted the pair into fifth place. Today, another double-clear shot them to third — and made them the only pair in the competition to finish on their dressage score.

“I’m very pleased with him; he couldn’t have done any better, and I don’t think I could have done any better,” said Nicholson of the eleven-year-old, known at home as ‘Chill’. “I’m lucky to have some very supportive owners; after my injury [in 2015] they were happy for me to downsize my string a bit and send some of the horses to Oliver. The ones that are left are the ones I think are really special.”

Chill, who finished a very impressive second in Bramham’s CCI3* in June, has always shown four-star potential to the vastly experienced Kiwi stalwart.

“I left home thinking that if he could go the way he can, and if I did my job, we were in with a pretty good chance of winning the thing,” he said. “All credit to him — he let me ride him, and he let me tell him what to do. It was a bit rough and ragged at times, but it happened.”

Andrew originally got the ride on Chill because he bucked badly, but now, he says, the horse is a ‘pussycat’ at home. When the youngster arrived on his Wiltshire yard, however, he didn’t have a name — and so Andrew chose Swallow Springs, a nod to Swallowhead springs in nearby Avebury. All starting to sound rather wonderfully sentimental? As it turns out, Chill isn’t the only pussycat in Wiltshire. But could this talented grey in fact be the next Avebury?

“Well, sure — he’s the right colour!” laughed Andrew.

Sarah Bullimore and the notoriously tricky Reve du Rouet add another top five placing to their name. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Sarah Bullimore‘s Reve du Rouet is one of the most topsy-turvy, back-and-forth, Jekyll and Hyde horses in upper-level eventing — but for all that, he’s phenomenally talented and, as he proved this week, when he comes good, he comes very good indeed. They managed one of the very few clear showjumping rounds inside the time today to finish fourth.

“He’s been amazing — he’s a phenomenal jumper, but sometimes things do get the better of him at an event,” said Sarah. “He’s so talented, but he often has one or two things right and the rest goes out the window.”

Piggy French and Vanir Kamira fly the girl power flag. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Last year’s runners-up Piggy French and Vanir Kamira were one of the primary contenders for the Burghley title, sitting in third place going into today’s final phase, but it wasn’t to be, and a heartbreaking rail shunted them down the order to finish fifth.

“To be honest, I think I was quite lucky to just have one — there were a few rubs out there, so I’ll take that,” said Piggy. “Of course we’re disappointed, but it was nice to know that we can both do it and take confidence in each other again.”

Vanir Kamira once again won the prize for the best-placed mare, which gives Piggy the opportunity to take embryo transfers from her talented partner. Le Lions of the future: watch out.

Buck Davidson and Park Trader post a top-twenty finish. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Buck Davidson finished the best of the Americans, pulling two rails with Park Trader to finish seventeenth in the horse’s first Burghley.

“He was a little bit fractious as I went in there, so I didn’t really get his focus back for the third fence,” explained Buck. “I had hoped to do something a bit different at the triple bar to the treble combination — everyone else had the back rail down in the middle, and I had the front, so I managed to do exactly that!”

Buck took over coaching duties for fellow American Lillian Heard this week, after her own trainer Boyd Martin withdrew and couldn’t make the journey over. She finished 37th with LCC Barnaby, adding her first Burghley completion to her resume and finishing with two rails.

“Lillian’s a super girl and she rides great, especially since her horse isn’t the easiest,” said Buck. “I don’t know that I did very much but it was great having her on the team this week.”

Lillian Heard and LCC Barnaby tick a huge box on their sophomore attempt. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Lillian, for her part, was delighted to tick the Burghley box and took plenty away from her experience.

“You’ve got to keep your cool in there — confidence is a huge part of that. I was in a position where I didn’t have much to lose, so I could go in there and practice — and that’s exactly what I did. It’s been a funny week — I was disappointed with our dressage, really disappointed with that 20, but the happiest that I had a sound horse this morning, and thrilled with how he came out and show jumped, so you have to be happy with that! We’ll aim for Kentucky in the spring — although I’d love to do Badminton if we could get a grant.”

Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 make Burghley happen. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 also added two rails to finish 36th: “She was actually jumping great, like she had springs in her feet, but she got a bit strong to the treble and the third element came down. I probably moved up a bit more than I should have. She just feels a bit proud of herself now — she likes having people in the crowd; it doesn’t worry her at all. Now we’re going to aim for Badminton — if we can afford it!”

So that brings us to the conclusion of our Burghley coverage — it’s been an emotional rollercoaster, but we couldn’t be more delighted with the end result for the Price clan, and for all those hard-working horses, riders, grooms, and connections who came together to make their dreams happen this week. We’ll be bringing you a reporter’s notebook in the next few days with all the bits and pieces that didn’t make the report — we’ll look forward to reliving Burghley in all its glory with you then.

Until then, raise a glass to House Price, rulers of the realm — and, as always, GO EVENTING!

Your final top ten at Burghley 2018. It’s been emosh.

Burghley Links: WebsiteEntriesTimetableStart Times & Live Scoring, Live StreamEN’s CoverageEN’s TwitterEN’s Instagram, Form Guide

Burghley Final Horse Inspection: Top Combinations Bow Out Early

Piggy French and Vanir Kamira, third-placed overnight, present to the ground jury. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Good morning from the final fray, the hard-won front line of the 2018 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials. The day dawned bright and beautiful as the crowds gathered en masse for a tense final horse inspection: would the long night of icing and walking be enough? Would those hardened athletes who had fought so hard and dug so deep in yesterday’s test stride into Sunday fit, and well, and happy? We focus so much on the three phases of eventing that sometimes it’s easy to forget that dreams can be dashed just as harshly in the horse inspections, too — but there will have been little but this moment on the riders’ and grooms’ minds for the past fourteen hours.

Oliver Townend and Cooley SRS. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

There was a notable spate of withdrawals before the trot-up even began this morning: Oliver Townend withdrew his pathfinder horse MHS King Joules, who has been so consistent this week and sat in tenth place after the cross country phase. Oliver’s other rides, Cooley SRS (13th overnight, now 11th) and Ballaghmor Class (2nd), were accepted.

Andrew Nicholson and Swallow Springs. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Andrew Nicholson, too, withdrew one of this two rides — Jet Set IV was eighth overnight, but his Burghley ends there. Andrew will ride Swallow Springs (5th) in this afternoon’s final session.

Fellow Kiwi Ginny Thompson (40th) opted not to present Star Nouveau, and Burghley first-timers Hector Payne and Dynasty, who was 29th after a clear cross country round, made the same decision. Rebecca Gibbs (30th) and De Beers Dilletante and the wonderful Julie Tew and Simply Sox, whose incredible story has moved us all so much this week, also decided not to present this morning.

Never mind, we’ll find someone like Tew. (Except we won’t, because she has broken and re-healed our icy cold hearts over and over again, and we are taking this worse than a break-up.)

Tina Cook and Star Witness are held, but then offered a fortuitous shift up the ladder. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

After the initial landslide of withdrawals, though, it was plain sailing across the board, with just one horse sent to the holding box throughout the ground jury’s ministrations. That was Tina Cook‘s Star Witness, who added nothing to their dressage score yesterday to climb an incredible 50 place from 62nd to 12th. Now, in the wake of the withdrawals, she sits in 10th place going into this afternoon’s final session of showjumping. Not. Too. Shabby.

There was an almost disappointing lack of dance moves today, particularly from Harry Meade and Away Cruising, who sit in fourth place on a score of 31.1 after an scorching round across the country yesterday, and who behaved so delightfully badly at the first horse inspection.

“Fantastic! This is going jolly well indeed; perhaps Tilly will stop badly photoshopping me and leave me in peace for five bloody minutes!”

But never fear, Harry – you gave us quite enough material on Wednesday to distract us from doing any actual work for the next six months, at least.

#fillercontent, people. Filler content for days.

“Oh.”

The current leaders, Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy, sailed through the trot-up, and we’re delighted to report that both looked fit, well, and full of running after making such light work of the course yesterday.

Overnight leaders Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy are accepted in the final horse inspection. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Our American entrants, too, saw no trouble this morning — all three will go forward to showjumping, with Lillian Heard and LCC Barnaby (now 37th) Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 (now 35th) showjumping in the morning session and Buck Davidson and Park Trader (now 12th) jumping in the final session.

Andrea Baxter and Indy 500. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Lillian Heard and LCC Barnaby. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Buck Davidson and Park Trader. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

One of the most important parts of the final horse inspection — in our humble opinion! — is the awarding of the grooms’ prize for the best cared-for horse over the duration of the event. This morning, it was awarded to Janet Willis, who looks after Willa Newton‘s Chance Remark (10th), and has worked for the Newton family for 33 years.

Janet Willis and Chance Remark. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The morning’s session of showjumping commences at 11.15am BST/6.15am EST, with the final session beginning at 2.25pm BST/9.25am EST. Stay tuned!

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Burghley Cross Country: The Lines are Tight, but the Price is Right

Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy lead overnight after an influential cross country day. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Sometimes, the fates align and everything comes together to deliver an absolutely and inarguably bloody brilliant day of cross country. Today at Burghley was one of those rare, special days: the weather was glorious (and yes, the first rule of journalism is that you should never talk about the weather — but this is eventing in Britain, so cut us some slack here), the cross country course was influential in that old-school way that is so often pined for, there were no tricks, traps, or problems for the ground jury to puzzle over, and the thrills and spills, while certainly coming up thick and fast, ended up being just those: tumbles and glances without any disasters. At the end of the day, we’ve been graced with the sort of leaderboard that eventing dreams are made of — and the stories that brought us all to this point are as wonderful as the people and horses who made them happen.

Gushy? Sure, we won’t deny that — but what is this sport if not a melting pot of hopes, and dreams, and inextinguishable passion, tempered all too often by heartbreak and injury and seemingly endless disappointment? (Okay, and mud. So much mud.) When Eventing Jesus smiles upon us and gives us the glory days — well, we’re damn sure going to celebrate them.

Live footage of your devoted EN correspondent handling the excitement of the day with total professionalism.

Sixty-eight horse and rider combinations left the start box today to tackle Captain Mark Phillipsbig, bold course, and forty-five of those made it home. Of those forty-five, seven picked up cross-country jumping penalties, and of the thirty-eight clear rounds, just four made it home inside the optimum time of eleven minutes, eleven seconds.

It’s always going to be an interesting day when the placings after dressage are so achingly close and when the first few riders out of the start box are some of the most experienced in the field, and yet still become the mistresses of the ticking clock. Today, just ten seconds separated the dressage leader from overnight tenth — and after that, it got even tighter, with a matter of seconds between the majority of the rest of the riders. Lest anyone have any lingering doubts, this was not going to be a dressage competition.

Oliver Townend and MHS King Joules, third-placed after dressage, were our pathfinders this morning, and the notoriously strong gelding gave the crowds a few gasping moments earlier on in the course, settling around the three minute mark to produce the first of the day’s clear rounds. They added 10.4 time penalties, enough to put them in 10th place overnight — but it was an early indicator that things were about to be shaken up in a major way.

“It was a tricky enough course to ride,” he said after his first trip around the track. “He was balls-out early on, but he kept jumping everything I put in front of him. He’s the strongest I’ve ever ridden, and the course is the biggest I’ve ever jumped — it walked massive, but it jumped even bigger. Then you add in the toughest terrain in the world.”

Piggy French and Vanir Kamira. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Round after round followed suit with top horses and riders coming in handfuls of seconds over the optimum time — but when last year’s runners-up Piggy French and Vanir Kamira delivered a blazing fast round, coming in with just 1.2 time penalties, it began to look achievable.

“She’s a fabulous little mare — you could strap a monkey to her and she’d go and run cross country,” said the delighted rider, who sits in third place going into tomorrow’s final phase. “She just needs balancing, as she’s quite a downhill horse, but she’s such a game little girl, and I knew she had it in her because of how well she did last year. Now I’m just kicking myself for that three seconds over the time — she’s so full of running, and if I could go straight back out and do it again, I’d shave those off. I just gave her those moments to refill her lungs, but she was buzzing, so I could have made them up.”

Piggy, who is one of a plethora of successful women who balance top-level competition with new motherhood, has overcome a long run of bad luck and come back to this level in the best form of her career.

“I just really enjoy the game, and I’ve got fabulous horses and great people around. When you’ve had a really bad time and know how bad things can be with horses, you just crack on when you can. I don’t think you ever dare to think it could go well — you just have to take each day as it comes.”

Of motherhood, she laughs: “I often wonder what I did before I had a child — he takes so much time! But my partner, Tom March, is brilliant, and we muddle through. I do want to be a proper mum, so I ride in the morning, and spend the afternoons doing that.”

Tina Cook and Star Witness. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Once Piggy’s fast round was in the bag, we witnessed two astonishingly quick rounds through the afternoon. The first belonged to Tina Cook and Star Witness, who were the first combination to make the time, coming two seconds under to climb from 62nd to 12th position.

“I had to trust that I was on a Thoroughbred — I needed to kick ass today!” she said. “The only way I’d get near the top ten was to go inside the time. But I still had to work — we lack runs, and with his kissing spines, I try not to do too much, but I promise his owners a four-star a year. He’s amazing at this — so honest. But I think Dickie [Waygood] and Chris [Bartle, the Team GB coaches] were holding their breath!”

The next of the fast rounds was delivered by Irish rider Esib Power, who came in eight seconds under the time with Soladoun, moving from equal 37th to 7th place.

“It’s great to be back at this level,” said Esib, so nicknamed because as a child, her brother couldn’t say ‘Elizabeth’. She always expected her successful former racehorse to be fast, but was impressed with how he stepped up to the level: “I’ve never had him off the bridle before, so that was a new feeling — you can’t take any liberties out there. It felt like hard work, so I’m glad it looked classy. It certainly lived up to it’s reputation — it’s hard work out there! Look, it’s what you dream of — I’d love to have more horses to do this with, but for now, I’m happy to have got this one here.”

Harry Meade and Away Cruising. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

And then it was anyone’s game. Harry Meade added just 1.6 time penalties,  holding fourth overnight with Away Cruising, and local rider Richard Jones and Alfies Clover added 2.8 to move from 33rd to 9th. Andrew Nicholson had come close with his first horse — Jet Set IV added 2.4 time penalties and moved from 29th to 8th place — but his second horse, the four-star debutante Swallow Springs, added nothing at all to his dressage score, moving from equal 16th to 5th place overnight.

“He might be young, but I rode him like he’s a four-star professional,” said Andrew. “When I’m positive, he’s positive — he’d happily have done three strides through the Leaf Pit. He’s a proper horse. If I ride him more delicately, he’ll dangle his legs and offer to run out — he likes you to be in charge and he’s been naughty in the past. He bucked me off in the warm-up once.”

Andrew has high hopes for the talented up-and-comer: “Nereo always felt like he hated it here, even though he did so well — I always thought that maybe he got wise to it but after riding the younger ones who love it, you realise that some of them just don’t like Burghley.”

He was also full of liberal praise for the course design, suggesting that other designers might seek to emulate Mark Phillips’ methods.

“I loved that there were no hidden traps — for example, I jumped in big to the Trout Hatchery and changed my plan, and it was great that I could do that and still be clear. Mark has got the measure of the flag rule — there were no questions about 50 penalties today, because the horses could always see the flags. Then they either jumped or they didn’t.”

Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Oliver Townend‘s final ride of the day — and the final horse to leave the start box — was last year’s winner Ballaghmor Class, who managed to produce something even more impressive than his effort of last year, finishing eight seconds within the time to level with Esib Power as the fastest ride of the day. They sit second overnight on their dressage score of 27.9.

“He was unbelievable,” said Oliver. “I didn’t know if he’d get the trip at the speed we needed — it’s not in his pedigree, but it’s in his mind. He felt like a different horse altogether from last year — last year, it was pure naivety, and me throwing in big questions that he answered every time. This year, the track didn’t suit many, but he dug deep and put his head down — he was workmanlike. He’s turned from a boy into a man. It’s a funny old job, though — sometimes I think I’ve done a good job and they kill me for it. Today, I thought I was a bit desperate and didn’t give him the best ride, but everyone’s praising me! The dream is very much still alive, and for now, I’m just enjoying having three clear at Burghley. I’ve had great times on some of my horses but to have them on horses I’ve produced is a different feeling. It’s a different sport for me now. I’m a bit of a mess, anyway — I try to keep my head down and keep quiet, but when I cross the finish line, I just want to burst into tears.”

But for all of the astonishing efforts across the board, it was to be Tim Price‘s day. His foot-perfect round on Ringwood Sky Boy added just 0.4 time penalties to his dressage score, giving him a well-earned lead after a ride that made Burghley look like the Pony Club.

“I’ve had some thrill rides on this horse — in the wrong way!” said Tim. “Finally, though, we’re finding what works. The course felt like an old friend, and the horse is my old friend, and it all just came together. He’s not a fast horse but I took a little bit of experience from my last horse. Oz knows how to dig deep and work under duress, and he did. You’ve got to be in it to win it — he’s not a quick horse, and I had to take tight lines to get it done. I didn’t notice my watch at all, other than a few beeps in the background. It’s a journey with horses — what I’ve learned is that you have to take each day as it comes, be grateful for a healthy horse each day, and trust in your preparation. That’s worked so far.”

Buck Davidson and Park Trader. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Buck Davidson finished the best of the American contingent, climbing a placing from 16th to 15th after a quick clear round saw them add just eight time penalties to their dressage score of 32.1.

“It started off a little hairy; he sort of spooked at the crowd at the fifth fence and I thought we’d stop, but then he was very good and fought where he needed to out there,” said Buck. “He’s a bit tricky, so I had to be careful to get him back after that. He seemed to get better as he went though — he’s a first-class horse and I want him to be in the same league as My Boy Bobby and Ballynoe Castle. He gave me all his effort today, and now I have to do the same for him tonight.”

Two of our American representatives were on the redemption trail after falls ended their campaigns last year, and both completed today’s tough cross country test.

Andrea Baxter and Indy 500. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 clocked up 20 penalties at the final skinny element of the Leaf Pit, but went on to complete the rest of the course without any issues, adding a further 26 time penalties. They sit 41st going into tomorrow’s final horse inspection and showjumping.

“I was so on the fence about going straight [at the Leaf Pit] or doing the option — I thought she would probably do the bank in the straight route perfectly, but skinnies like that are as bad as right-handed corners for her,” explained Andrea. “I saw that everyone else had been opting for the long route, so I thought I would do — and actually, I think she’d have been better if I’d just gone straight. But you live and learn! I was maybe just a little bit cautious because I’d fallen last year, but after that 20, she was spot-on.”

While many of our Americans abroad are able to make the trip due to the funding and grants available through the USEF and USEA, Andrea took a slightly different route to making her way back to the UK.

“I came here all on my own, but I’m very lucky to have some really awesome friends in California who put together a lovely fundraiser, which raised about ten grand, and then I won another seven or eight at Rebecca Farms CCI3*, which helped. I’d love to aim her at Badminton next, so I guess I’ve got to go home and sell everything I’ve got to try to come back!”

“You never quite know what you’ll have until you get to these competitions — sometimes you come and you’ve got the funding and you feel all the pressure, but then sometimes you do it all by yourself and you think, ‘oh god – why have I done this to myself?’ But this year, I played it safe because of our last attempt, and it’s frustrating, but it’s an upward curve and it gives me plenty of new knowledge to bring back to my clients in America, and we can use it to build up.”

Lillian Heard and LCC Barnaby. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Lillian Heard made light work of the Leaf Pit, her nemesis of last year with LCC Barnaby, but caught a 20 at the influential Rolex Combination at 15b, the Vicarage Vee replica fence.

“I got through the Leaf Pit — and I finished, so that’s good!” she laughed upon completion. “We had a frustrating 20 — he tried to jump but our line was just outside the flag so we went the other way. We went long at the Dairy Mound, too — I knew he was tired, and maybe he could have used one or two more gallops. I’ve never felt him get tired in his life, but he got tired today — if you took the jumps here and put them on their own, they wouldn’t be that hard, but it’s about the terrain, the stamina, and everything. But that’s the thing — you can’t do this sport and think that every time you show up it’ll be like, ‘YEAH!’ Sometimes, it’s a bit like, ‘meh, okay…’ But I rode here today and really felt like — I belong!”

There were some notable fallers throughout the day, perhaps none more so than dressage leaders Mark Todd and Kiltubrid Rhapsody. They say that history repeats itself, but it was rather a cruel blow that Mark should have to walk home under the weight of the same fate two years in a row: last year, he led the dressage with Leonidas II, and in both of those instances, his chances of victory hit the deck with him. This time, it was a surprisingly innocuous fence that caused the problem. After pulling off the save of the day at the Leaf Pit, it was the Gurkha Kukri, a single and simple fence at 10, that tipped both he and his horse up. Both walked away — but the chance of a record-equalling sixth win at the Lincolnshire venue was dashed.

Sole German representative Andreas Dibowski was sixth after dressage with FRH Butts Avedon, and the hugely experienced combination looked set to be a formidable pair today. But they came unstuck astonishingly early — the Rolex Grand Slam angled rails at number 6 didn’t, perhaps, offer the most immediately obvious trajectory, but Dibo and his longtime partner misread them entirely, activating the jump’s frangible devices and causing the German to get rather too familiar with the ‘carpet-like’ ground.

France’s Cedric Lyard also had a fall at what had been a fence of little influence through the day. Discovery Valley appeared at fence 5abc this year and, after an uncomfortable jump over the first element, Cedric was catapulted into the open ditch in front of the next element. Qatar du Puech Rouget then stumbled, propelled forward by inertia, and followed him in. It looked, for a moment, like an incredibly unpleasant accident — one reminiscent of the battle of Waterloo, with its reams of cavalry cascading into false ditches, on top of hapless foot soldiers, and probably entirely devoid of rambling and inane historical references. How, though, can a man survive his horse crashing down on top of him, with the forces of gravity and horsepower working double-time against him? With a bit of je ne sais quois.

“That was a f***ing stupid jump to ride so badly at,” he said, emerging with a particularly Gallic shrug and nary a scratch from the ditch.

Tomorrow begins bright and early with the final horse inspection at 9.00am BST/4.00am EST — we’ll bring you a full gallery and all the updates live as it happens. We’ll also be bringing you an in-depth look at how the showjumping might play out, so buckle up, tune in, and let’s bring this Burghley home!

In the meantime — go Tim, and GO EVENTING!

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‘No Different From a Novice, TBH’: Riders Weigh in on Burghley’s New-Look Course

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a man (or woman) in preparation for a Burghley cross country run must tell you one thing: “it’s big — [half laugh, half fear-tinged exhalation] — it’s certainly Burghley.”

Once the wave of abject horror at the thought of a big Burghley has swept over you (we know, it’s a real shock to the system), it’s time to unpack what, exactly, this year’s competitors will be facing. Let’s break down the basics, first of all.

THE 2018 BURGHLEY CROSS COUNTRY PRIMER

Course length: 6,375m

Optimum time: 11:11

Jumping efforts: 50

Fences: 30

Much of the talk about this year’s course has centred around the fact that, really, it couldn’t possibly be more different from last year’s course. For once thing, it runs in the opposite direction — this year, our intrepid competitors will run counter-clockwise around the Burghley estate. But more excitingly, for the first time this year the course features a flyover, which sits at a juncture by fence 16, the Pardubice, and fence 23, Capability’s Cutting. This multi-level effect will drastically change the feel of this section of the course and, if any photographer is lucky enough to be blessed with such marvellous synchronicity, a picture or slow-mo video of one over, one under will end up being one of the defining images of this year’s event. Here’s a map of this year’s course: you can see the flyover in the upper part of the map. You can also view the course on the interactive CrossCountry App — click here to see every fence, courtesy of Tom Crisp.

The 2018 Burghley cross country course.

For comparison’s sake, here’s the map of 2017’s course — as you can see, the entire track has been reversed, which means that competitors will have to tackle difficult combinations like the formidable leaf pit early on.

Burghley’s 2017 track.

Savvy? Brilliant. This year’s course, in a nutshell, is as such: a first half full of challenging combinations, with myriad options and plenty of places to run into problems. That said, course designer Captain Mark Phillips has done a fantastic job of creating a course that is huge and enormously difficult, without being trappy, unclear, or unfair to the horses. In the middle of the course, competitors will have to gallop up the longest stretch of Winners’ Avenue we’ve seen — then, once they get to the top, they’ll need to pop over the formidable Cottesmore Leap with its Land Rover-sized ditch. From there, the combinations are thin on the ground, in favour of big, square single fences the whole way home — but at this point, the horses will have tired, and these fences require plenty of fuel left in the tank, so riders would be remiss to consider this a lay-up.

The Captain walked the course with Alice Plunkett in a brilliant and comprehensive video preview, which has suitably terrified most of the competitors. Give it a watch here.

We spoke to many of the riders over the past two days to get their take on the challenge ahead of them — here’s what they had to say:

Mark Todd (1st and 12th): “Do you ever like something like this? I don’t know! By my second walk I started to see a more clear path, but I certainly don’t underestimate it.”

Team course walk @lrbht_official

A post shared by Mark Todd (@marktoddeventing) on

Tim Price (2nd and 16th): “The ground is almost bang-on perfect, so that’s one thing I don’t have to worry about — but there’s a lot of fences along the way to worry about! It’s certainly not a Derby course. Ringwood Sky Boy isn’t the most organised at times with his technique, but he’s proven time and time again that he’s safe and knows what’s important out there. But it still gives me a bit of anxiety — can we do it 30, 40 times?

Oliver Townend (3rd, 5th, and 7th): “It’s as big a Burghley as I’ve ever seen in terms of dimensions. There are three serious hills, so it’ll be very stamina-sapping — there are no twenty-second breathers like we’d normally find around Winners’ Avenue, because even that’s a long, uphill pull and will tire the horses. It’s going to be very, very tough.”

Sarah Bullimore (4th): “It’s big, it’s bold, it’s brave, there are combinations that will cause some trouble — you’ll have to think quickly at the Maltings [14abcd], but there are get-out-of-jail options if you get it wrong. The Rolex combination [15abcd] is serious.”

Harry Meade (8th): “I’m amazed how different it is from last year — last year’s course was brilliant, and when they get it right, course designers often keep it largely the same for a few years, with some small changes. This year, he’s built a whole new, equally brilliant course. It’s very big, very square course with tricky combinations in the first half. One of the wonderful things about eventing is that you’re not really competing against each other — you’re cumulatively competing against the course and the conditions. There’s a hugely influential pull up to the Cottesmore Leap, but there’s not much to jump in terms of technicality once you’ve got through the first half of the course. Then, it’s mostly big, square fences. They can’t necessarily keep jumping out of a gallop; they’ll jump and land more static over these types of fences, so it takes more energy to pull away again. They’ve also designed good fences and then dressed them — so often you see it the other way around, and the fences are beautiful but not very interesting to jump.”

Bill Levett (10th): “It’s going to require a hell of a lot of stamina. The more you walk it, the more you start to see your way around — and the less upset you get about the dressage!”

Polly Stockton (15th): “I watched the preview and scared myself stupid! I’m pleasantly surprised now I’ve seen it in person. He’s a bold horse, but can be a bit greedy in his distances — I won’t know if I’m sitting on a four-star horse until Saturday.”

Buck Davidson (16th): “Captain Mark Phillips rode, and he understands how horses think and react. There are no funny jumps that confuse horses — the question is clear, and then they can decide whether to jump or not. American eventing has a lot to be thankful for with Mark — not just in terms of what he did for the team, he really upped eventing on the whole with his courses.

Andrew Nicholson (16th and 29th): “This way around will be tough. There’s so many ways of going at so many of the fences, but I’m not clever enough to work them all out — so I’m just going to go direct most of the way around. It’s too confusing to try to figure them out!”

Ciaran Glynn (28th): “I didn’t realise how beefy it would be! There are big lumps of timber the whole way around. There’s a long pull up Winners’ Avenue that never ends, and then you’ve got to pop the smallest ditch in eventing at the Cottesmore Leap. I’ll get to that point and see how much horse I’ve got — then, if we’re feeling good, I’ll rip it the whole way home.”

Camille Lejeune (30th): “It’s less technical than some of the French courses, which have no terrain so need to use twists and turns to make it difficult. Here, the ground does it.”

Richard Jones (33rd): “I think it’s an incredibly brave move by Captain Mark Phillips to do what he’s done. There’s no way out of jail at the Dairy Mound — if your horse isn’t a true four-star horse, I can’t see a way home there. It’s a very, very clever horse, and you’ll have to ride with your head, not just thinking of the minute markers.”

Esib Power (37th): “It’s built for my horse — he’s never been off the bridle yet on any course. He might look like a child’s pony in the stable, but he’s a naughty little brat — though on a good day, he’s a pleasure to ride cross country. He’s a different league than anything I’ve ever sat on — he wasn’t a slow racehorse; he was a winner on the track.”

Ben Way (42nd): “It walked better than I saw on the preview. There are plenty of places where he’s given an option where he didn’t necessarily need to, which will be interesting. Then you’ve got a long gallop up the hill, and nice, plain fences cruising downhill all the way home. I’ll be trying to make use of Galley Light’s Thoroughbred-iness. I’ll give him some early long routes to give him confidence — he’s not an ignorant horse, and he needs some hand-holding.”

Polly Jackson-Griffin (45th): “The ground is a massive thing here — very undulating and hilly with a big hill at the eight minute marker, and then the jumps actually get bigger!”

Imogen Murray (54th): “It’s big, and it’s bold, and it should suit Ivar Gooden. He loves to gallop — if it was a fourteen minute cross country, that would be perfect!”

Katie Preston (55th): “This course has got my horse’s name all over it. He’s a horse who looks for the flags, and at every point, the horses can see them. There are no tricks. I’ve never gotten to the bottom of his stamina before — he’s a Thoroughbred, and the perfect Burghley horse.”

Tina Cook (62nd): “It’s very similar to last year in many ways. There are a lot of wide fences, which will be quite energy sapping. The technicality is varied in places, but has been upped in other areas, like the Maltings. If you take on the oxer and get it wrong it’s very fiddly, and you could be up there half an hour trying to find your way out! We’ve got enough combinations early on, and the Leaf Pit early on, which will catch people out. By the end of the course, though, the simple fences will still be difficult, because the horses will be tired.”

Michael Owen (65th): “The Trout Hatchery will come up thick and fast, and the Rolex combination at 15abcd with its Vicarage Vee replica, too. This place can catch you out anywhere with the terrain — you or the horse can lose focus at any time. You’re not clear once you get past the Dairy Mound, either — the horses can, and will, still tire. Some of the long routes won’t waste any more time, so you need to have done your homework and have a plan A, B, and C for each one.”

Dickie Waygood (Team GB Performance Manager): “It’s incredible — the horses will love jumping off this ground, and the fences are beautifully dressed.”

Cross country begins shortly at 11.00am BST/6.00am EST — follow our links below to follow along via the live stream and our Twitter feed. The marvellous Jenni Autry will be spearheading the live updates thread right here on EN — don’t miss a second of the action!

Burghley Links: WebsiteEntriesTimetableStart Times & Live Scoring, Live StreamEN’s CoverageEN’s TwitterEN’s Instagram, Form Guide

Friday Video from World Equestrian Brands: Ghurka Soldiers in Battle of Burghley

Happy Friday, chums, from a remote field in a jolly corner of rural Lincolnshire! (Nah, I’m kidding, I’m in a Holiday Inn Express in Peterborough, eating pizza and calculating dressage margins. Try to tell me the life of an equestrian journalist isn’t a glamorous one. Just TRY.) Today’s Friday video is, I’m afraid, sans entry information — mainly because I’ve got a course preview to wrap up for you all. You win some, you lose some, and Burghley madness is one helluva drug.

Speaking of Burghley, their official charity this year is the Gurkha Welfare Trust, which provides support to the British Army’s Nepalese soldiers and their families. To raise awareness of their mission — and to show off the enormous dimensions of this year’s course — four of these intrepid soldiers took to the track on foot for Horse&Hound. We rather think that press-ups in the Cottesmore Leap should be a mandatory condition of completion, frankly. Get stuck into the brilliant video and take your first look at the colossal course before tomorrow’s competition kicks off — it’s a big’un, but somehow this lot make it seem almost – dare we say it? – easy. Almost.

Burghley Dressage Wrap-Up: Quality Kiwis Hit the Mark

Mark Todd and Kiltubrid Rhapsody lead after the first phase. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

The final session of dressage was always set to be an exciting one, with some of the top combinations in the competition coming forward in front of the ground jury. Historically, we always tend to see slightly more favourable marking on Friday afternoon — but over two days of competition, we witnessed a grand majority fall in the mid-30s bracket, with arguably conservative scoring across the board, and very few riders earning coveted 9s in their tests.

The Townend stronghold was shaken up by a strong showing by the Kiwi contingent today. New Zealand riders have historically been enormously successful here — in fact, they can claim 13 of the last 30 victories at the event.

Mark Todd is one such Kiwi rider who is no stranger to the top of the leaderboard, with five victories to his name. Sixth at Badminton with a 23.4 dressage, his eleven-year-old Irish sport horse Kiltubrid Rhapsody has demonstrated a remarkable consistency and ability to perform in his 2018 season. Today, he didn’t fail to deliver, earning a 26.4 to storm into the lead, finally usurping Oliver Townend and MHS King Joules, who have led since the start of the competition.

Mark Todd and Kiltubrid Rhapsody. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

“He was very good — I’m very pleased with him,” said Mark, who also sits in 12th place with NZB Campino, despite two errors of course. “He just keeps getting better and better. He’s got a wonderful temperament; he can go out there and it just doesn’t bother him at all. He actually got a bit nervous in the collecting ring, as there was quite a lot of noise around, but you can’t really hear it when you get in the ring, and he settled back down.”

A minor blip in the extended trot prevented Mark and ‘Raps’ from matching their Badminton score: “He skipped a bit there, which he never does, but for his level of training I don’t think he could have gone much better. Bless him — he just loves showing off in there.”

This will be Kiltubrid Rhapsody’s first trip around the Burghley course, and the second consecutive year that Mark finds himself in the lead after this phase. Last year, he and Leonidas II led the way, but their competition came to an unfortunate early end when the horse stumbled upon landing from a fence, ejecting Mark out of the front door and leaving them with a long walk home. This year, he intends to avoid a similar disappointment.

Mark Todd is all smiles on the hunt for a record-equalling sixth win at Burghley. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few wins, and of course, you’re always looking to win another one — and I probably won’t have too many more chances. I wouldn’t say Burghley is his ideal track, but he’s a real trier and just keeps galloping and jumping, so we’ll see. There’s a long way to go yet. He’s fitter than he was at Badminton, and a bit harder now, but this is a different kind of track with a lot of hills.”

Tim Price and the ‘quirky’ Ringwood Sky Boy. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Mark’s fellow countryman Tim Price set an early precedent for the week to come, producing a 26.9 with Ringwood Sky Boy. Tim, who won Luhmühlen CCI4* in 2014, has had several good results here with ‘Oz’, including a fifth-place finish last year, fourth in 2016, and second in 2015.

“I had high hopes for him — we’ve been here a few times, but it hasn’t necessarily always been an upward curve in terms of improvement,” he said. “It’s been slightly snakes and ladders with him, but not today — maybe now that he’s fifteen, he’s maturing and we’ve figured him out. I’m mostly pleased that we stood still three times! He went sideways at Rio and has done it here, and if you can’t stand still, you can fall down the scoreboard pretty dramatically. He just tends to get a bit excited and can’t contain himself, but he went in their and stood quietly.”

Oz wasn’t always an obvious upper-level contender for Tim, who bought the horse as an ‘unruly’ six-year-old, with a proclivity for rearing and bolting, and for the princely sum of £3,000.

“I tried to sell him for a few years — in fact, I tried to sell him to the Brazilians that Mark was working with — but no one wanted him. But now, I wouldn’t be without him. He’s a part of the furniture at the farm.”

Oliver Townend and MHS King Joules remain in third place — the best of Oliver’s three rides. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Oliver Townend‘s long-term leader MHS King Joules sits in third place going into cross country, the highest-placed of his three-pronged attack here. His reigning champion Ballaghmor Class was the last horse to enter the ring today, and while we didn’t see quite the quality of work that led to his remarkable 20.8 at Badminton, he delivered a respectable score of 27.9 to sit fifth overnight. Oliver also holds seventh place with his Badminton runner-up Cooley SRS, putting him into an enviable — if highly-pressured — position going into tomorrow.

“Ballaghmor Class’ test didn’t quite come off how I was hoping it would come off, but we’ve won big competitions from worse positions, and we’re only a couple of seconds from the top,” he said. “For him to be that cool and walk so nicely is a real testament to the horse — I have no complaints at all, I’m delighted with him.”

Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class make their way into the top ten. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Oliver may have his hands full, trying to analyse and plan his way around Captain Mark Phillips’ tough track with three very different horses in mind, but he’s no stranger to piloting an impressive number around a top-level track. Nor does he register the external pressure to deliver a result in the wake of his exclusion from the World Equestrian Games team, a hot topic on everyone’s lips this week.

“I love coming to Burghley, and I don’t really think I need to prove any points. I’m here to enjoy it, and to enjoy my horses. Burghley is very special in my heart, and to come with three horses who I love riding is a special and unique position to be in. I’m unbelievably happy with all three of them, and all credit has to go to the team behind the scenes — having three horses looking great, feeling great, and performing well at Burghley is a tough job. Now, if all three can stay on the same scores, I’ll be doing somersaults!”

Australia’s Bill Levett made a late entry into the top ten riding Improvise, who was 6th here in 2014.

“He was good, but they didn’t love him — I was hoping for a 27 or a 28, but that’s the way it is! Like many horses, he anticipated walking on the final centreline, but we so rarely have tests where they have to transition from canter to trot there. We’ve been working with [Australian dressage rider] Gareth Hughes once or twice a month, which just keeps us improving and aware of what we’re doing. Frankly, the more you walk the cross country course, the less upset you get about dressage!”

Andrew Nicholson and Swallow Springs sit in the top 20 overnight. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Another Kiwi looked to be in contention for a top placing, though the mark didn’t quite reflect the work he felt he’d produced. Andrew Nicholson‘s four-star debutante Swallow Springs earned a 32.1 from the judges, putting him in equal 16th.

“I was very pleased with him — I thought he was smart, classy, and active throughout, but I guess I’m out of favour with the ground jury,” he remarked. “He felt very cool in his brain. He’s come on mentally, and he’s a lot stronger in his body, but the scores didn’t match what I felt, and they didn’t match what I’ve seen in some other tests this week. But we’ll just have to get the other phases right.”

Buck Davidson and Park Trader choose the perfect moment to lay down a personal best. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Buck Davidson and Park Trader finished the day as our best-placed North American combination, finishing equal 16th on a personal best of 32.1.

“I was very happy with him, he worked really well,” he enthused. “He got a bit wound up when he first came up, but then he settled. I brought him to Millstreet [Nations Cup in Ireland] last week to school him, so he’s been over here for a couple of weeks now and is well settled. I’m excited to have him here this weekend — I think he’s the right horse for the job. His attention isn’t always there, but he’s an out-and-out galloper and jumper, and I’d like to do it better than I have before.”

Tomorrow’s cross country test is chock-full of tests and stamina-sapping efforts, and we’ve spoken to the riders about their initial impressions and battle-plans for tackling Captain Mark Phillips‘ tricky track. Stay tuned as we bring you the inside intel, and an unpacking of the course, before the competition recommences tomorrow at 11.00am BST/6.00am EST. Go Kiwis, and Go Eventing!

The top ten at the conclusion of dressage at Burghley.

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Friday at Burghley: Guess Who’s Back, Back Again – Townend’s Back, to Defend

Oliver Townend did not come to play. Photo by Peter Nixon.

There’s just no stopping Oliver Townend, apparently. As the morning session of Friday’s dressage drew to a close, he remained well-situated at the top of the leader board with pathfinder MHS King Joules on a score of 27.2. Second place, too, was unchanged — Sarah Bullimore and the bad-boy-come-good Reve du Rouet maintain their stronghold just a tenth of a penalty behind the leaders on 27.3.

Andreas Dibowski and FRH Butts Avedon produce the highest score of the Friday morning session. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

But there were some new entries into the top ten further down the line. German team stalwart Andrea Dibowski might not be one of the usual faces in the crowd here at Burghley, but he made the most of a rare trip to the feature event, delivering a solid score of 28.5 and moving into third with the experienced four-star campaigner FRH Butts Avedon. Andreas is Germany’s sole representative this week, fitting in a sojourn to the UK before he’s whisked away to Tryon with his teammates. It’s these reliable championship duties that ordinarily prevent him from contesting this event, but this year, with two horses at the top of their game, he was able to make an entry.

“Burghley, for me, is the highest level,” said Andreas after his test. “It’s mostly too close to championship events, so I don’t get to do it often. But this year, after the horse did well at Sopot and Aachen, and after having done Pau, Luhmühlen, and Badminton in the past, I felt that it was time for him to do Burghley.”

The crowd expected an impressive test, and the longtime partnership delivered, with fluid, correct, and impressive work. In the warm-up, too, they looked a fearsome combination, schooling canter pirouettes and higher-level work in preparation for their test.

Andreas Dibowski and FRH Butts Avedon. Photo by Peter Nixon.

“The preparation for today was perfect — I only worked him for about ten minutes, and he was really calm so I could prepare him well. His canter is sometimes a little bit flat, so a working pirouette really helps me to take him under the gravity and work him up under my seat. I’m very, very happy with him today; the atmosphere is not so easy to ride in, and he was really crazy and a little bit nervous in the first horse inspection.”

FRH Butts Avedon benefits from the heavily Thoroughbred influence that tends to aid in a successful trip around the Burghley course, and Andreas hopes that this will push them to one or two better after tomorrow’s big test.

“I had the feeling when I walked the course that it was uphill, uphill, uphill — I was waiting all the time for the downhill to come! It’ll really test the condition of the horses, but he’s my most experienced horse and he’s a good galloper, and much easier to ride in a long-format CCI. I’m not the fastest rider in a CIC; I need the time to find my lines, so we can make up that time in a long-format like this.”

Oliver Townend delivers again, this time with Cooley SRS. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Oliver Townend‘s second ride of three, Badminton runner-up Cooley SRS, came forward for his second outing at the level, delivering a score of 29.4 to sit in fourth. Though the test didn’t quite rival his Badminton effort — he scored 25.9 on his debut at the level — a consistent stream of 7s and 7.5s mitigated the damage inflicted by a sprinkling of 4s and 5s in the rein-back and changes.

“This is his second time at the level, and that’s often the trickiest one for them, as they start to feel that they’re very good at what they do and they start to enjoy the crowd. They’ve been to prizegivings, and you think, ‘okay, you’re a superstar, but it’s time to calm it down’,” said Oliver. “He’s as fit as I’ve ever had him, and a bit on the fresh side, but he’s a lot more strengthened in his body, too. He’s a natural backwards and weak horse, but we’re pleased with his progress — he’s always improving, and it’s exciting to feel that there’s still more to come.”

Fifth through eighth place saw familiar faces in familiar places; yesterday’s third-placed Harry Meade and Away Cruising ringlead this group of remainers, followed by Piggy French and Vanir KamiraGeorgie Spence and Wii Limbo, and Mark Todd and NZB Campino. To read more about their tests, check out yesterday’s morning and lunchtime reports.

Emilie Chandler and Coopers Law impress again on their return to Burghley. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

A new face moved into the top ten, tying for ninth place. Emilie Chandler and Coopers Law might not yet be household names, but they finished 14th at Pau last year and 20th at Badminton this spring, as well as 21st at Burghley in 2015. Excitingly, they haven’t had an international cross country jumping penalty since 2014, and would be a strong pick for a dark horse top-ten finish, if they can minimise their rails on Sunday.

Today, though, is just about the first phase — and they delivered a good score of 31 to feature among the big boys after a solid test. This doesn’t rival their Badminton first-phase mark of 27.9, but with just eighteen combinations left to present before the ground jury, it’s certainly a strong position to be in.

“I’m very pleased with him — he was very relaxed and managed to contain himself in the walk,” said Emilie. “Three years ago he went very well here, and then sadly had a niggle of an injury and some time out. It’s nice to come back with a bit of experience — although I don’t think it’ll make it any easier!”

Coopers Law’s history with Burghley goes back further than just that 2015 result — he contested the four- and five-year-old classes, finishing in the top ten in his five-year-old year, but delivering a rather less dazzling result as a four-year-old: “it poured with rain, and I think he managed to kick out six showjumps — they were only 90 centimetres!”

Alex Bragg and Zagreb round out the top ten at the lunch break. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Fan favourites Alex Bragg and Zagreb also produced a 31 test to tie with Emilie and Coopers Law. Their score represents the first time since Belton at the start of the season that they’ve scored in the 30s — normally, we expect a mid-to-high 20s score from this pair.

“I’m a little bit disappointed,” said Alex after his test. “The beginning was great, and then I just got a bit cautious in the canter and allowed him to slip a bit behind my leg. Then we were a bit up and down and short behind in the changes. I just needed to be a bit more positive to get in the 20s, which is where I’d hoped to be.”

Alex and Zagreb produced their best test to date at Jardy’s ERM in July, where they won on their dressage score of 23.6.

“As a rider, you’re always trying to supersede your personal best, which does put the pressure on. It’s hard to do a test on grass with a bigger horse, too — you can just lose the impulsion as you try to balance them. Perhaps I should have gone less deep into the corners and kept the forward motion going, but I’ll analyse it and try to work out how to ride this test better for next time.”

Alex Bragg and Zagreb. Photo by Peter Nixon.

The rangy Zagreb isn’t one of the most blood horses in the field, but Alex points out that no course is perfect for any horse: “the style [of the course] suits him down to the ground but the long hill up Winners’ Avenue doesn’t — but then, you have strengths and weaknesses with all horses. He’s got a big heart and all the attributes you need to get around a course like this.”

Reflecting on the last few seasons, which have seen him rise stratospherically into the public eye, Alex  notes that riding at a competition like Burghley has changed for him.

“Sometimes, when you’re naive and it’s your first time, you have this belief that you’ll succeed, no matter what. Now, I have more knowledge and experience — so I hope I go out with more than just grit and determination. This time, I’ve got a decent plan and some experience behind me.”

Lillian Heard and LCC Barnaby set sail for a second Burghley. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

We saw our second North American representative in the ring this morning. Lillian Heard and LCC Barnaby rode their sophomore test at Burghley, returning after an early end to last year’s effort. They scored 36.4 and sit in provisional 34th position.

“He was really good in there — last year, he got really excited, but this time he was very relaxed, for him,” said Lillian. “The trot felt good, and I felt like I could ride him forward. He got a little nervous in the canter and thought that it could go either way, but then he relaxed again. I travelled him as late as possible, hoping that it would tire him out a bit — it didn’t work at all! Couldn’t they have ridden him around the airport or something?!”

Lillian trains with Boyd Martin, who was due to compete with Steady Eddie, but made a last minute withdrawal. Because of his team commitments, he wasn’t able to make the trip over as a coach, forcing Lillian to make a quick change of plans.

“Boyd dropped out, and the whole time I’d assumed he’d come, so for a day or two I was completely beside myself! But then I pulled myself together and thought, ‘this is ridiculous — what would Boyd have done anyway?’ So I asked Buck [Davidson] if he would help, and he said he’d give me as much or as little help as I wanted. I was like, ‘I want as much as possible!'”

Lillian and LCC Barnaby’s Burghley ended at the Leaf Pit last year, where they took a tumble. The horse became wedged against the fence, but after the ministrations of the ground crew, both horse and rider walked away in one piece. The incident propelled Lillian to reshape her training plan in preparation for a second attempt.

“I walked the course and saw that they’ve put the same combination at the Leaf Pit, but it’s harder this year — they must have put it there for me,” she joked. “Last year, I got around with bold force rather than skills, but I’ve been working hard — I’ve probably cross-country schooled more than anyone in the world!”

This afternoon’s dressage session re-commences at 2.00pm BST/9.00am EST. We’ve got some heavy-hitters in the final session, as well as our final US representative — Buck Davidson takes to the arena at 2.24pm BST/9.24am EST with Park Trader. We’ll also have our eyes on the following:

  • 3.04pm BST/10.04am EST: Mark Todd and Kiltubrid Rhapsody
  • 3.59pm BST/10.59am EST: Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy
  • 4.15pm BST/11.15am EST: Andrew Nicholson and Swallow Springs
  • 4.31pm BST/11.31am EST: Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class

As always, we’ll be bringing you everything you need to know, as soon as you need to know it — so stay tuned and, as always, Go Eventing!

The top ten at the lunch break on day two of Burghley’s dressage.

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Thursday at Burghley: A Bad Boy Comes Good, Townend Maintains Lead

Sarah Bullimore and Reve du Rouet live up to their potential, narrowly missing out on the lead. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Missed the morning report? You can find it here! As the first day of dressage recommenced after the lunch break, it was set to be an afternoon chock-full of change at the top — but for all that, nobody could catch this morning’s leaders, Oliver Townend and MHS King Joules. It’s a pretty exceptional result when the first rider in the ring manages to set such an impressive precedent — what should make his fellow competitors quake in their boots is the fact that his two best horses are yet to come.

One combination did come achingly close — fellow British rider Sarah Bullimore delivered a stunning 27.3 test with the Jekyll and Hyde Reve du Rouet, besting their personal best of 28.5, posted at Pau last year, where they finished second. Reve du Rouet has been an emotional rollercoaster personified, flitting wildly between offering Sarah the chance at top-flight results and practically removing her, at force, from the arena.

“It’s a genuine fear of the crowds and it all does get a bit too much for him, and then every little noise or movement becomes an excuse to react,” she explained, reflecting on the horse’s unfortunate tendency to bolt in the dressage ring. “He can bolt, or he can drop you, and then you ask him to go and there’s nothing there – he holds his breath, and it’s like kicking a balloon. But it’s been a while since we had a bolting incident, and I hope we’re past that now.”

Sarah Bullimore and the “unbelievably talented” Reve du Rouet. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Today’s supple, fluid-looking test didn’t come by chance — instead, it was the result of many years spent playing the long game and tailoring the horse’s training to work with his tempestuous temperament.

“He’s incredibly difficult to train. The more you ask him not to do something, the more likely he is to do it, and so we’ve had to be very sneaky about it, and make it so that he doesn’t realise he’s being trained.”

For Sarah, this includes plenty of creative hacking — she half-passes across bridleways, practices her flying changes while cantering across fields, and melds fitness with finesse.

“I needed him to believe he was still in a field when we went into the arena today,” she joked. It obviously worked: the Reve du Rouet we saw today looked a different horse from the one we’ve seen in years past, and if Pau is any indicator, this could be the start of a very exciting week for the Bullimore Eventing team.

“I’m over the moon with him. He was on side and he delivered, even when the crowd clapped at the end. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to relax on him, because he can change in a second, but he’s unbelievably talented. It’s great to be in this position — you can look at it as added pressure, but I think you can go off the boil if you’re not in contention.”

Harry Meade and Away Cruising use their dance moves for good, finishing the first day of competition in third place. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

After Away Cruising‘s antics in the first horse inspection, the assembled crowd watched with bated breath to see if he’d be able to keep a lid on his excitement in his test. He did, and in fine style — he and rider Harry Meade produced a personal best of 29.5 to move into third position overnight.

“I was delighted with him — I’ve felt all season that he’s been on the path to a really good test,” said Harry. “My focus with all of my horses is to produce them through their careers with the big four-stars in mind, and I’ve had this one since he was a four-year-old, so he really demonstrates that progression. He’s changed a lot in the past few years — he’s gone from a flat, long mover to being much rounder. We had to spend a lot of time analysing his biomechanics and figuring out how to train him. He’s got a slightly weak, diesel engine, and so I’ve had to make him into a snappy pony type, within the limits of his conformation.”

Harry was a vocal fan of last year’s course design, but even though we’re seeing an almost entirely new-look course this year, he’s looking forward to tackling it on Saturday.

“I’m amazed at how different it is from last year, which was brilliant. Usually when they create a brilliant course, they’ll stick with it for a few years, but this year, Captain Mark Phillips has built a whole new brilliant course. One of the wonderful things about eventing is that you’re not really competing against one another — you’re all cumulatively competing against the course and the conditions.”

He paused, then flashed an enormous grin: “The hairs stand up on the back of my neck when I drive through the gates. I love this place.”

Piggy French and Vanir Kamira: last year’s bridesmaids, looking to become this year’s brides. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

One of the hot favourites to post a competitive test were last year’s runners-up Piggy French and Vanir Kamira, and they did exactly that, delivering a 29.9. While not their best result at this level, it was enough to put them into fourth place overnight.

“It was okay, and I’m pretty pleased with it on the whole,” said Piggy of her test. “It definitely wasn’t a personal best, but I haven’t felt as though I’ve really had her all week. She’s a very sensitive, blood mare, and she wouldn’t be a natural in this phase — there’s a fine line to tread with her; she can be hot and bubbly. But it’s not a dressage competition, and to be competitive and in the twenties is enough.”

Piggy’s outlook is always to keep moving forward, and despite feeling as though they could have earned more today, she’s doing just that.

“Now, we forget about the dressage and move onto thinking about the cross country. The course is exactly what you expect from Burghley — the time will be hard, so we just have to try to stay between the flags and keep kicking on.”

Georgie Spence and Wii Limbo. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Georgie Spence and Wii Limbo rounded out the British top five on 30.4, but were another of the combinations to fall victim to an error of course. Frustratingly, they would have been third without the mistake, which saw them bypass the much-maligned stretchy canter circle. Without this error, they would also have beaten their personal best — a 28.9, posted at Badminton earlier this year.

“He was awesome; I just forgot the bloody circle,” laughed an exasperated Georgie. “The stupid thing is we’ve practiced that movement so much, because he’s a horse who doesn’t really like to stretch.”

Despite this, Georgie was thrilled with her long-time partner’s performance between the boards.

“He’s a super special horse, and it’s taken me twelve years to learn to ride him. On cross country he’s a complete machine, and the only person who can let the side down is me. Hopefully we’ll stay in the top ten or fifteen after the dressage — although we all know the marks tend to be better on Friday afternoon, so I’ll have to hope the judges stick to their guns.”

Polly Stockton and Mister Maccondy. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Polly Stockton made a positive impression in her first Burghley in six years, cruising to a 31.9 and seventh place with the former Ruth Edge ride Mister Maccondy. Polly, who finished second here to Oliver Townend in 2009, was thrilled to return to her happy hunting ground of old.

“I’m chuffed to bits. He can blow up easily, and all those flying changes can really muddle him up. We didn’t quite get the last two, but we survived!”

Mister Maccondy hasn’t been aimed at a CCI since Ballindenisk last spring, but Polly has been using the time to solidify his performance around CIC tracks.

“We’ve tried not to overrun him this year in the lead-up to Burghley. We won’t know if he’s a four-star horse until Saturday — he’s a bold horse, but he can be a bit greedy with his distances. I must say, I’m pleasantly surprised by seeing the course in person. I watched the video preview and scared myself stupid!”

Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 fly the stars and stripes for 25th place. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 were the first of our three North American combinations to take to the dressage arena, scoring 36.6 to sit in 25th overnight. This is a four-star personal best for the pair, who scored 37.9 here last year.

“That was pretty good; I’m happy with it, although the test wasn’t as good as the warm-up or the work we’ve done in lessons,” said Andrea. “But I’ve been able to produce a lot of what we’ve been working on. She’s a funny Thoroughbred — she’s almost too relaxed now that she’s older. It’s like she saves her energy for later on.”

Andrea and Indy 500’s Burghley debut ended early last year, when they took a tumble at an innocuous fence early on in the course.

“I think I was a bit overwhelmed by the whole thing — we’d done Kentucky, but if that’s a four-star, then Burghley is a six-star! It’s just so much bigger. She was amazing last year, and then we fell over this stupid, small log in the corner — so this year, I’m here to finish what I started.”

The new-look course appeals to Andrea: “my horse’s weakness is right corners, and there were about seven of them last year, so I wasn’t impressed! This year looks much better. It’ll definitely be a fitness challenge — she comes from California, so we don’t have many hills, but we’re building on a good Thoroughbred base.”

Andrea and Indy 500 have been partnered with Oliver Townend and his reigning champion Ballaghmor Class in the Peden Bloodstock pairs challenge, which teams up the top fifteen British riders with the top fifteen ‘rest of the world’ riders, offering an additional cash prize depending on their combined results. Not a bad partner to have, all things considered.

President of the Ground Jury Angela Tucker. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The evening’s press conference featured guest appearances by president of the ground jury Angela Tucker, as well as Team GB performance manager Dickie Waygood, who appeared on behalf of Oliver Townend, busy doing arena familiarisation with his two rides yet to come.

Of the overall standard of dressage, Angela had plenty of positive observations.

“They were mostly really good; there are always some first-timers, or horses who find that phase more difficult, but on the whole, you see riders working very hard to get it right. Harry [Meade]’s horse is a perfect example of that. Some of the riders don’t like the stretching circle in the new test, but I like it — it’s what you would do in training.”

When queried about the plethora of navigational errors in tests across the board today, Angela admitted that she nearly made an error of her own early in the day: “I was so busy judging Mark Todd’s changes that it took me a while to realise he’d missed the circle, so I rang the bell rather late. Then, as he was heading up the final centreline, I was so busy thinking about how I’d apologise for ringing the bell late, that I was late to spot that he’d halted in the wrong place!”

Dickie Waygood praised the quality of today’s judging, pointing out that, perusing the scores, you could see synchronicity and unity across the board, with very few of the wide discrepancies we’ve seen elsewhere.

“The ground jury have a massive task, and they put their heads on the chopping block for criticism,” he said. “But today the judging has been fantastic. The scores are very, very close.”

Inevitably, with a chef d’equipe on the panel for questioning, someone was going to ask about Oliver Townend’s exclusion from the WEG team. But Dickie remained tight-lipped, instead praising the rider’s performance that morning.

“He did an amazing job — he’s so cool and professional under pressure. It looked so much more elastic than it has done, and Oliver was over the moon — you could tell he wanted to give the horse a hug as he finished the test,” he said. “I’m not a selector, and the selection process is confidential, but I know that Oliver is very disappointed but will be supporting the team.”

The second day of dressage begins tomorrow at 9.30am BST/4.30am EST, and you can follow along with all the action on Burghley’s livestream, which can be accessed through the event’s website or Facebook page. Sneaking in a viewing session at work? Here are the tests you won’t want to miss:

  • 9.54am BST/4.54am EST: Oliver Townend and Cooley SRS
  • 10.02am BST/5.02am EST: Tina Cook and Star Witness
  • 11.02am BST/6.02am EST: Alex Bragg and Zagreb
  • 11.34am BST/6.34am EST: Andreas Dibowski and FRH Butts Avedon
  • 3.04pm BST/10.04am EST: Mark Todd and Kiltubrid Rhapsody
  • 3.59pm BST/10.59am EST: Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy
  • 4.15pm BST/11.15am EST: Andrew Nicholson and Swallow Springs
  • 4.31pm BST/11.31am EST: Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class

The top ten after day one of dressage at Burghley. Those stars denote errors of course – and believe us when we say there were more than just those in the top ten!

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Day One at Burghley: Top of the Morning for Townend

It’s a gloriously sunny day in beautiful Stamford, and this morning’s session of dressage saw some serious contenders complete their first-phase efforts. Whether you’re tuning in from home or watching from the grandstands, check out our comprehensive form guide to get to grips with every horse and rider combination we’ll see taking on the competition this week.

In a complete surprise to approximately nobody, world number one Oliver Townend took an early lead with MHS King Joules in the first test of the day, and the first of his three rides this week. Together, they scored 27.2 — the only sub-30 test we’ve seen so far, and a promising start to what could be a week of total domination for the rider, whose form over the past twelve months has been the best of his career. Their mark didn’t quite reach the superb lows of their personal best of 25.4, achieved here last year, as some moments of tension saw them leave a few marks on the table, but it’s an inarguably strong position for the defending champion to find himself in after the first session.

Reigning champion Oliver Townend takes an early lead with MHS King Joules. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

“I’m happy enough with him — if he stays on that mark, I’ll be very happy,” said Oliver, who has previously rued his proclivity for a number-one draw. “It’s always difficult being the first in, but with three horses entered it was inevitable, really.”

Oliver and ‘Jay’ come to Burghley on a high after finishing seventh at Kentucky in the spring. There, they added just a rail to their dressage score of 31.3, giving them the best finish of the horse’s career.

“Kentucky was a real confidence boost for me and him, and he’s been feeling good since then, so hopefully it will continue. This is as big a Burghley as I’ve seen in terms of dimension, with three serious hills, and it’ll be very stamina-sapping — there are none of the twenty second breathers we’re used to here, like the pull down Winners’ Avenue. It’s going to be very, very tough on the horses.”

Oliver had five horses entered in this week’s competition, but brings forward three: Jay is joined by last year’s winner Ballaghmor Class and Badminton runner-up Cooley SRS. He admits that the decision was not an easy one to make.

“It’s a testament to the team at home to have five horses fit, sound, healthy, and ready to run around Burghley. It made it a very tough choice — but a nice one to have.”

Navigational challenges: Mark Todd and NZB Campino sit in second place despite errors of course. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Squeezing into second place on a score of 30.8 was New Zealand’s Mark Todd. Riding NZB Campino, he produced the good score despite two errors of course, in which he forgot the 20m circle and then halted in the wrong place.

“It’s too early in the morning,” he sighed with a rueful grin. “I’m putting it down to onsetting dementia! It’s bloody annoying, to say the least, especially when you consider how tight the scores are with the way the sport works now. I sort of let the horse down a bit.”

The sat-nav failure comes hot on the heels of Mark’s late arrival at yesterday’s trot-up — fellow Kiwi Tim Price presented NZB Campino for him, though he appeared in time to take the reins of Kiltubrid Rhapsody. We’re not sure who’s in charge of making Mark’s coffee this week, but we’d like to offer the services of Chinch, who is well-practiced in the art of heavy caffeination.

Tim Price and Bango ride through a tricky condition to tie for third at the lunch break. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Tim Price capitalised on the good karma he earned yesterday, producing a score of 32.1 to sit equal third with Bango, the first of his two rides this week. Bango, who is making his return to top-level competition after two years out, isn’t always the easiest horse in this phase — he suffers from idiopathic headshaking, which can lie dormant for months and then reappear, seemingly without any trigger.

“He’s always been a bit of a headshaker. It started when he was five or six, and it tends to come out of nowhere. Sometimes I get away with it. I didn’t quite today,” said Tim. “But he’s happy, and I’m happy, and we’re looking forward to the next bit. He’s fast, and that should stand him in good stead this week. He’s super fit at the moment, and some of the filtered through today and led to a couple of blips, but he’s not an out-and-out dressage horse and we don’t expect him to lead this phase.”

For the first time in a long time, Tim finds himself competing in a four-star without having to ride against wife Jonelle, who won Badminton and Luhmühlen earlier this season. Instead, she’s here to help from the ground – “begrudgingly,” laughed Tim. “Though I’m not sure which capacity I prefer her in!”

Julie Tew and Simply Sox defy the odds on day one. Photo by Peter Nixon/Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.

Tying with Tim for third place is British rider Julie Tew, who rides Simply Sox in their Burghley debut. Julie, who has had a long and storied career at this level, hasn’t avoided Burghley intentionally — it’s just never quite happened for her.

“It’s crazy, isn’t it — I think I’ve been to just about every single event, bar Burghley!” she laughed. “Though I did do the young event horse class once — does that count?”

For Julie, making it to Burghley is an inordinately special moment. Both she and her horse have overcome incredible hurdles to make it to this point — Julie was diagnosed with a spinal tumour 18 years ago, and though it was removed, she was told she’d never ride again, and that walking with a stick would be the pinnacle of her physical prowess going forward. Nevertheless, she ‘fought immensely’ to get herself back in the saddle and competing at the top level of the sport.

“For the past five years, it’s been incredibly painful,” she explained. “I have 90% nerve damage in my legs, so I can’t do any fitness work — in fact, the less I do, the better I feel. So it’s a real balancing act. I can’t tell you — I’m so emotional for being here.”

Simply Sox, too, has had his fair share of setbacks, suffering numerous nearly career-ending injuries.

“He’s quite a tricky horse to manage, and has had some really stupid injuries. He tore a ligament tripping on the walker, and he goes mad when he’s turned out, which has caused him some problems. But he’s very bold, brave and very honest, so, touch wood, Burghley should be great for him. It’s immense to actually get here.”

Their score of 32.1 propelled them up the leaderboard, but their changes let them down: “normally I can get more leg on him, but I couldn’t today, which was a shame as he’s normally so good at the changes.”

Austin O’Connor and Lucky Contender impress in the horse’s introduction to a big atmosphere. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Ireland’s Austin O’Connor was another rider to suffer a navigational mishap toward the end of his test, but he and four-star first-timer Lucky Contender nevertheless pulled out a respectable mark of 32.4 to sit fifth at the end of the morning’s session.

“I’m not used to these tests going so well, so I think I was enjoying myself a bit too much, and my brain wandered,” laughed Austin. “I’m delighted with him, though — he’s such a trier, and even when things go wrong, it’s because he’s tried too hard, not because he’s behaving badly in any way.”

Austin found the horse as a three-year-old and spotted something special, but Lucky Contender has really only come into his own this season, with three top-ten finishes at three-star level.

“He has a very patient owner in Wendy Foster. What I saw in that three-year-old took six years to show to everyone else. He’s quite a sensitive person — half his downfall is wanting to please too much. He’s also a typical Irish horse and has taken a long time to mature. But he was exciting as a youngster — mostly because he didn’t cost an arm and a leg!”

Despite his promising early position, Austin is pragmatic about his plans for the week: “he’s a ten-year-old, and I’m going to ride him accordingly. It’s a big step in his education.”

Sweden’s Ludwig Svennerstal and four-star debutante Stinger sit in sixth. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Sixth place is held at the lunch break by Sweden’s Ludwig Svennerstal, whose young talent Stinger produced a 33.1 to get his week off to a good start.

“I think it was okay,” said Ludwig of his test. “It’s the horse’s first time at this level, and he needs to be a bit more established, so we had some small mistakes but I’m pleased with him. Dressage isn’t his strongest phase — those are the two upcoming ones, so we’ll see what he can do with those.”

Stinger began his career as a show jumper, competing internationally over 1.30m tracks, but Ludwig sought to keep the ride after catch-riding him around Falsterbo’s Eventers’ Grand Prix class. The horse then climbed from Novice [Preliminary] level to three-star in just eleven months, and was recently selected as one of Ludwig’s options for the forthcoming World Equestrian Games.

“This is for sure my favourite show, and I can’t wait for Saturday. His real quality is his cross country — he’s a very straight, good horse, and he’s well prepared after jumping well at Aachen and Gatcombe.”

Two new faces snuck into the top ten this morning — Hector Payne, whose family have been long-term owners for William Fox-Pitt, rode Dynasty to a 33.2 and seventh place. Dynasty was campaigned by Fox-Pitt until his accident at the tail end of 2015, when the ride went to stable jockey Hector. This is their Burghley debut: “it’s very different to come here as a rider — we were lucky enough to come as owners six years in a row,” he explained. “Though I did do the Pony Club showjumping here, an embarrassing number of years ago! It’s great to be here for the real thing.”

France’s Camille Lejeune and Tahina des Isles posted a 33.9 to sit just below Andrew Nicholson and Jet Set IV — “a beautiful horse to sit on” — in ninth place. Some tension saw their marks slip in the final movements of the test, but for Camille, just being here is special enough.

“It’s like the dream of a kid,” he smiled. “I was watching the videos of Burghley when I was eight, nine, watching Mark Todd and Andrew Nicholson. I’ve never even been here as a spectator, so to be here, in the end, is very cool.”

The afternoon’s dressage session commences at 2.00pm BST/9.00am EST, and you can follow along with the event’s live stream, available herePiggy French and Vanir Kamira (2.08pm BST/9.08am EST) are the most likely contenders to take over the top spot, but don’t miss Sarah Bullimore and Reve du Rouet (2.48pm BST/9.48am EST), who could be one of the real dark horses in this phase. We’ve got one US rider between the boards today — Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 will do their test at 4.15pm BST/11.15am EST.

Stay tuned — and Go Eventing!

The top ten at the lunch break on day one of dressage.

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Breaking Down Burghley: The Comprehensive Form Guide

Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Burghley is well and truly upon us, and with it, an entry list packed to the rafters with human and equine talent. Some you may be more than passingly familiar with — we challenge you to find anyone who hasn’t heard Oliver Townend‘s name this year — while others might be new faces to you. But never fear, EN readers — we’ve put together a handy guide to every single pair competing this week, so you’ll never be short of fun facts or pointless pub quiz knowledge as you imbibe all the action in Lincolnshire.

Buckle up, chums, because it’s time for War and Peace: Burghley edition.

Oliver Townend and MHS King Joules at Kentucky 2018. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

1. Oliver Townend and MHS King Joules – GREAT BRITAIN

16.2hh, thirteen-year-old gelding (Ghareeb x Cavalier Royal). Owned by Tom Joule. 

Oliver Townend is certainly one of the world’s lazier event riders, and is usually only spotted rocking up to a couple of big-league events each season with one horse, making a bit of a holiday of it and frequenting the riders’ parties in the evening to unwind after a stressful day spent doing sweet bugger-all.

We kid, obviously. #TurboTownend pilots so many horses around so many events that it actually gives us the basis for a rather solid whiplash claim when we’re trying to report on his whereabouts. His Burghley campaign this year is classic Townend: he’s entered five horses, of which he can ride three, and with the WEG exclusion plaster freshly ripped off, you’d be a braver person than us to bet against him.

The World Number One has been drawn first a plethora of times at Badminton — something he has been vocal about in past — so the pathfinder position at Burghley might feel like salt in the wound, but Townend isn’t one to dwell on being dealt a bad hand. Instead, he’ll use it to fuel his already roaring fire, unpack the hidden questions on the new-look course, and plan a no-holds-barred coup later on in the day. Number one out of the start box is bad-boy-come-good MHS King Joules. If Townend’s string were old Hollywood stars, ‘Jay’ would be Marlon Brando circa A Streetcar Named Desire – all bulging muscle and alpha-male charisma, but prone to bouts of questionable behaviour and a lil’ bit punchy. Originally piloted by Mary King, who found him ‘disappointingly strong and unruly across country‘, he was then sent to Townend’s good friend Andrew Nicholson, who set to work reforming the talented black gelding.

Now? Well, he’s formidable on his day – just look at his Kentucky performance this year to see why Townend perseveres. He was seventh there, adding just a characteristic pole to his 31.3 dressage score, and he’s dipped as low as 23.9 in a three-star this year, at Gatcombe’s Open British Championship. He was fifth after dressage last week at Blair, pulling a rail in the showjumping before being withdrawn, along with all of Townend’s Burghley entries. This will be his third career four-star and second attempt at Burghley: he retired across the country in 2016.

Mark Todd and NZB Campino. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

7. Mark Todd and NZB Campino – NEW ZEALAND

16.3hh, sixteen-year-old gelding (Contendro x Pinkus). Owned by Sir Peter Vela.

‘Kinky’, as he’s known at home (yes, please do imagine Toddy saying the word ‘kinky’ with a straight face) is a bit of left-field entry at Burghley this year. He’s an undeniable talent, don’t get us wrong — he was part of the bronze medal-winning New Zealand team at the London Olympics in 2012, and he’s been fourth (Badminton, 2017), fifth(Luhmuehlen, 2015), ninth (Burghley, 2016) and tenth (Pau, 2015) at four-stars, too.

But 2018 just hasn’t been his year: he’s only been out four times since his retirement on course at Pau last year, and in both his international starts this year (Barbury’s ERM leg in July and this month’s British Open Championship at Gatcombe) he’s been withdrawn before cross-country. So that makes two runs — at Intermediate. Granted, he’s done well in both — he was second at Upton House in July, and won at Keysoe last week — but last year we saw him complete just two OI runs post-Badminton, and his Pau certainly wasn’t a result to write home about. But Toddy knows exactly what he’s doing, and he knows this horse incredibly well, too — we’ll either see him win the whole bloody thing, just to prove us wrong, or he’ll be using Burghley as a way to get his own eye in over a big track before he takes young gun MacLaren to Tryon next month.

8. Nana Dalton and Elite Syncopation – GREAT BRITAIN

17.1hh, fifteen-year-old gelding (Golden Bash x Stan the Man). Owned by Sheila Jones.

Nine years ago, ‘Bug’ reared up and fell over, breaking his withers and requiring surgery to remove the damaged peaks of four vertebrae. The next year, he finished a Novice-level event with what looked like a nasty overreach — in fact, he’d torn his tendon sheath right out of his pastern. Though he was operated on that evening, he developed a terrible infection in the area two weeks later, and his prognosis looked dire. But with plenty of TLC and careful rehabilitation, he recovered, and was cautiously produced to three-star. Then, it became clear that his breathing wasn’t quite up to scratch, and he had a wind operation in the winter of 2014.

Since then, he’s jumped clear around Saumur and Burghley, before sitting the 2016 season out to recuperate from some minor tendon damage. Last year, he headed to Burghley once again, but Dalton felt that his breathing wasn’t quite right on course, and so she opted to retire and send him for another operation over the winter.

While Bug and Dalton are unlikely to challenge the leaders, they’ll be aiming for a steady clear in this, their first international run of 2018. For Dalton, who has fought so hard to keep her best friend healthy and happy, that would mean as much as a win — and, though he’s now fifteen, Bug is allegedly feeling the best he ever has.

10. Simon Grieve and Douglas – GREAT BRITAIN

16.2hh, fifteen-year-old gelding (Ard Douglas x Cavalier). Owned by Vicki Irlam.

32nd here last year on his four-star debut, Douglas has been piloted by a fair share of top-level riders in his career. He was produced to Intermediate by Emilie Chandler, before Oliver Townend took over the ride in 2012. He took him to Blenheim’s 8/9 year-old CIC3* and Boekelo CCI3* that year, managing clear cross-country runs but uninspiring dressage scores at both. The following season, they tidied up the presentation and won Ballindenisk CIC3* before picking up fourth place in Chatsworth’s CIC3*, before taking the rest of 2015 off. In 2016, Sam Ecroyd picked up the ride for one Novice run, from which the horse was withdrawn before cross-country, and then Grieve had his first run on the horse, picking up 23rd place in an Open Novice at Smiths Lawn. Izzy Taylor took the ride for two runs, and then all went quiet on the western front.

In 2017, Grieve took Douglas on in earnest, totting up four clear cross-country runs at three-star and one at four-star, though only managing to break into the top twenty once, at Chatsworth. This year, they’ve dropped their average dressage mark by a couple of points, finishing tenth at Chatsworth CIC3* and sixteenth in the British Open Championship, as well as running clear around Bramham’s tough CCI3* track. They won’t trouble the top, but another clear around Burghley, and another winter shaving off those crucial marks in the ring, could serve them very well in their spring campaign.

Tim Price and Bango at Kentucky in 2016. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

11. Tim Price and Bango – NEW ZEALAND

16.2hh, twelve-year-old gelding (Garrison Royal x Don Tristan). Owned by The Numero Uno Syndicate.

“Uno doesn’t really mention it much these days, but he comes from a pretty basic Irish bog, and clearly spent his early days flogging through the swamp-like mud to forage for food,” says Tim and Jonelle’s delightfully descriptive website. “This left him with a fantastic ability to go cross country in the worst of conditions, and since he spent a fair amount of time in thick fog as a baby, unable to see his mother across the field, he also doesn’t mind being left on his own in the slightest.”

We didn’t get to see much of Bango last season, as he was out of action from April onwards, but this seems to be a summer for Price’s comeback kings to make their mark. ‘Uno’ isn’t short of experience – he made his four-star debut at Luhmuehlen in 2015, where he finished 15th, and he completed Burghley the following autumn, finishing 21st despite clocking up 20 penalties across the country. This year, he’s not done much — a Novice run and two Open Intermediates frame an eighth-place finish at Ireland’s Camphire CIC3* — so we probably won’t see him outpace Price’s second ride, Ringwood Sky Boy. It’s likely that Burghley is a litmus test for the twelve-year-old, who may well be a serious competitive entity again next season.

Louise Harwood and Mr Potts at Burghley 2017. Photo courtesy of the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.

12. Louise Harwood and Mr Potts – GREAT BRITAIN

16.2hh, sixteen-year-old gelding (Old Leighlin x Roma Diamond Skip). Owned by the rider. 

This will be a thirteenth four-star run for Harwood and her homebred Mr Potts, whose best result at the level came in 2014, when they were twelfth at Burghley. This year, he’s had a characteristically busy season: the pair contested Badminton, but retired on course, instead jumping around Bramham’s CIC3* in June for thirteenth place. They had an odd 20 penalties in an OI at Upton House last month, but jumped clear around Aston-le-Walls’ Advanced for 6th place a couple of weeks later.

Expect a mid-30s first-phase score, and a slow — but hopefully clear — second phase. They’re perfectly capable of tackling the tough track at Burghley, but occasionally have issues on course, and they’re likely to pull a couple of rails on Sunday, so while they won’t trouble the leaders, they could finish comfortably in the middle of the pack.

Andrew Nicholson and Jet Set. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

15. Andrew Nicholson and Jet Set IV – NEW ZEALAND

16.3hh, eleven-year-old gelding (Nordico). Owned by Deborah Sellar.

Last year at Blenheim, Nicholson described Jet Set as “an out-and-out four-star horse – there’s no doubt about it.” He was certainly responsible for the fairytale ending to Nicholson’s 2015 saga, taking the win in Bramham’s CCI3* in 2016.

Owned by the Sellars, who have been long-time supporters of Nicholson’s — they also own former top horses Nereo and Quimbo — Jet Set then went on to take top-fifteen placings in CIC3* classes at Barbury and Hartpury, but was out for much of the following year. On his comeback international at Blenheim ERM last year he finished 15th, before heading to the infamously tricky Pau. Like so many top competitors, Nicholson and Jet Set left Pau empty-handed, after Nicholson was unseated on his way to the final stretch of the course.

Jet Set is yet another horse on the entries list to have had a sparse season – he came out at Belton at the beginning of the year and jumped two clear rounds at Belton, finishing 41st in an enormous CIC3* section after a below-par dressage score of 40.4 and 15.2 time penalties put him out of contention. Then he ran well in an Advanced in July and an OI in August, before heading to Wellington Advanced over the weekend to run the first two phases. If he can manage a first-phase score of 30 or just below, we could see him make some headway through the week — but he’ll need to improve significantly on that Belton score and get back to the numbers he’s produced in previous seasons.

Caroline Powell and On The Brash. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

17. Caroline Powell and On The Brash – NEW ZEALAND

16.3hh, twelve-year-old gelding (Mise Eire x Diamond Clover). Owned by Sarah Tobey and Sue Smiley. 

Formerly ridden by Australia’s Sam Griffiths, On The Brash is another horse who fell victim to the Curse of Pau last season. That was his four-star debut, and perhaps something of a shock after an 11th place finish at Bramham CCI3* and sixth at Blair Castle CIC3* foretold rather better things. This season started off slightly shaky, as the pair picked up twenty penalties across the country at Belton CIC3*, but they’ve been on the up and up since, jumping clear around Badminton for 29th place and finishing 15th in a CIC3* at Barbury. The horse’s dressage is his weak point — he averages a mid-to-high 30s mark — and the duo are yet to make the time in any national or international run. It’s possible, particularly since we lost the multiplier, to make colossal moves up the leaderboard after a substandard dressage — but to do so, Powell and On The Brash will need to find the sweet spot on the accelerator. And then? He’ll almost certainly leave the poles up on Sunday — Powell has done a marvellous job improving his showjumping.

18. Camille Lejeune and Tahina Des Isles – FRANCE

17hh, eleven-year-old mare (Calvados x Elan De La Cour). Owned by Virginie Jorissen and rider.

Tahina Des Isles made her four-star debut earlier this season, finishing 14th at Luhmuehlen after an international personal best of 29.6 was slightly hampered by 18.8 time penalties and two rails down. They had just 2.4 time penalties around the CICO3* at Haras du Pin a couple of weeks ago, although this time, their dressage crept into the 30s and they were 24th.

Lejeune has competed at four-star twice before that, both with R’Du Temps Bliniere – they were 19th at Pau in 2015 and 26th at Badminton the following year. Expect a low 30s dressage, 20 or so time penalties, and a rail on the final day for a middle-of-the-road, but educational, finish.

First-timers Hector Payne and Dynasty. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

20. Hector Payne and Dynasty – GREAT BRITAIN

16.2hh, ten-year-old gelding (Whitesnake x Calvados). Owned by Judith and Jeremy Skinner and Margie and David Hall.

Originally ridden by William Fox-Pitt, ‘Raffles’ went to his then-stable jockey Hector Payne in 2016, following the fall at Le Lion d’Angers that saw Fox-Pitt out of action for the early part of the season. They managed two top-five placings in two-stars that year, culminating in a clear cross-country and completion in the Blenheim 8/9 year-old CIC3*.

Last season, they finished 11th in Bramham’s U25 CCI3*, finishing the season with 12th in Burgham CIC3* in July. Then, they wasted no time getting back into the swing of things this year, producing a good fifth-place finish in the two-star at Floors before enjoying three clear rounds at three-star. The best result of these was in the CCI3* at Tattersalls, wherein they finished on their dressage score of 35.3 to come eighth.

This will be a first-time four-star for both horse and rider, so a score of 35-37 and a steady clear will be the goal. Next year, they can use their newfound experience to push for the time.

21. Andrew James and Cool Chica – GREAT BRITAIN

16.2hh, thirteen-year-old gelding (Chicago Z x Calipa Z). Owned by rider.

Yes, you read that right – poor old Cool Chica is not, in fact, a chica at all. But who needs gender binaries when you’re about to head to your first four-star? James and Cool Chica have had two three-star completions this season, opting to withdraw before cross country at Chatsworth, and retiring mid-round at Burgham. At Belton and Hartpury CIC3* they jumped clear cross country rounds.

Burghley will be an educational experience for them; a projected low-40s dressage will preclude them from being competitive, but Burghley is a long old course, and it’s remarkable what you can discover about yourself and the horse you’re sitting on while you’re out there. Both horse and rider will come back wiser for the trip — and that can only lead to bigger things in the future.

Harry Dzenis and Xam. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

23. Harry Dzenis and Xam – GREAT BRITAIN

16.2hh, seventeen-year-old gelding (Java Tiger). Owned by The Xam Partnership.

This will be a third four-star in 2018 alone for Dzenis and the stalwart Xam, with whom he has competed at this level since 2014. This year, they started — though didn’t complete — Badminton, and then went on to finish 13th at Luhmuehlen. Then, Xam came back from his break to finish in the same place in the CIC3* British Open Championship at Gatcombe.

Generally, Burghley is a happier hunting ground for this pair than the other Big B – they’ve never picked up a cross country jumping penalty here, and have completed three out of four times. In 2015, they withdrew after the dressage. If they can produce a mid-30s score, bearing in mind that they managed a 32.1 at Gatcombe, they could be well on their way to their best-ever four-star result — currently 11th at Burghley in 2017.

Ginny Thompson and Star Nouveau, right, pose in front of Badminton House earlier this year with their fellow Kiwis Andy Daines and Spring Panorama, who will head to Pau. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

24. Ginny Thompson and Star Nouveau – NEW ZEALAND

16.3hh, fourteen-year-old mare (Goldstar x Fiesta Star). Owned by Elaine Butterworth, Anthony Quirk, and the rider.

Thompson and Star Nouveau finished eighth in their first four-star at Adelaide last year, before 26-year-old Thompson sold her entire string and business back home to be based with fellow Kiwi Blyth Tait in the UK for two years. They contested Badminton this spring, finishing in 40th place after a broken pin and 22 showjumping penalties knocked them down the order. But they were relatively speedy — they only clocked up 15.6 time penalties on the Saturday, which shows that there’s plenty more to come if they can polish the first and third phases. With access to top-class facilities and competitions, it’ll be exciting to see how much they’ve done so this summer.

The duo has completed three international competitions since Badminton, with promising progress shown – they’ve dropped their three-star dressage score by a couple of marks, but their showjumping will likely still be a blot on their copybook this week, unless they can copy their fellow countrymen Jonelle Price and Classic Moet, and pull out a rare clear at the moment it counts most.

Ludwig Svennerstal and Stinger. Photo by Jenni Autry.

25. Ludwig Svennerstal and Stinger – SWEDEN

16.1hh, eleven-year-old gelding (Spender S x On A Pedestal xx). Owned by Skanegarder AB.

Sweden’s finest export since flatpack furniture and meatballs of questionable origin, Svennerstal has been named — predictably — on his country’s team for the forthcoming World Equestrian Games. In fact, he’s been named on two horses – El Kazir SP and this one, the delightful Stinger.

Stinger is a fairly inexperienced horse for his age — he only made the move up to three-star in the middle of the 2017 season. In fact, he only started eventing at all in 2016, debuting in a Novice [Prelim] at Cholmondeley Castle (it’s pronounced ‘Chumly’) and finishing fifth. Svennerstal first sat on the horse earlier that year as a catch ride at Falsterbo Hunting, the Swedish show’s Eventers Grand Prix class, but previously, the gelding had contested 1.30m showjumping classes. His precocious talent was enough to propel him from his eventing debut to three-star in eleven months, and his biggest result to date came earlier this month, when he finished third in the British Open Championship at Gatcombe, adding just 6.8 time to his 28.7 dressage.

With all that said, we’ve not seen him produce the goods yet in a CCI3* – he had an unfortunate 20 penalties and three rails at Bramham last year, and retired on course at Vairano at the start of this season. He redeemed himself at Tattersalls, jumping clear cross country but pulling four rails to finish 25th. This is a horse who can jump — the pieces of the puzzle just need to be pulled together before we start to really see what he’s capable of. Could be a dark horse this week.

27. Austin O’Connor and Lucky Contender – IRELAND

16.2hh, ten-year-old gelding (Chacoa x King Luther). Owned by Wendie Foster.

O’Connor’s up-and-coming stable star made the move up to three-star at the tail end of last season, jumping clear around Blenheim’s 8/9 year-old CIC3* and Millstreet’s CIC3*, too. This season, he’s had three CIC3* runs and a CCI3*, too, and has jumped clear around them all — in fact, he hasn’t had a cross country jumping penalty in two years. He nearly managed an FOD in Bramham’s CCI3*, but for one pesky pole — his only international rail this year. He’ll need to play catch-up with what will likely be a mid-to-upper 30s dressage, but he should be very interesting to watch around his first four-star.

28. Rebecca Gibbs and De Beers Dilettante – GREAT BRITAIN

16.1hh, sixteen-year-old gelding (De Beer x Belfort). Owned by Sarah Bliss.

Gibbs took over the ride on her top horse in 2014, at which point he’d been produced to two-star by Jason Hobbs and then lightly campaigned by owner Sarah Bliss in under-18 classes. Since then, they’ve had plenty of clear cross country rounds at three-stars, but are yet to showjump clear at the level.

Their best result came last year at Camphire, when they finished 14th in the CIC3*, but they recorded a personal best this season at Bramham, posting a 29.3 in the CIC3* and finishing 21st after adding rails and time. This is the horse’s four-star debut, and Gibbs is unlikely to push him — but he’s a good jumping horse and a clear round is well within their capabilities. This could be the week that makes the world sit up and take notice of this pair.

Imogen Murray and Ivar Gooden. Image courtesy of Tim Wilkinson.

29. Imogen Murray and Ivar Gooden – GREAT BRITAIN

17hh, eleven-year-old gelding (Young Convinced x Coevers Diamond Boy). Owned by Aivar Ward and MS Team.

Charles was one of only two horses to jump clear around both Badminton and Burghley in 2017, a fact made all the more impressive when you realise that it was his first season at the level. They also made their Nations Cup debut at Haras du Pin, finishing in 10th place and best of the Brits. He’s quick — he added just 10.8 time penalties at Burghley — and he’s reliable, with cross country clears all the way back to 2016. He looked very impressive when finishing in 11th place at Belton’s CIC3* with the second-fastest time of the day on a course that saw no one make the optimum.

At Badminton this year we saw both Murray and Charles really come into their own, adding just 4.8 time penalties and a rail to finish in 11th place after a colossal climb up the leaderboard. They then had an uncharacteristic 20 penalties at both Barbury and Aachen, but went clear and finished on their dressage score of 37.8 at Haras du Pin.

Dressage will be their weak point, but jumping shouldn’t, if Aachen and Barbury were just blips. Don’t take your eyes off these two — this could be the week we finally see them slip into the top ten.

30. Julie Tew and Simply Sox – GREAT BRITAIN

16.2hh, fourteen-year-old gelding (Don Tristan x Kildalton Son). Owned by Brian and Vicky Tew.

It’ll be third time lucky for Tew and Simply Sox, who made their four-star debut at Pau in 2015 but were eliminated for a rider fall across the country. This year, they tackled Luhmuehlen after a season out, and finished 23rd with 20 jumping penalties in the second phase. But they’re not inexperienced — they’ve been competing consistently at three-star since 2012, with fifteen completions under their belts. Their best result was eleventh at Belton this year, in a jam-packed CIC3*. They’ll deliver a mid-30s dressage and will certainly add time on Saturday and Sunday, as well as a rail or two, but a clear round on Saturday is within their capabilities.

Austria’s Katrin Khoddam-Hazrati and Cosma. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

31. Katrin Khoddam-Hazrati and Cosma – AUSTRIA

16.3hh, nine-year-old mare (Canterbury x Ferman). Owned by the rider. 

It’s not often we have a rider representing Austria, and Khoddam-Hazrati is a really interesting one to follow. She’s entirely self-taught, for one thing, and she’s had Cosma since the mare was a yearling, having bought her because she rode her full brother.

This is the pair’s first four-star, and they balance competing in top-level eventing with tackling international showjumping courses, too. They’ve got eight cross-country clears at three-star to their name — including one at the notoriously tough Strzegom Europeans — but they retired on course in their last international at Jardy and in their outing before that, at June’s Strzegom CICO3*, they were eliminated in the dressage.

Ordinarily, though, they will produce a low-to-mid 40s test, and a cross country performance that errs on the slower side, followed by a reasonable chance of a clear showjumping round. Burghley will mark a big step up for both horse and rider, but they showed what they’re capable of at Strzegom last year — they could yet astonish us all.

Piggy French and Vanir Kamira make light work of Belton. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

32. Piggy French and Vanir Kamira – GREAT BRITAIN

16.2hh, thirteen-year-old mare (Camiro de Haar Z x Dixi). Owned by Trevor Dickens. 

You want to talk about real threats for the title for a moment? This exceptional mare is certainly one of them. Second here last year — by less than two points — she then started her season with a second-place finish in the insanely competitive Grantham Cup CIC3* at Belton. A tumble at Badminton marred her 2018 record somewhat, but she merrily skipped around Hartpury’s CIC3* this month, adding just 2 time penalties to finish eighth.

Previously piloted by Paul Tapner, ‘Tilly’ is one of those horses we talk about with real veneration, despite the fact that she’s not yet had a major win. In this way, she’s a lot like Jonelle Price’s ‘supahmeah’ Classic Moet, who, until this spring, had cruised her way into living legend status without a title to back it up. We can’t help but think that it’s only a matter of time before this indomitable mare follows in Molly’s footsteps and takes a real big one.

Of course, there’s the little matter of that competition in Tryon — French is heading there after Burghley with Quarrycrest Echo, and she may well be on team orders to keep herself in one piece and not take any of the risks that usually help win four-stars. But French is cool, calm, and exceptionally clever over solid fences — perhaps she’ll find a way to tick all the boxes this week.

33. Hazel Towers and Simply Clover – GREAT BRITAIN

16.3hh, thirteen-year-old mare (Farney Clover). Owned by the rider.

Burghley — and four-star — first-timer Towers and her plucky mare jumped clear around Chatsworth CIC3* and Bramham CCI3* this year, putting an early season blip at Belton CIC3* well behind them. Towers won Blair CCI3* last year aboard her other top horse, Simply Smart, who was due to contest Burghley as well, but was withdrawn due to a minor injury. Towers made the leap into riding full-time just eighteen months ago — a good result this weekend could make her a real name to watch, and that Blair result proves she has it in her. The pair’s dressage will probably stop them from being particularly competitive here, though they posted a mid-30s score at Bramham, and if they go quick and clear we could certainly see them climb.

Pascal Leroy and Minos de Petra. Photo by Jenni Autry.

34. Pascal Leroy and Minos de Petra – FRANCE

17hh, eighteen-year-old gelding (Sioux de Baugy x Garitchou). Owned by Laurie Leroy and the rider.

In 2014, Leroy and the stalwart Minos de Petra finished fifth at Badminton — their best result at the level. They’ve represented France at the last two WEGs, too, so they’re not short on experience, though they’ve never quite replicated their form at the fateful Badminton.

This will be their fifth Burghley — the competition hasn’t been a particularly happy hunting ground for them, and they’ve only actually completed once, in 2015 when they finished in 17th place. Still, they’ve had good clear rounds at Vairano CCI3* and Houghton CICO3* earlier in the year, and they popped around a CCI2* at Haras du Pin a couple of weeks ago as a final prep run, so they should be feeling confident and ready to add another Burghley completion to their extensive record.

Harry Meade and Away Cruising. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

35. Harry Meade and Away Cruising – GREAT BRITAIN

16.3hh, eleven-year-old gelding (Cruise On x Able Albert). Owned by Charlotte Opperman.

Spot made the step up to four-star last year, with promising results at Luhmühlen (14th, clear within the time) and Burghley (15th, clear with time penalties). A small blip saw him add 20 penalties to his record in the CIC3* at Gatcombe, but this is his first mistake on course at an international since his very first one-star back in 2013. Otherwise, he has a 90% clear rate across the country at internationals.

He’s not naturally quick — although his Luhmühlen result proved that he can make time — and his showjumping is his weak link, averaging three poles, but Harry is a meticulous rider and trainer and will constantly be analysing and solving the problem. He show jumped clear in Belton’s CIC3*, proving that hard work pays dividends, and ran well, albeit slowly, across the country. His Badminton performance, too, was very promising — he finished sixteenth, adding just 12 time penalties and seven showjumping penalties to his 33.5 dressage. A good result here — and perhaps just one or two poles — should come as no surprise.

36. Michael Ryan and Dunlough Striker – IRELAND

17.2hh, thirteen-year-old gelding (Maltstriker x Beau Royal). Owned by Carol Henry.

Dunlough Striker is one of the tallest horses in the field and Ryan, who made his way into eventing from his early background hunting with the Scarteen, is well equipped to manoeuvre him around Burghley’s formidable track. They’ve got a great record at three-star — they won Millstreet’s CCI3* in 2016, and have only ever faltered across the country once at this level, at the European Championships at Strzegom last year. Their four-star record, however, isn’t quite as immaculate — they are yet to post a clear round at the level, adding a twenty at Badminton in 2017 and clocking up 50 for missing a flag at Luhmuehlen this summer. They ran a CIC2* a week ago in preparation — with any luck, Dunlough Striker will be feeling confident and full of himself coming into Saturday’s major test.

Sarah Bullimore and Reve Du Rouet. Photo by Libby Law.

37. Sarah Bullimore and Reve du Rouet – GREAT BRITAIN

17hh, fourteen-year-old gelding (Balou du Rouet x Oscar de Revel). Owned by Brett Bullimore and Susan and Christopher Gillespie. 

Reve du Rouet gave Sarah her best result of a stonking three-way takeover of Pau at the end of last season, but his success hasn’t come easy. She’s wryly referred to herself as a ‘battered wife’ when speaking about the gelding, who has proven tense and reactive to a fault in high-pressure situations, bolting in the dressage arena at Badminton two years ago and demolishing showjumps when he becomes overwrought.

Sarah has been endlessly patient with the talented horse where many other riders may have given up, and her reward was second place in France, missing the win by the narrowest margin of a tenth of a point. He added just 2.4 time penalties on a day when fast rounds were few and far between, and he never once looked taxed. On the other hand, at Badminton this year, he was 18th, his 22.8 time penalties scuppering his chances of a much higher placing. A 20 at Aachen was redeemed by a clear round in the CICO3* at Haras du Pin earlier this month, but we’ve yet to see anything like the Reve du Rouet of late 2017 so far this season.

It’s a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde situation here — if Good Reve du Rouet comes out to play, Sarah could slip in the back door and quietly win the whole thing. If Naughty Reve du Rouet rolls out of bed, however, she may put her hand up on Saturday. Keep your eye on them, if for nothing else but a demonstration of remarkably tactful riding.

38. Tom Rowland and Possible Mission – GREAT BRITAIN

16.3hh, eleven-year-old gelding (Temple Clover x Ricardo Z). Owned by Robin Patrick.

Possible Mission has had four three-star runs this season – three at CICs and one at a CCI, and he’s been clear across the country every time. However, he’s had at least two poles on each occasion, and his dressage flits around the low-to-mid 30s, so they won’t be here to be competitive. Rather, they’ll be aiming to gain experience and a confident completion in what is only the rider’s second four-star.

39. Willa Newton and Chance Remark – GREAT BRITAIN

17hh, sixteen-year-old gelding (Actinium x Farney Clover). Owned by Peter Thomas and Feena Machin.

Newton and Chance Remark completed Burghley last year, finishing 35th after problems on the cross-country. They redeemed themselves with fifth at Luhmühlen this year, adding just 1.2 time penalties and a rail to their very good dressage score of 28.7.

‘Austen’ has since had a quiet couple of months, partly due to Newton breaking her collarbone over the summer, but he had an effortless pop around Somerford’s CIC2* a week ago in preparation for this week’s main event. Don’t discount this pair — even if they don’t pull a top placing out of the bag this week, they’re certainly a duo to keep an eye on.

Georgie Spence and Wii Limbo. Photo by Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

40. Georgie Spence and Wii Limbo – GREAT BRITAIN

16hh, fifteen-year-old gelding (Highline x Landwind II). Owned by Lucy Fleming, Samantha Wilson, Suzanne Doggett, and Russell Spence.

‘Woody’ was bought by Spence as a three-year-old, and she’s produced him all the way through the grades. This will be their sixth four-star together — their best result at the level was 12th here in 2015. Spence set up a racing-style syndicate the same year to maintain the horse’s upper-level campaign, and since then, she’s enjoyed contesting some of the world’s biggest competitions.

They’re perfectly capable of going sub-30 in the dressage, as evidenced at Badminton earlier this year, where they scored a 28.9, and they’re consistent and reliable in the showjumping. It’s Saturday that will be the question — on a good day, they’ll make the cross-country look easy and add 15 or so time faults, but it’s not a guarantee.

41. Sam Ecroyd and Master Douglas – GREAT BRITAIN

16.2hh, twelve-year-old gelding (Ard Vdl Douglas x Aldatus Z). Owned by Vicki Irlam. 

At just 21-years-old, Ecroyd is the youngest competitor here this year, and makes his four-star debut aboard the horse with whom he was third in Bramham’s CCIU253* earlier this summer. In fact, it was only upon the completion of Bramham that the idea of aiming for Burghley even entered his head. Prior to that excellent result, though, Ringo had had a sparse two years – he only competed once in 2017 after a minor injury sidelined him for the season, and at his first event of 2018, he and Ecroyd fell. So Bramham showed something interesting and crucial about the gelding, who was produced to three-star before Ecroyd took over the ride — it showed that he doesn’t take mistakes personally, and that he’s tough and unflappable when things go a bit pear-shaped. That’s a promising combination in a competition like Burghley.

Ecroyd claims that his goal for the week is simply not to make a fool of himself, but with a mid-30s first-phase mark and a steady clear across country, he could do better than that. Once they get to the final phase, it’s plain sailing — Master Douglas is an exceptional showjumper.

42. Polly Stockton and Mister Maccondy – GREAT BRITAIN

16.2hh, thirteen-year-old gelding (Accondy x Lord David S). Owned by Ann and Hugh Lawson.

Mac was bred by his owners, and loves two things in life more than anything else — food, and muddy going. With the epic deluge of late in the UK, he could have a bit of luck with the latter — the ground at Burghley is phenomenal at the moment, but some more rain and half a day of galloping, jumping horses could certainly tear it up a bit.

Originally produced by Ruth Edge, Mac then spent three seasons with Jodie Stokes before going to Stockton at the beginning of 2017. That season, they finished tenth in the CIC3* classes at Chatsworth and Blair Castle, as well as eighth at Ballindenisk CCI3*. This year, they’ve been seventh in a CIC3* section at Chatsworth and 17th at Mallow CIC3*. This will be their first four-star together, and it’ll make for interesting watching — that continued success at Chatsworth suggests that Mac is capable of going fast, which is a notorious necessity over that track, and though their mid-to-high 30s score won’t see them in contention after the first phase, they ought to climb on Saturday. They’ll have a rail or two on Sunday, but that won’t dim the shine if they make it home without cross-country jumping penalties.

43. Kirsty Short and Cossan Lad – GREAT BRITAIN

16.2hh, sixteen-year-old gelding (Carnival Bouncer). Owned by Amy Burbage and the rider.

Kirsty and Bouncer will contest their third Burghley in this, their tenth season together. They’ve completed several other four-stars — Pau, and Luhmuehlen — and completed their first Badminton this year, finishing 48th.

Their record at this level is patchy – their dressage average is 48.5 (72.8 in the old scoring), they’ve only completed one four-star with a clear cross-country round, and they usually have a handful of rails down – but Kirsty knows the horse well and has campaigned him exclusively at this level since 2015, citing his recurrent 20 penalties as the result of exuberance rather than disingenuousness. They won’t run here to be competitive but rather to enjoy themselves, with each top-level completion giving Kirsty more experience to pass along to her string of Monart-sourced youngsters.

45. Sarah Pickard and Polo Striker – GREAT BRITAIN

16.2hh, thirteen-year-old gelding (Maltstriker x MacMillion). Owned by the rider.

Pickard and Polo Striker are yet another of our four-star debutantes this week, and riding at Burghley has been a long-held dream for 24-year-old Pickard. She works part-time in an office and buys, produces, and sells youngsters to fund her competitive dreams with ‘Connor’, who she bought out of the back of Horse&Hound magazine as a five-year-old. He wasn’t an easy youngster — in fact, he was a bit of a rogue, but a season of hunting helped to fix many of his issues.

The pair has jumped clear around Bramham CCIU253* twice, finishing 12th earlier this year, and has four CIC3* clears to their name, too. They’ve had a couple of issues this year too, though — Pickard took a tumble at Barbury CIC3* in July, and they were eliminated for accumulated refusals in April at Belton CIC3*. This is unlike the horse — cross country is ordinarily his strongest phase. A circa 40 dressage score and an educational completion will set this pair up for competitive runs in the future.

Andrea Baxter and Indy 500. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

46. Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 – USA

16.2hh, thirteen-year-old mare (Cromwell x Spend a Buck). Owned by the rider.

The first of three US combinations to tackle Burghley this year, Baxter and Indy 500 had an annoying fall early in the course last year, in which Baxter landed on her feet none the worse for wear, but kicking herself for getting the approach wrong. Until then, they’d looked every inch the Burghley competitors — and their reroute to Blenheim CCI3* proved it. A disappointing dressage score had them in 81st place after the first phase, but two strong jumping rounds propelled them up the leaderboard to finish in 25th place.

They’ve completed Kentucky CCI4* twice, both times with cross-country jumping penalties, so they’ll be back at Burghley with the hope of finally nailing down the Saturday result they both know they’re capable of. Baxter has produced this horse from a four-year-old, and they know one another exceptionally well — hopefully their 3rd place finish at Rebecca Farm CCI3* last month has given them the eleventh-hour confidence boost to go out and get the job done.

A fun fact about Indy 500 — she was bred to race, but never made it to the track, because the farm she was bred on was liquidated by its owner. That owner? None other than Alex Trebek — the host of Jeopardy. What is a questionable financial decision?

47. Nicholas Lucey and Proud Courage – GREAT BRITAIN

16.1hh, thirteen-year-old gelding (Courage II x Coolmore Panther). Owned by the rider.

Lucey and Proud Courage intended Burghley to be their first four-star completion back in 2016, but they were eliminated for accumulated refusals. They got the job done at Luhmühlen the following year, though, finishing 32nd after having just one issue over the cross-country course. They’ve been clear all year so far in 2018, with good, solid runs at Bramham’s CCIU253* and Haras du Pin CIC3* earlier this month, so they’ll be aiming to complete this time and further their education.

Tom Crisp and Coolys Luxury at Badminton. Photo by Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

48. Tom Crisp and Coolys Luxury – GREAT BRITAIN

16.3hh, sixteen-year-old gelding (Olympic Lux x Glen Bar). Owned by The Luxury Syndicate.

Retained firefights Crisp and Coolys Luxury have completed Burghley three times, finishing 11th in 2014 and 17th last year. They were 19th at Badminton this year, and have had a run around Haras du Pin CIC3* a couple of weeks ago in preparation for this week. With course form, plenty of experience, and the newfound ability to score around the 30 mark in the first phase, they should be in the top twenty easily this week — but we may even see them finally take a place in the top ten.

In a sad twist of fate, Crisp’s yard burnt down while he was away at Luhmühlen earlier this year — but his fellow firefighters were on the scene straight away, trying to contain the blaze. Fortunately, no people or horses were injured, but Crisp, who watched his stables burn down via FaceTime, lost quite enough in the blaze. A good result here would be a suitable redemption to his up-and-down 2018.

Ciaran Glynn and November Night. Photo courtesy of Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

49. Ciaran Glynn and November Night – IRELAND

16.2hh, twelve-year-old mare (Bonnie Prince x Flagmount King). Owned by Susanna Francke and Peter Cole.

Ciaran and November Night completed Badminton last year, finishing in 36th place with a slow clear round. They then went on to finish 8th and 4th in the CIC3* at Camphire and Millstreet, respectively, and 10th in the CCI3* at Blenheim. The Irish mare has gone clear cross country in 22 of her 24 international starts, so is well primed to take on the Burghley track. Their Belton CIC3* performance was confident, if slow, but their 39.6 dressage was higher than they’re capable of. They then finished 25th at Badminton, 7th at Mallow CIC3* on a 31.7 dressage, and 3rd at Camphire CIC3*. Consider them a dark horse for a jolly good placing.

50. Ben Hobday and Harelaw Wizard – GREAT BRITAIN

16.3hh, eleven-year-old gelding (Endoli x Brockloch Magnificent). Owned by Charles Robson.

Harelaw Wizard is a new ride for Hobday, but he rather resembles the popular rider’s recently retired ‘V8 supercob’ Mr Mulry. Like Mulry, he’s a big, solid type, with dinner plate feet — but Hobday doesn’t seem to struggle with these types, despite not being particularly tall himself.

Produced to four-star by Emily Parker, Harelaw Wizard completed Pau last year, finishing 29th with a clear, if slow, cross country. This year, he’s completed four internationals with Hobday, never adding any cross country jumping penalties, but not going quite fast enough to be ultra-competitive. This run will be about cementing the new partnership — they should finish middle of the pack on a mid-to-high 30s dressage, and they’ll likely run slowly on Saturday, rather than gunning for speed.

51. Emily Prangnell and DHI Beaunesse – GREAT BRITAIN

16.2hh, twelve-year-old mare (Vittorio). Owned by Dennis Prangnell and the rider.

This will be the fifteenth international run for Prangnell and DHI Beaunesse, who picked up their first cross country penalties since 2015 in their last international run at Burgham CIC3*. Other than that blip, they’ve had five good results at the level, with their best being third place in Bramham’s CCIU253* in 2016. DHI Beaunesse sat out the 2017 season and came back to produce a clear around Bramham’s CIC3* in June.

This will be a big step up for the pair, who will, perhaps, be wishing they could have had another international run to help them forget about Burgham, but sometimes mistakes can sharpen a horse and rider up, and they’ve certainly been consistent in the most influential phase. Their dressage will be mid-to-high 30s, and they’re unlikely to have a clear round over the poles, but if they take on the course with their communication with one another finely-tuned, they should jump around and learn plenty.

Cooley SRS and Oliver Townend. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

53. Oliver Townend and Cooley SRS – GREAT BRITAIN

16.2hh, eleven-year-old gelding (Ramiro B x Kiltealy Spring). Owned by Angela Hislop.

Cooley SRS is one of the week’s hot favourites, and rightly so — he was second at Badminton this year on his four-star debut, just missing out on clinching the Grand Slam for Townend. He’s also been to the European Championships, though he didn’t complete — he was withdrawn at the second horse inspection, but remarkably, he only added 1.2 time penalties across the country despite two issues on course. In the twelve months prior, he completed six internationals, never once leaving the top ten. He also won on his CCI3* debut at Ballindenisk in 2015, finishing on his dressage score of 29.5 (revised).

This horse is very solid in the first phase, and should produce a mid-20s test. He’s quick and careful, and can be aimed at the time. He’s fairly reliable on the final day, and jumped clear at Badminton the day after the toughest cross country of his life. He’s the only one of Townend’s super-talented young trio who hasn’t won a four-star — yet.

Tina Cook and Star Witness. Photo by Samantha Clark.

56. Tina Cook and Star Witness – GREAT BRITAIN

16.2hh, thirteen-year-old gelding (Witness Box x Glacial Storm). Owned by Jim Chromiak, Bridget Biddlecombe, Shaun Lawson, and Nicholas Embiricos.

Seventh, tenth, and eighth in the last three iterations of this event, Star Witness is incredibly reliable at the top level. He was also seventh at Badminton in 2016, and he hasn’t actually run an international below four-star since 2015.

He’s a horse who stands to benefit from the revised scoring system this year — his low-30s dressage won’t make him a first-phase leader, but he’s very, very good at finishing on that score, or certainly close to it. He went to Luhmühlen this year, but was withdrawn, so he’s a bit short of match practice — his last completion was in an OI at Tweseldown way back in March. Ordinarily, he’d be a bit of a favourite this week, but Cook’s fractured season (not at all aided by a badly dislocated shoulder at the beginning of the season) takes some of the bookies’ pressure off the pair.

An interesting fact about Star Witness: he’s got kissing spines, which is well-managed by Cook and her team. Where there’s a will, there’s most certainly a way.

Lillian Heard and LCC Barnaby. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

58. Lillian Heard and LCC Barnaby – USA

17hh, twelve-year-old gelding (Guy Cavalier x Rafael). Owned by the rider.

Heard and Barnaby tackled their first Burghley last season, but their dream came to an early end when they fell at the Leaf Pit. But the Irish Sport Horse, who Heard found in Ireland as a six-year-old, is certainly capable across the country — he’s completed Kentucky CCI4* three times, finishing thirteenth in 2017. This year, they had a bit of a wobble, picking up 20 jumping and 20 time penalties to finish 29th, but they jumped clear around the Plains’ CICO3* last month. This time, they’ll be looking to put their Burghley demons to bed — and Barnaby, who is a strong, keen horse in the second phase, should do exactly that.

59. Esib Power and Soladoun – IRELAND

16.1hh, eleven-year-old gelding (Madoun x Solicitor). Owned by Lynne and Kerri Lyons and the rider. 

Born to a racing family, Power is a serious contender who sometimes flies rather under the radar. Not content with simply eventing at the highest level, she also showjumps internationally, tackling enormous tracks like the Hickstead Derby regularly.

Soladoun is an undeniable talent, but his 2018 season leaves us in some doubt — he contested a CIC2* at Barbury and the ERM CIC3* at Blair Castle, but was withdrawn before cross country in both competitions. His last international completion was at Blenheim CCI3* last year, where he picked up an unfortunate 20 penalties. Earlier that year, he managed a seventh place finish at Chatsworth CIC3*, so he’s capable — but he may not be a natural competitor at this level, or at least, not yet. This is his first four-star, so it’ll be interesting to see if it brings out a hidden lionheart or backs him off entirely.

Ashley Edmond and Triple Chance II. Photo by Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

60. Ashley Edmond and Triple Chance II – GREAT BRITAIN

16.1hh, thirteen-year-old gelding (Lan Garth Triple x Joli Wajfi). Owned by Bridget Heal and the rider.

Ashley and Triple Chance moved up to four-star at Pau last year, finishing in 36th place with a 61.5 dressage, a slow clear round across the country, and four rails on the final day. Their best result together was in the U25 CCI3* at Bramham in June, where they came in 7th place. They’ll be aiming to break the sub-40 barrier, which is well within their capabilities — they posted a 38 at Hartpury’s CIC3*, and a 44 at Badminton earlier this year. Now that they’ve got one of the Big Bs under their belts — and with a clear round, too — they can focus on honing their performance.

Lydia Hannon and My Royal Touch. Photo courtesy of Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

62. Lydia Hannon and My Royal Touch – GREAT BRITAIN

16hh, fourteen-year-old mare (Touchdown x Cavalier Royale). Owned by Christopher Harris.

Lydia was thrilled to sneak into the top 20 in her Badminton debut with My Royal Touch last year. The pair were clear inside the time in Blenheim’s CCI3* at the end of the season, and now that they know they’re capable of tackling a track of this level, we may seem them pick up the pace. They were slow at Badminton earlier this year — 36 time penalties, and then four rails on the final day, saw them finish 41st, but they had suffered from a similarly tricky start to the season as many of their competitors. That sort of hurdle becomes twice as hard to circumvent when you’re relatively inexperienced at the level.

Your pub quiz breeding fact: My Royal Touch shares a sire (Touchdown) with former winner Paulank Brockagh.

Alex Bragg and Zagreb. Photo courtesy of Event Rider Masters.

63. Alex Bragg and Zagreb – GREAT BRITAIN

17.2hh, fourteen-year-old gelding (Perion x Nagano). Owned by Sally Ellicott. 

Bragg and Zagreb are favoured pin-up boys of the eventing circuit, and with good reason — they’re both super-talented as well as being nice to look at.

Zagreb put in a stunning performance at his first trip to Badminton last year, posting a 44.6 in the first phase and adding just 14.4 in the second to become one of the real crowd favourites going into the final day. It wasn’t to be, however, and Zagreb was held for re-inspection at the final trot-up. Alex made the tough, but absolutely correct, call to withdraw the horse and save him for another day.

The decision paid dividends, and Zagreb’s final five international runs of the season each earned him top ten placings, including 8th place at Aachen’s Nations Cup, third place in the Gatcombe leg of the ERM, 8th place at the Blenheim leg, and 5th place at Pau. This spring, they finished 36th at Badminton after a knocked pin and 40 time penalties pushed them out of contention, but a win at Jardy’s ERM leg proved that they belong on top. They’ve attempted Burghley once before — in 2016, when they were eliminated across the country — but they’ll be aiming for more than just a completion this week. They can be very competitive, and they ought to be here.

66. Pippa Funnell and Majas Hope – GREAT BRITAIN

16.1hh, eleven-year-old gelding (Porter Rhodes x Flagmount King). Owned by the rider.

This will be the four-star debut for Funnell’s own horse. He’s had a few interesting results — he was twelfth at Tattersalls CCI3* in May, and eighth in Barbury’s CIC3* last year — but he’s not yet shown us a truly dazzling performance. He could be a slow-burner — we have little reason to believe that Funnell would enter a horse at Burghley without some belief in his ability — so we’ll be keeping a close eye on him this week. He’s unlikely to be competitive, but his entry offers us the chance to learn by watching — as we did when watching Oliver Townend pilot the precocious Cooley Master Class around Kentucky this spring.

Emilie Chandler and Coopers Law at Badminton. Photo by Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

67. Emilie Chandler and Coopers Law – GREAT BRITAIN

17hh, fourteen-year-old gelding (Mill Law x Kildalton Gold). Owned by Nicola Dickson and Sally Williams. 

Emilie and Spider had a career-best result at Pau at the end of last season, finishing in 14th place and up from 52nd after the first phase. Prior to that, we hadn’t really seen them since Burghley in 2015, where they finished 21st. Spider is in his element on the cross country, but struggles with tension and occasional improvisation in the first phase.

Nonetheless, they finished a very respectable 20th in their Badminton debut this spring, producing a 27.9 dressage and adding 16.4 time penalties across the country. It was their final phase that let them down — they had four rails, where we normally expect one or two, and could have finished much higher without them. But Chandler has worked wonders on Spider’s dressage — she may have done the same with his showjumping since the spring.

Cedric Lyard and Qatar du Puech Rouget at Badminton. Photo courtesy of Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

68. Cedric Lyard and Qatar du Puech Rouget – FRANCE

Fifteen-year-old gelding (Defi d’Armenti x Arpad II). Owned by Alain Chevalier. 

Cedric has been a longtime member of the French front, and Qatar du Puech Rouget will be contesting his fifth four-star here. His first was Pau in 2016, where he finished in 18th place, before contesting Badminton last year. The pair retired on course, but bounced back to finish 5th in the CIC3* at Jardy. They then went to the Europeans, where they ran into difficulties on course. A confidence-building run at Ligniers CCI2* set them up well for Pau. There, they were the only combination to finish on their dressage score — a feat that was enough to propel them from 27th after the first phase to a third-place finish.

The horse does well over tight, technical courses but is perhaps less established over big, bold courses such as Burghley. Cedric will have to use the horse’s manoeuvrability to his advantage, rather than letting it back him off the big, galloping track here. He’ll be hoping to redeem himself — and the horse — after an unfortunate 20 penalties at Badminton earlier this year.

Andreas Dibowski and FRH Butts Avedon at Malmö. Photo by Julia Rau.

70. Andreas Dibowski and FRH Butts Avedon – GERMANY

17hh, fifteen-year-old gelding (Heraldik xx x Kronenkranich xx). Owned by Dr Manfred Giensch and Anne-Katrin Butt.

Three-time Olympian Dibowski has completed six four-stars with this horse, finishing second at Pau in 2014 and third at Luhmühlen in 2012. They attempted Burghley in 2013, but retired on course — but their impressive form on the continent suggests that the time is right for another go-round.

They’ve completed four three-stars this year, with four clear cross country rounds and top five placings at Strzegom and Sopot. Their showjumping performance is, in fact, the biggest question mark — they often have multiple rails, and at Luhmühlen last year, they retired in this phase. Nonetheless, they’re a very strong shout for the foreign offensive.

Abigail Boulton and Tilston Tic Toc. Photo by Samantha Clark.

71. Abigail Boulton and Tilston Tic Toc – GREAT BRITAIN

16.1hh, sixteen-year-old gelding (Quebec x Calypso I). Owned by Lucy Boulton. 

Boulton and Ben first came to Burghley in 2015, when Boulton was just 20. They finished 47th after a very slow but clear cross country, earning the best under 25 prize. They came back in 2016, but didn’t manage a clear on that occasion — they completed with a 20 on their record. They rerouted to Pau that year, where Boulton fell, but they had three clear rounds out of four starts at three-star in 2017, including a 15th place finish at Bramham CCIU253*.

They haven’t had any international runs this year, but have had a few quiet, clear OI and Advanced trips. This should be a quiet, sensible run for them, with the aim of a ‘proper’ competitive outing in the spring.

Lissa and Hollyfield II at Pau 2017. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

72. Lissa Green and Hollyfield II – AUSTRALIA

16hh, fourteen-year-old gelding (Quite Easy x Nocturne 877). Owned by The Viqueen Syndicate.

In her second four-star riding for Australia, Green pilots top horse Hollyfield II. The 14-year-old gelding is relatively inexperienced, having made the move-up to three-star in 2016, but Green rates the horse as a serious talent for the future and has made educational experiences her aim when running the horse. He was impressive around much of Pau’s course last year before Green opted to retire him due to brake failure near the end of the track, but it was Badminton this spring where he showed what he really has to offer. He jumped a stonking clear around Eric Winter’s tough track, adding 31.2 time penalties, but leaving Green and her team excited for the future.

Oli then had a quiet run for third place around Barbury’s CIC2*, before contesting Hartpury CIC3* earlier this month for a slow clear and 49th place. Now that Oli knows his own ability, we’d love to see what he produces when he’s moved up a gear — the raw talent is certainly there.

73. Matt Heath and The Lion – GREAT BRITAIN

16.3hh, sixteen-year-old gelding (Ricardo Z x Nad Elshiba). Owned by Emma Clarke, Clare Davis, and the rider.

The Lion went to Burghley last year, but Heath took a tumble on course, ending their week early. It was their first cross-country blip since 2015 — incidentally, that one happened here too, and they were eliminated at Badminton earlier that year as well. In 2014 they completed with a clear round, finishing 22nd, and they completed in 2013, too — albeit with a 20 across the country.

This year, they haven’t had any international runs, but they have had two good Advanced trips — they finished 11th in the Advanced at the Festival of British Eventing, and 2nd in July’s Aston-le-Walls Advanced. Not a competitive threat, but if they can produce a clear round here, they could build upon it in the spring.

Dan Jocelyn and Dassett Cool Touch. Photo courtesy of Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

74. Dan Jocelyn and Dassett Cool Touch – NEW ZEALAND

16.2hh, twelve-year-old gelding (Van Dantzig x Secret Touch). Owned by Therese Miller.

Jocelyn and Dassett Cool Touch finished thirteenth here in 2016, following it up with a clear round at Badminton the following spring. They picked up twenty penalties across the country at Badminton this year, but they then went on to Gatcombe earlier this month and finished twelfth in the CIC3*. This is a classic dark horse combination — the moment you discount them, they’ll rise like a pair of phoenixes and throw down the gauntlet. In all fairness, we’d like to see that again this week.

75. Gubby Leech and Xavier – GREAT BRITAIN

16.1hh, thirteen-year-old gelding (Clover Echo x Crusing). Owned by Antoinette Denham Harding. 

Leech climbed his way up the career ladder working first with Harry Meade, and later with Pippa and William Funnell. Now, he’s based on his own yard in Salisbury’s eventing mecca. He and Xavier have completed Burghley twice before, in 2016 and 2017, but they’ve had a cheeky 20 on cross-country each time. They’ve jumped clear around Bramham CCI3* and Hartpury CIC3* on their way to Burghley this year, but they’ll have to dig deep to put the pieces of the puzzle together this weekend. They can get a circa-30 dressage score, as they proved at Bramham, but the showjumping is hit-or-miss.

Oh, and his first name? It’s actually Daniel. We haven’t a clue where Gubby comes from, but we’re making it our mission to find out.

Michael Owen and Bradley Law. Photo by Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

76. Michael Owen and Bradeley Law – GREAT BRITAIN

16.2hh, fourteen-year-old gelding (Mill Law). Owned by Jane Jennings.

This will be Bradeley Law’s third attempt at the level — he was eliminated in his four-star debut at Badminton in 2016, but finished 35th earlier this year. We’ve only seen him on the international stage once since then — at Burgham CIC3* in July, where they finished 65th on a clear, but slow, cross-country, two rails, and a disappointing dressage of 56.5. They can be ten points lower than this.

Fun fact: Michael Owen produced Ludwig Svennerstal’s King Bob to four-star before the Swede took the reins.

81. Richard Jones and Alfies Clover – GREAT BRITAIN

16.2hh, eleven-year-old gelding (Tajraasi x Clover Hill). Owned by Sandra Martin, Dinah Saunders, and the rider.

Everyone loves a comeback kid, and good-humoured Jones has, perhaps, one of the more unusual comeback stories in this year’s field. Last year, he and Alfies Clover were on track to achieve the best result of Jones’ career in the CCI3* at Bramham, where they posted a 52.5 (35 in new scoring) and one of the top cross-country rounds of the weekend to sit in 11th place going into the final phase. After their round, however, disaster struck – Jones slipped while stepping out of the living area of his lorry and caught his wedding ring on the way down. He ended up losing his finger.

But he’s not stopped easily – this is a man who, the year prior, had to have a foot completely rebuilt – and we saw the pair at Burghley a mere three months later. They finished in 22nd place, despite the constant pain and lack of grip in Jones’ left hand. That was the 11-year-old gelding’s first four-star, and Jones’ first since 2014.

The pair retired across the country at Badminton this spring after clocking up 20 penalties, but they then went on to put their Bramham demons firmly to bed — they finished 7th in the CCI3*, adding nothing to their 31.9 dressage. They then posted a 33.9 at Burgham CIC3* last month, slipping to 30th place after an uncharacteristic three poles. If Jones can pull out the result he did at Burghley last year under the circumstances, he’s certainly capable of even better this week.

Buck Davidson and Park Trader. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

82. Buck Davidson and Park Trader – USA

16.3hh, sixteen-year-old gelding (Master Imp x Highland King). Owned by Carl and Cassandra Segal.

Kobe has had a number of good results, including 2nd at 2013’s Fair Hill CCI3*, and was named as reserve for the 2014 WEG — but we’re yet to see a big win from the talented Irish gelding. This will be his seventh four-star, though he’s only had two clears at the level. One of those earned him twelfth place at Kentucky in 2014, leading to that selection — though he was withdrawn from contention that summer after a bout of tendonitis.

A clear round here will be the name of the game for Davidson and Kobe, and if they manage it, it’ll be their first international clear of the season — they picked up 20 penalties at Kentucky and The Plains CICO3* this year.

Ben Way and Galley Light. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography.

83. Ben Way and Galley Light – GREAT BRITAIN

16.2hh, fifteen-year-old gelding (Turtle Island x Be My Native). Owned by Elisabeth Collins and the rider.

Way balances life as as a property professional with running a top-level eventing yard with partner Sarah Way. This will be his seventh four-star with Galley Light — their best result was 12th at Badminton in 2016. They had a good run around Camphire CCI3* last month for tenth place, but otherwise, it’s been a quiet season — they had a gap without competition from May until July. They know the course here now, though they haven’t got an entirely blemish-free record — but they should be able to produce the goods this week and deliver another clear. Whether it’ll be enough to be competitive, with a mid-30s dressage, a healthy helping of time, and a requisite rail, remains to be seen.

85. Katie Preston and Templar Justice – GREAT BRITAIN

15.2hh, eleven-year-old gelding (Weston Justice x Welton Crackerjack). Owned by the rider.

Preston combines her eventing career with a demanding job as a vet, but manages to find the balance — she and small but mighty TJ finished 18th at Luhmühlen this year, jumping a stonking clear round very nearly inside the time to complete their first four-star on a great note. Their showjumping performance let them down there, as it has a few times — they pulled six rails in Germany.

They’re very reliable across the country though, and haven’t picked up any jumping penalties in this phase since 2016. They should have a great time around Captain Mark Phillips’ imposing course, though they’ll start with a high-30s dressage and finish with poles. We’re most interested to see how they stack up against the optimum time — Luhmühlen proved they can be very nippy indeed.

86. Polly Jackson Griffin and Papillon – GREAT BRITAIN

16hh, fifteen-year-old gelding (Parforce x Asti Spumante). Owned by the rider.

Jackson Griffin is one half of the dynamic duo behind the lavish Monart sale in Ireland, and her string of Monart-prefixed horses demonstrates that she really does believe in the talented horses she puts her efforts behind. This one is obviously an exception — but he’s been a great upper-level mount for his rider, who has jumped around three four-stars with him in recent years. They’re yet to nail a clear at the level, though — and this will be a first international run for the pair in 2018.

They ran here in 2014, though they retired on course and rerouted to Blenheim’s CCI3*, where they sailed round clear. Last year, they picked up a 20 at Luhmühlen, but then finished 11th in Blair Castle’s WEG. They’ll deliver a mid-30s dressage, and, we hope, a first clear at the level.

Warren Lamperd and Silvia. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

89. Warren Lamperd and Silvia – AUSTRALIA

16.1hh, seventeen-year-old mare (Lancer II x Amigo). Owned by the rider.

The horse that coined the phrase ‘doing a Silvia’ – that is, um, banking a fence and making it look like that’s how it ought to be done – is back. Bossy, as she’s known at home, is well known for being game and gutsy, and she proved her adaptability last year at Burghley when she made light, if creative, work of the Dairy Mound combination. They finished in 31st place after adding rather too many time penalties and poles to threaten the top 20, but Bossy is a classic cross-country competitor.

With street smarts come personality quirks, and Bossy displays plenty of those at home – impossible to contain in a paddock, she’s allowed to roam free-range around Warren’s Berkshire base and choose the best grazing spots. An unbroken broodmare until the age of six, she spent more of her formative training putting Warren on the floor than learning to contain her enthusiasm, but his patience has paid off, and he’ll leave the start box on a partner he can trust. The pair will post a score that hovers around 50-51 (33-34), and although they’ll rack up time penalties, they’ll likely go clear – their blip at Badminton, in which they both took a tumble, was their first international cross-country jumping penalty since 2014.

Mark Todd and Kiltubrid Rhapsody at Badminton. Photo by Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

92. Mark Todd and Kiltubrid Rhapsody – NEW ZEALAND

17hh, eleven-year-old gelding (Cascaletto St Gyvan Z x Lombardo). Owned by Niki Ryan and Dr Elizabeth Donald. 

‘Raps’ really came into his own this year, stepping up from several good results at three-star in 2017 (including third at Saumur CCI3*, fourth in the British Open Championships, and ninth at Blenheim’s ERM) to complete his first Badminton exceptionally stylishly. He produced a very competitive 23.4 dressage, added just ten time penalties across the country, and pulled an annoying rail on the final day to finish sixth — but we get the feeling there’s even more in there.

Raps’ four-star debut came at Pau last year, where he clocked up 20 penalties to come 25th. Still, at that Pau, completion alone was absolutely not a given — and his Badminton performance shows the sort of course he excels over, which appears to be those that allow him to get into a forward rhythm, tackle some enormous, bold fences, and then snap to attention for a smattering of very technical combinations. Pau has the technicality, but none of the scope for galloping. Burghley should suit him, and he’s on good form — he clocked up a top-fifteen finish at Aachen last month, and had an easy, confidence-boosting run at Somerford CIC2* for seventh place earlier this month. The baby fangirl in us all is desperate for a Toddy victory at a four-star — and this horse, under the right circumstances, could certainly deliver.

Nana Dalton and Absolut Opposition. Photo by Samantha Clark.

93. Nana Dalton and Absolut Opposition – GREAT BRITAIN

17.2hh, thirteen-year-old gelding (Fleetwater Opposition x Ruffo). Owned by Miley’s Friends and the rider.

Dalton has known Miley since he was born, as she used to compete his mother. From day one, she adored his “natural swagger and character”, and set up a syndicate to buy him as a two-year-old. He found life as an eventer easy, and completed Badminton when he was a ten-year-old.

He then missed the majority of the 2016 season due to a mystery lameness that worsened and worsened, despite clear MRIs, scans, and X-rays. When one of the syndicate members suggested the horse ought to be euthanised, Dalton decided to scrabble together the funds to purchase the horse herself and secure his — at that time — questionable future. She managed it, and turned him away to let his body heal itself. It did, and he came back in time to head to Pau in 2017, where he picked up 20 penalties across the country but completed the event. This year, he finished 30th at Badminton, producing a very good test for 28.2, adding 20.4 time penalties on Saturday, and pulling five rails on Sunday. He can usually be counted on for a handful of poles — though Badminton was his record most — so he likely won’t be a super-competitive entity here, but should produce another good clear.

Bill Levett and Improvise. Photo by Nico Morgan.

94. Bill Levett and Improvise – AUSTRALIA

16.1hh, fourteen-year-old gelding (Master Imp x Diamond Wood). Owned by Elisabeth Murdoch.

Womble was originally produced by Chris King, and Levett took the reins back in 2010. Since then, they’ve had seven four-star runs — their best result came at Burghley in 2014, where they were sixth. They returned last year, but withdrew before the final phase, and their 2018 form hasn’t been quite as consistent as we’re used to — they’ve only had two clear cross country rounds out of six international starts. The horse sat out the 2017 season, so it may be that he’s been getting his confidence back up, but while both horse and rider are very capable of another top-ten finish, it might be more likely to come in 2019.

95. Simon Grieve and Drumbilla Metro – GREAT BRITAIN

15.3hh, eleven-year-old gelding (Metropole x Touchdown). Owned by Catherine O’Connor, Merna Merrett, and the rider.

Grieve will be riding for his seventh and eighth Burghley completions this week, and the petite Drumbilla Metro, who gave him his first Badminton completion this spring, should, in theory, step up to the plate. Unfortunately, the horse hasn’t had an ideal season — he’s only had two runs since Badminton, once around an Advanced at Aston, where he finished 15th, and once at the CICO3* at Haras du Pin earlier this month, where the pair were eliminated for a rider fall. Without time for one more confidence-building run, these are less-than-ideal circumstances — but Grieve has two rides here, and hopefully a good trip around the course earlier in the day will set him up to pilot Drumbilla Metro to his autumn redemption song.

Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

96. Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy – NEW ZEALAND

16.3hh, fifteen-year-old gelding (Courage II x Sky Boy). Owned by Verenna Allen and the rider.

The more eagle-eyed among you may have spotted a trend — the impressive stallion Courage II sired a remarkable proportion of this year’s Burghley entries, including last year’s winner, Ballaghmor Class. The marvellous Oz is another one of those horses who is achingly close to a big win — he came second here in 2015, fourth in 2016, fifth last year, and he’s been fifteenth, ninth, and twelfth at Badminton.

He’s ultra-capable in the first phase, scoring 25.8 at Badminton earlier this season, and he’s proven over the track here, with the ability to go very close to the optimum time at four-star. In fact, he’s won the William Miflin trophy at Badminton twice for being the closest to the time. Unfortunately, if anything stops him from winning this week, it’ll be the showjumping — he’s just as likely to have two down as he is to go clear. The Prices take their top horses for a mass exodus to Spain’s showjumping Sunshine Tour every winter, so hopefully we’ll see that effort pay off this weekend, and Tim can catch up with his wife Jonelle’s incredible season.

97. Louise Harwood and Balladeer Miller Man – GREAT BRITAIN

16.3hh, eleven-year-old gelding (Stormhill Miller x Porter Rhodes). Owned by Alli Haynes.

Harwood is known for piloting her homebreds around the upper levels, but Balladeer Miller Man bucks the trend. He was bought as a four-year-old from Ireland, but nonetheless, he grew and grew to fit in with diminutive Harwood’s stable full of oversized stars.

This will be the horse’s first four-star — he jumped clear around Bramham CCI3* in June and was 12th at Camphire CCI3* last month. Expect a dressage mark that hovers around the 40 area, a smattering of final-phase rails, but hopefully another clear round to finish off his immaculate season.

Swallow Springs and Andrew Nicholson. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

98. Andrew Nicholson and Swallow Springs – NEW ZEALAND

16.2hh, ten-year-old gelding (Chillout x Cult Hero). Owned by Paul and Diana Ridgeon.

Nicholson’s striking grey has been quietly impressive for the past few seasons, and now that his ultra-famous stablemate has retired, his time has come to shine. He finished third in 2016’s iteration of the prestigious 8/9 year-old CIC3* at Blenheim, following it up with 2nd and 5th at Barbury and Chatsworth CIC3* in 2017. He then finished 9th in Blenheim’s CCI3*, and his performance this season hasn’t been any less promising — he was second in Bramham’s tough CCI3* in June, leading one well-intentioned but somewhat misguided reporter to ask, “is this one likely to be your WEG horse, then?”

“Oh, yes, he’s got WEG written all over him,” replied Nicholson with a twinkle in his eye. “I expect they’ll be beating my door down to get us on the team.” #topbantz Nicholson aside, this horse really is a true talent, and one that the rider thinks a huge amount of. Burghley has been the plan all season, and although his showjumping can be a tad unreliable, Bramham proved that the horse can add very, very little to his good dressage score when it counts. Expect Nicholson to pilot this four-star debutante competitively — a top ten finish, at least, would come as no surprise.

Ireland’s Joseph Murphy and Sportsfield Othello. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

100. Joseph Murphy and Sportsfield Othello – IRELAND

16hh, seventeen-year-old gelding (Ricardo Z x Ring of Ford). Owned by Alison Schmutz, Andrew Tinkler, and Jill Andrews.

Third on the reserve list for the Irish team, Sportsfield Othello instead makes his way to Lincolnshire to tackle his second of the Big Bs this year. He had a very good Badminton this year, finishing in 13th place for the second consecutive year after a steady climb up the leaderboard through the week. They added just 6.4 time penalties — impressive, when you consider how tough the time was to get this year — and dropped two rails on the final day, scuppering their chances of creeping into the top ten.

Franky has had two quiet international entries since then — he finished third at Mallow CIC3* in June, adding just 3.2 time across the weekend, and then ran Camphire as a combined test at the end of July. This will be the horse’s second attempt at Burghley — they withdrew after dressage in 2015, so we’ve not yet had the chance to see how the track suits him. But his Badminton form adds up — he can do big, he can do bold, he can push it on and reel it back, and he should be an exciting candidate this week.

 

Oliver Townend and Cooley Master Class. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

106. Oliver Townend and Cooley Master Class – GREAT BRITAIN

16.2hh, thirteen-year-old gelding (Ramiro B x Master Imp). Owned by Angela Hislop.

Oh Coolio, how you dazzled us this spring. How you proved some of us so spectacularly wrong when we speculated that perhaps you were too fragile to be a four-star horse. How wonderfully and visibly you learned and matured around the Kentucky cross-country course to finish the competition not only the victor, but twice the horse you were when you started.

Nevertheless, do we think you’re going to Burghley? Unlikely — Townend has two known entities up his sleeve in Ballaghmor Class and MHS King Joules, and we rather fancy stablemate Cooley SRS as the third option — but then, the plan was likely never to aim you at Burghley, anyway.

Coolio led after dressage in Blair Castle’s CIC3*, but it was always the plan to withdraw him, so we can forgive him the three time penalties he picked up as he skipped around the showjumping course. If we don’t see him this week, it’ll be interesting to see where he’s aimed next — Pau would possibly not suit the horse, but a last-minute entry to Blenheim could be on the cards.

Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

107. Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class – GREAT BRITAIN

16.2hh, eleven-year-old gelding (Courage II). Owned by Karyn Shuter, Angela Hislop, and Val Ryan.

Ultra-talented but ultra-sharp and tricky, Thomas went from flying completely under the radar to winning Burghley practically with his eyes shut last year. Of Townend’s entries, this one is the dead cert — he’ll be hoping for a repeat performance of last year to prove a few points this week.

What’s perhaps most exciting about Thomas is that even after he won here last year, Townend admitted that the horse was still ‘babyish’ in many ways — the dressage wasn’t yet quite established, and the atmosphere in the main arena had the ability to slightly pull his focus off his job. His jumping style, too, was still green — he jumped big to make up for the fact that he hadn’t yet learned to jump economically. But discovering your capabilities over a course like Burghley, and then taking the winter holidays to mull over all you’ve learned, is the making of a tempestuous talent like Thomas.

He was fifth at Badminton this spring after that astonishing 20.8 dressage test, proving that the first phase is very much established now. He looked to tire on cross-country — leading to, perhaps, one of the bigger talking points of the first half of the season — but looked fresh and well on the final day, unfortunately pulling two rails to drop out of contention. Townend took a tumble from him at Aachen, but they regrouped and won Burgham CIC3* the following week, lest anyone murmur that they’d lost their touch. They were then part of Townend’s total domination of Blair Castle CIC3* last weekend. This is a very, very safe bet for a top placing, and if nothing else, we can’t wait to see the difference in Thomas over all three phases. The development of a young horse like this is very nearly as exciting as the major victories — we just hope he’s stopped lawn-darting the grooms across the gallops.

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Dirndls, Drama, and Dance-Moves: The Burghley First Horse Inspection

Buck Davidson and Park Trader are accepted for the USA. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Is it a sign that you’re reaching a *certain age* when the years start to speed by like a toddler who’s figured out how to work a coffee machine? Because last we checked, Badminton was like, a week ago, but somehow, we seem to be at Burghley, and the whole thing is confusing and, frankly, sort of frightening. Nonetheless, we are delving in headfirst with all the enthusiasm a small rodent and his much-maligned manservant can muster!

You’d be forgiven for worrying that an autumn CCI in a major championship year might not have much to offer, but in the case of this year’s Burghley entry list, you’d be spectacularly wrong. We’ve got a jam-packed week ahead of us, full of quantifiable superstars (Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor ClassTim Price and Ringwood Sky BoyPiggy French and Vanir Kamira — the list goes on!) and some seriously exciting up-and-coming horse and rider talent, too. We’ve also got a new-look course this year, with some — quite literally — ground-breaking changes that will throw even those stalwart Burghley competitors for a loop. We’ll be delving into the course and all its questions this week, so stay tuned for everything you need to know!

Spencer Sturmey ringleads the first horse inspection at Burghley — with a smile on his face, we promise! Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The competition got under way this afternoon with the first horse inspection. Held in the main arena, the trot-up is always well attended by eager eventing fans and connections, despite the threat of something rather more than drizzle on the horizon.

72 horses were presented to the assembled ground jury of Angela Tucker (GBR)Dr Ernst Topp (GER), and Sándor Fülöp (HUN) this afternoon, clearing up some of the ongoing mysteries surrounding some of our top riders and their multiple entries.

Oliver Townend and his pathfinder mount, MHS King Joules. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

World number one Oliver Townend had entered a head-spinning five horses, but brought forward three: last year’s winner Ballaghmor Class, Badminton runner-up Cooley SRS, and experienced campaigner MHS King Joules. All three passed, starting off Townend’s redemption campaign rather swimmingly.

Andrew Nicholson and four-star first-timer Swallow Springs. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Five-time Burghley winner Andrew Nicholson had three horses entered, but was expected to bring forward two — and so he did, with the exciting four-star debutante Swallow Springs coming forward, alongside Jet Set IV.

Andrea Baxter and Indy 500. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

All three of our North American entries sailed through the first horse inspection — the stars and stripes will be ably represented by Buck Davidson and Park TraderLillian Heard and LCC Barnaby, and Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 this week.

Lillian Heard and LCC Barnaby pass the first horse inspection. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

But the afternoon wasn’t without drama — two horses were sent to the holding box and subsequently withdrawn. Those were Fernhill Frankie II, one of two rides for Ireland’s Joseph Murphy, and Verdi, the sole entry of Italian rider Clelia Casiraghi.

There was drama of a slightly more humorous ilk, too, in the form of a plethora of rather fresh horses (and one forgetful rider). Harry Meade‘s Away Cruising displayed the most impressive dance moves of the day, flashing his heels and showing off some caprioles worthy of the Spanish Riding School.

“Fancy seeing you here!” Tim Price prepares to present Kiltubrid Rhapsody…

…but is saved from extra running at the last moment by the appearance of Mark Todd. Photos by Tilly Berendt.

New Zealand’s Tim Price had to do his best Mark Todd impression when the latter, well, failed to appear for the trot-up. Price presented the first of his rides, NZB Campino, and Toddy sprinted in just in time to give Kiltubrid Rhapsody a quick spin down the strip. We’d have thought the Kiwi legend would have gotten the hang of these things by now, but evidently not…!

Hi-Ho Silver once again judged the best-dressed competition, awarding a ladies’ prize and a gents’ prize. The ladies’ prize was scooped by New Zealand’s Caroline Powell, while the dashing Alex Bragg took the gents’ honours. As much as we love a good tasselled boot, it was lovely to see something a bit different on the trot strip today — and so our completely unofficial Golden Chinch for trot-up attire goes to Austria’s Katrin Khoddam-Hazrati, who wore a traditional dirndl to present her horse Cosma. The hills were alive with the sound of the ground jury, at any rate, so top marks to Katrin.

Austria’s Katrin Khoddam-Hazrati shakes up the trot-up formula. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Dressage gets underway at 9.30am BST/4.30am EST tomorrow — you can tune in to all the action via Burghley’s livestream and radio commentary. You can find all of the start times — and live scores — here. Not sure you want to commit to a full day of posh pony prancing? Here are the tests you’ll want to make sure you catch:

  • 9.30am BST/4.30am EST: Oliver Townend and MHS King Joules
  • 9.38am BST/4.38am EST: Mark Todd and NZB Campino
  • 10.18am BST/5.18am EST: Andrew Nicholson and Jet Set IV
  • 11.34am BST/6.34am EST: Ludwig Svennerstal and Stinger
  • 11.58am BST/6.58am EST: Imogen Murray and Ivar Gooden
  • 2.08pm BST/8.08am EST: Piggy French and Vanir Kamira
  • 2.32pm BST/8.32am EST: Harry Meade and Away Cruising
  • 4.15pm BST/11.15am EST: Andrea Baxter and Indy 500

We’ll be bringing you our comprehensive form guide, ready for the start of dressage, so you can find out everything you need to know about every. single. horse and rider competing here this weekend. Don’t say we never do nuffin’ for ya, dear readers!

In the meantime — goodnight and godspeed from glorious Stamford! Go Eventing!

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