The sun finally came out today at Burghley, to bring along a historic day in Eventing history. Andrew Nicholson and Avebury have just become your 2014 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials champions, which makes them the first combination in history to ever win three times consecutively. Avebury is now the only horse to have ever won Burghley three times, much less three times in a row. While he certainly gave us all a few heart attacks by rubbing almost every fence, they jumped a clear round with two time penalties to finish on their score of 48.1.
“Going into the competition, I see that the biggest danger to me and Sam is Jock, he’s been very consistent with the jumping and I’ve had to tag along behind him before,” said Andrew after his win. “When he jumped clear, and luckily Sam had a couple down, I knew I could have a couple down and still be there, so I thought just keep my cool and ride him like I ride him and trust him to do the job of it.”
The course, unlike yesterday, was not taking too many prisoners as we began with the top twenty-five riders. Clear rounds were coming fairly often, with twelve horse and rider combinations turning in double clear results at the end of the day, and two more jumping clear with two time penalties. The course included a lot of roll-back turns, and the distances in combinations required a lot of power off the ground, requiring a clever and very careful horse with energy left to spare.
Most horses came out looking surprisingly fresh today after a hard day of cross country yesterday, but unfortunately third-placed Armada was looking very tired and pulled four rails to drop to eighth place. There were several problems at fence number five, which was the second element of the first triple combination, with that pole falling more often than any other jump. A few horses also mis-read the gate at number seven, which resulted in a few awkward hops and several knock-downs.
While I will not conceal that I wanted Jock Paget to get the ultimate redemption and win the whole competition, I think that a second placed ribbon will do very well. Promise has become very consistent in the jumping phases, and the sixteen-year old gelding looked very sprightly today, pulling off a lovely smooth and easy clear round, which moved them up the leaderboard again and again as rails fell ahead of them. Jock got one of the loudest cheers at the end of his round, and it’s good to know that he has supporters here at Burghley.
“I’m sitting on a very good horse. He was jumping well and the course was riding well, so I felt good,” Jock spoke to us in the press conference. “I did my best, I put in my best performance and my horse gave me everything and it wasn’t good enough to win on the day, so it’s not my competition. But I’m very happy with him, he’s a very consistent horse and has a great record at four-star. He comes out and gives me everything and that’s all I can ask for.”
Sam Griffiths, in quest of the second leg of his Grand Slam dream, entered the ring with one rail in hand over Jock Paget, who had moved up right behind him after Armada dropped four rails. Unfortunately, Happy Times had two rails behind, which just slipped him 2.6 points behind Jock, and gave him a third placed finish overall. This will make their fifth Burghley completion, and their second time finishing in third place, which is an accomplishment all on its own.
“I was desperate to do a clear round and put a bit of pressure on Andrew, but as it turned out Mr. Cool here still won. I felt I had a couple of cheap rails, but I was pleased with how the horse jumped and finished,” Sam said in the press conference. “The jumping can be a bit of his achilles heel, but he jumped pretty well and I had a good warmup so I’ve got no excuses. It was disappointing not to go clean, but to finish third at Burghley is an immense thrill.”
While we are talking about top finishers, let’s all just take a moment to acknowledge how New Zealand and Australia positively dominated this competition, each with three riders in the top ten at the end of the weekend. They were only beaten by the British, who finished four riders in the top ten, and four more in the top fifteen. We need some of what they are drinking!
After our disappointment this morning to learn of the withdrawal of Hannah & William, we sent two riders into the show jumping arena, both in the top twenty-five individually. Marilyn and Demi were third to enter the ring after the lunch break, and they jumped a stellar clear round, finishing their fifth CCI4* and first Burghley together in good style. This is the first time that Demi has jumped double clear in the show jumping, and I’m sure Marilyn will be positively thrilled with her mare. They finished on the score of 96.9 for 20th place, and are the highest place American pair.
Allison and Arthur went in the ring soon afterwards, and although Allison said that he pulled up well after cross country yesterday, he did look a bit fatigued, and touched almost every rail. Arthur was amongst the horses that completely mis-read the gate at number seven, giving us all a heart attack when he pulled out a fifth leg to scramble over it. He eventually pulled two rails, and they finished their weekend on a 97.6 for twenty-first place, just right behind Marilyn and Demi.
A fantastic end to the weekend of exciting Burghley action, and the Chinch and I are back off stateside tonight. Be sure to check out all of our Burghley coverage throughout the weekend if you missed any of it, and stay tuned for additional photo galleries and videos from the competition.