Andrew Nicholson Takes Over The Lead After Burghley Cross Country

Andrew Nicholson & Avebury. Photo by Kate Samuels.

Andrew Nicholson & Avebury. Photo by Kate Samuels.

An exciting day of cross country action has concluded here at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, and what a day it was. When riders say that this is the toughest CCI4* in the world, they certainly aren’t exaggerating. While the footing was good and the course seemed fair but challenging, nobody came in under the time, and twenty-three pairs were either eliminated or retired on course.

Andrew Nicholson went as the very last pair on course, and delivered an impeccable round with Avebury, coming closest to the time of anybody, logging only 5.6 penalties. This puts him in first place on a 46.1. The stakes could not be higher for him, as he is certainly gunning for his third consecutive win with Avebury, which is an incredible feat.

“I thought it went very very well, I started off a little quieter than I normally do with him, I normally start off at the same speed I finish on him,” said Andrew. “I knew we had quite a bit in hand, so I thought, ‘Don’t be stupid and do something silly at the beginning’ so that cost me seconds”.

Oliver Townend gunning for the finish with Armada. Photo by Kate Samuels.

Oliver Townend gunning for the finish with Armada. Photo by Kate Samuels.

Andrew’s sentiments about the time were echoed by second fastest Oliver Townend riding Armada for the horse’s twelfth CCI4* cross country completion. They came in under the wire with only 6.8 time penalties, which places them in third on a 55.1. “As long as I do my job right, 90% of the time he helps me out. The time was un-gettable as far as I’m concerned, Armada is a very quick horse, and I was amazed after the Trout Hatchery how quickly and how far I dropped behind the time”.

Sam Griffiths, who has stayed in the top three throughout the weekend, sits in second place with a 49.8 after adding 9.6 time penalties to his score. However, he had a very different ride than the others in the top ranks, as he went relatively early in the day, and was also held twice during his round. “I was fairly early on, so I didn’t know quite how influential the time was going to be. I had feedback that no one was getting close to it. My horse has got a lot of Thoroughbred in him and he’s a great galloper. So I though I’ll just give it a bit of a cut and try and go as fast as I can”.

Sam Griffiths & Happy Times at Discovery Valley. Photo by Kate Samuels.

Sam Griffiths & Happy Times at Discovery Valley. Photo by Kate Samuels.

The American contingent had a day of mixed results, but finished in high spirits. Allison Springer went out first, and I saw her through the Discovery Valley, where Arthur looked fantastic and Allison looked determined. Sadly, she and Arthur suffered a run-out at the B element of the Rolex Combination, which caused a fair amount of trouble throughout the day.

Meghan O’Donoghue and Pirate went out next, and looked super through The Hurdles where I saw them, but fell prey to the Malting’s, arriving to the big airy corner on a half stride and having a rather scary fall, which ended their Burghley trip too early. Marilyn Little followed soon after and had a cracking round, with Marilyn riding as hard as she could, but they were assessed 21 penalties for breaking the frangible pin on the corner of the Maltings when Demi just put her hind legs down. David O’Connor assured us that they will be challenging this decision, and we await the decision.

The last to go, Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot, positively smoked the course, coming home with only 13.2 time penalties. This puts them into seventh place overnight, and makes them the highest placed American pair going forward. We will be bringing you interviews and more detailed reports on that later.

Fourth placed Jock Paget & Clifton Promise. Photo by Kate Samuels.

Fourth placed Jock Paget & Clifton Promise. Photo by Kate Samuels.

Trouble was spread all around the course, with several falls and mishaps along the way. Problems were spread amongst Discovery Valley, The Malting’s combination, the Hurdles in the main arena, the Rolex Combination and the Trout Hatchery. We have received word that while both Gina Ruck and Natalie Blundell were taken to the hospital for broken legs, and we’ve confirmed that Sara Squires’ mount, Orto, was unfortunately euthanized after breaking the frangible pin at the Rolex combination.

The Maltings combination caused by far the most trouble, with multiple riders having stops there, as well as multiple pairs penalized for breaking the frangible pin. This was predicted by Captain Mark Phillips in his course walk, as he thought that it was the most challenging combination on course. The Trout Hatchery rode roughly, and caused a few penalties but mostly just heart palpitations, including when third placed Armada left a leg and nearly unseated Oliver.

Course designer Captain Mark Phillips mentioned in the press conference, “I was actually quite pleased with the fences, they pretty much rode like we were expecting. The time, well I don’t know where that came from, that was totally unexpected. I was totally expecting these good horses and good riders to get inside the time”.

Press Conference from Saturday Night

We’ll be back later on with a full report on the American contingent and much more from Burghley.

Burghley Links: [Website] [Entry List] [Live Scores] [Burghley TV]  

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