Back to Burghley: The 2019 Form Guide

Tim and Jonelle Price: eventing’s winningest couple return for another crack at Burghley. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

“How did we get heeeeeere?” warbled the lass from Paramore in that one song that made Twilight almost bearable. We might not have much experience with vampire lovers and magical games of baseball (???) but this is one sentiment we can certainly relate to – weren’t we just at Kentucky? What is this sorcery, and how is it Burghley week?!

This year’s Burghley field brings us a small-ish but exciting and diverse slew of competitors – 62 riders, to be precise, and 68 horses. We’ve got the low-down on every last one of them for you, in drawn order so you can have a gander at their information as you watch them toddle into the arena. Picked your winner? Marvellous – let us know who takes the title in the comments. We might even drum up a prize for the person who gets it right.

Ready? Saddle up for your 2019 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials form guide.

Tim Price and Bango. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

1: Tim Price and Bango (NZL)

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 when we did, he was impressive – he finished tenth at Burghley and took his stablemate’s place for the prize-giving. Then, he enjoyed a winter on the Sunshine Tour in Spain, playing over the coloured poles.

‘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 spring, he had a bit of a frustrating moment at Badminton after appearing to run out of brakes entirely, and Tim put his hand up after picking up a 20. They were then clear in the CCI3*-S at Barbury, finishing sixth, and they posted a 29.4 FOD in the Nations Cup at Camphire for second place. They cruised around Hartpury very neatly – so Bango is back to looking very exciting for Burghley.

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

2: Oliver Townend and Ulises (GBR)

Twelve-year-old Spanish Sport Horse (Fines xx x Emeraude du Pontet). Owned by Paul and Diana Ridgeon. 

Although Ulises has slid under the radar in comparison to Oliver’s stable stars such as Ballaghmor Class and Cooley Master Class, he’s a horse with an interesting heritage: he was bred by the Beca family in Spain, from whom Andrew Nicholson has sourced many of his top horses, and he’s a paternal half-brother to Nereo and Armada. Andrew produced the horse through to four-star, but when he had his accident in 2015, the ride on Ulises – as well as a number of other Nicholson horses – was passed over to his good friend Oliver.

Since then, the gelding has quietly been waiting for his turn to step up to five-star – a tough ask, when your stablemates are obvious contenders for the win. But now, it looks like it’s finally going to happen – although one can’t help but think it would have been nice to see it last season, when the horse finished in the top ten in three of his four internationals, winning a CCI4*-S at Chatsworth and finishing top twenty in his fourth run, rather than this season, in which we’ve seen him start – but not finish – three internationals. On one of those occasions, he was withdrawn before cross-country, which doesn’t set off any alarm bells – Oliver is well known for only running his horses when the run can benefit them, and often opts to withdraw if conditions aren’t right, the horse isn’t competitive, or the run isn’t necessary. It’s the other two that raise an eyebrow: he was retired on course at both Gatcombe and Millstreet.

With all that said, he’s becoming a rather nice first-phase horse, scoring 26.3 on both those appearances, showing a downward trend from the 30s scores he usually garners. Throughout his career, he’s shown a tendency to be quick and clean across the country – this season notwithstanding – although his showjumping record is a bit patchy. He pulled six rails at Millstreet, though he’s more of a two or three sort of chap. He won’t win this, but if Oliver decides to run him, he’ll run him properly – and it’ll be an interesting watch to see if this looks like a superstar for the future.

Michael Owen and Bradeley Law at Badminton. Photo by Kit Houghton/Mitsubish Motors.

4: Michael Owen and Bradeley Law (GBR)

Fifteen-year-old British-bred Sport Horse (Mill Law x Scarlet Lady). Owned by the Jenning’s Syndicate.

This will be Bradeley Law’s fifth attempt at the level — he was eliminated in his four-star debut at Badminton in 2016, but finished 35th last year. Then, we saw him notch up a career-best result at Burghley last season, where he finished 15th after adding just 7.2 time penalties to his 40.1 dressage. This spring, they posted a disappointing score of 48.5 at Badminton, but produced one of the rounds of the day on Saturday. Two rails down on Sunday meant they finished 32nd, and in the horse’s sole international run since then at Burgham, he picked up his first 20 since 2016. Both horse and rider are very capable, but Michael may opt to use this as a regrouping run.

Ludwig Svennerstal and Stinger at the 2018 WEG. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

5: Ludwig Svennerstal and Stinger (SWE)

Twelve-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (Spender S x On A Pedestal). Owned by Skånegårdar AB.

This will be a second five-star start for Stinger, who went to Burghley last year but was retired on course after picking up penalties for breaking a frangible pin. All’s well that ends well, though – he ended up being subbed into the WEG team a mere two weeks later, though an uncharacteristically poor showjumping round meant that he finished in 49th place despite going quick and clear across the country. (It was a seven poler – he’s not the best showjumper in the field ordinarily, but usually keeps it to below three.)

This year, he’s had three top-five finishes at CCI4*-S – he was fifth at both Burnham Market and Houghton, and fourth in the British Open Championship at Gatcombe. In his other two international runs in ERM legs at Chatsworth and Wiesbaden, Ludwig withdrew him before cross-country. So what can we expect from him here? Well, a low-30s score would be about right – he put a 33 on the board last year – and the 2018 Wiesbaden winner is ordinarily quick and clear across the country. It’s obviously a big step up, but what we saw prior to that pin breaking looked promising last year – and the WEG performance on Saturday looked very exciting indeed. Really, the question mark here is the final day – it’ll be the thing that stops him from creeping into the top ten.

For those of you still unfamiliar with Ludwig, we’ll just leave you with this insight into his pre-ride routine:

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Morning warm up #yoga

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Pippa Funnell and Billy Walk On. Photo by Libby Law Photography.

6: Pippa Funnell and Billy Walk On (GBR)

Ten-year-old British-bred Sport Horse (Billy Mexico x Shannon Line). Owned by Barbara and Nicholas Walkinshaw.

The first-ever Grand Slam winner is back with a bang, with three horses entered for this year’s event – though one of them, Majas Hope, is also a reserve for the Europeans, so we may not see him run. Billy Walk On is a product of Pippa and husband William’s breeding enterprise, the Billy Stud, which has become something of an assembly line for top-class eventers and showjumpers.

This is to be Billy Walk On’s fifth season eventing – he won his first ever international back in 2015, and through his two- and three-star (formerly one- and two-star) career, he was pretty much unbeatable. Then he had some slight learning curves – and a spate of withdrawals – in his first season at four-star, but his 2018 season relit the candle we’ve long held for this stunning horse. He was fourth in the CCI4*-S at Hartpury, 14th in Bramham’s CCI4*-L, and second in the insanely competitive Chatsworth CCI4*-S, which is widely regarded as a great indicator of a horse’s ability to cover the ground across the country. He’s certainly turning into a classic Pip ride in the first phase – most of his scores begin with the magic ‘2’.

His first five-star run came this spring at Badminton, though it didn’t go quite to plan – he scored a very respectable 26.5 in the first phase, but Pip opted to retire him across the country after picking up a 20 and then making a great effort to destroy the dreaded KBIS Footbridge. (Generally, we recommend heading out on course under the cover of night to burn the blasted things, but we do admire her incentive.) Since then, it’s been a long road to recovery – of the horse’s confidence, that is. He’s picked up twenties in both his international runs since Badminton.

This is an incredibly classy horse and a serious jumper, and he’s lucky to be partnered with one of the most sympathetic riders in the world – if she opts to run him, it’ll be with confidence-building in mind. The long gallops and fly fences of the Burghley course could be just what he needs to start attacking his jumps again.

Gemma Tattersall and Arctic Soul. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

8: Gemma Tattersall and Arctic Soul (GBR)

Sixteen-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Luso xx x Dream Cocktail xx). Owned by the Soul Syndicate.

Arctic Soul — known as Spike — has come SO close to a big win, finishing in third place at Burghley in 2017 and third at Badminton in 2016. He’s also been seventh at Badminton, two years ago, and fifth at Burghley in 2014. In 2017, he won the ERM leg at Gatcombe, securing Gemma the series title and earning himself the British Open Championship, too. He added just 1.2 time penalties on a day when the time was well-nigh impossible to get. Last year, he was fourth at Badminton, and then went on to act as pathfinder for the gold-medal-winning British team in Tryon. This spring, they finished 20th at Badminton after a surprisingly high dressage score of 39.7 – ten marks higher than we’d usually expect.

The ex-racehorse has been lovingly referred to as ‘totally crazy’ by Gemma, who has to ask for silence from the audience to get a good test from him, and when he goes across the country, he really goes. But he’s not stupid, and his sense of self-preservation extends to his rider, too — at Burghley 2017, Gemma was battling a serious chest infection all week and Arctic Soul stepped up to the plate. These two have an incredible relationship, wrought from time, patience, and a similar gutsy tunnel-vision, and we can’t help but feel that it’s their time to graduate from bridesmaids to brides.

Arthur Duffort and Toronto d’Aurois. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

10: Arthur Duffort and Toronto d’Aurois (FRA) – FIRST-TIMERS

Twelve-year-old Selle Français gelding (Polack II x Jovaly d’Aurois). Owned by the rider.

After some teething problems in the horse’s first year at the four-star level, Toronto d’Aurois seems to be on a roll – he’s jumped four consective clears at the level, making light work of tough tracks like Hartpury, Blair, and Bramham. But we haven’t seen him in an international since his Bramham long-format run at the beginning of June. Both horse and rider will be making their five-star debut, and although this is a quick horse with the potential to run tracks like these competitively, it’s wise to expect an educational run. We’ll be looking for a high-30s score, a steady clear with a couple of long routes and then, hopefully, a dwindling of their customary two rails to one.

Will Furlong and Collien P 2. Photo by Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

12: Will Furlong and Collien P 2 (GBR) – FIRST-TIMERS

Twelve-year-old Oldenburg mare (Carentan x Compita). Owned by the Acorn Syndicate.

It’ll be a first Burghley and third five-star for 23-year-old Will and ‘Tinks’, who he bought from German eventer Josephine Schnaufer in 2016. Their first attempt at the level last year might not have gone quite to plan – they finished 43rd after clocking up 49.2 time penalties and tipping three rails on the final day. But they jumped clear around the formidable cross-country track, and Will, who has been the under-21 national champion, the under-25 national champion, and a double gold medalist at the Young Rider European Championships, is no dummy. He’ll have been planning for the future with his talented but tempestuous mare.

Unfortunately, the rest of the 2018 season was a bit of a let-down for Will and Tinks – they withdrew before the second horse inspection at Haras du Pin, and Will took a tumble across the country at Waregem. At Pau, the pair’s second five-star, Will put his hand up after a couple of issues. Badminton this year saw them pick up a twenty and break a frangible pin on course, but since then, they’ve jumped clear around Jardy and Hartpury. Both horse and rider are very, very capable, so it’ll be interesting to see them around Burghley, which is a very different five-star course to those they’ve tackled so far.

Hazel Towers and Simply Clover. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

14: Hazel Towers and Simply Clover (GBR)

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

Towers and her plucky mare jumped clear around Chatsworth CCI4-S* and Bramham CCI4*-L last year, putting an early season blip at Belton CCI4*-S well behind them. Towers won Blair CCI4*-L the year prior aboard her other top horse, Simply Smart, who was due to contest Burghley last year as well, but was withdrawn due to a minor injury. Towers made the leap into riding full-time just over two years ago, and that Blair result proves she has it in her to make a go of it.

The pair made their five-star debut at Burghley in 2018, jumping clear for 33rd place, but their four international runs since then have been a bit ropier – they’ve had cross-country jumping penalties at Belton, Badminton, Bramham, and Burgham. It’s a bold choice to go to Burghley now, but they may be able to tap into the confidence they gained by going clear last year.

16: Caroline Clarke and Touch Too Much (GBR) – FIRST-TIMERS

Twelve-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Imperial Heights x Touch of Dutch). Owned by rider.

We didn’t get to see Caroline and ‘Possum’ at Badminton this spring – they withdrew at the eleventh hour and have had a quiet season since then. In fact, we’ve only see them contest two internationals in 2019 – they finished 26th in the CCI4*-S at Barbury after a slow clear, and eighth in the CCI4*-L at Camphire last month after a considerably quicker one.

Caroline has produced her top horse while studying dentistry – interestingly, she didn’t keep Possum at university with her, so an enormous amount of dedication (and mileage) went into making both dreams happen. Although Possum isn’t, perhaps, the archetype of a classic event horse and he’s not particularly quick, he’s a good jumper and should lodge a completion this year. Then, it’s onwards and upwards from there.

18: Nicky Hill and MGH Bingo Boy (GBR) – FIRST-TIMERS

Eleven-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (breeding unknown). Owned by the rider.

This promising pair made their five-star debut last season at Pau, rounding out the top twenty with a 34 dressage, a clear cross-country with 28.8 time penalties, and a clear showjumping round with two time penalties. They began their 2019 season proper by finishing 32nd after two clear rounds and with just 11.6 time penalties across the country. It was their 40.1 dressage that precluded them from placing any higher –  this has historically been a bit of a tricky phase for them.

MGH Bingo Boy was sourced from Padraig McCarthy’s Devon sportshorse empire, and Nicky has produced him from the (former) one-star level, taking over the ride from Megan Cummings. They went to the CCI3*-S Europeans in 2017, finishing ninth. This spring, at their first Badminton, they finished 18th, adding just 13.2 time penalties across the country and a rail and a time penalty to their 35 dressage score. That was good enough to make Nicky the best British first-timer – and their impressive performances haven’t stopped since then. They’ve finished in the top ten in both their international runs since, and they laid down a significant PB in the dressage at Hartpury, too, dropping their usual high-30s scores to a 31.7. Expect a great fledgling run from this exciting duo.

Will Coleman and Tight Lines. Photo by Shelby Allen.

19: Will Coleman and Tight Lines (USA)

Twelve-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Turgeon xx x Merindole xx). Owned by the ConAir Syndicate.

Will’s French ex-racehorse is called Phish to his friends – and yes, he’s named after the band, so if that’s the kind of fun fact that takes your fancy, I suggest you skedaddle straight over to this piece by my esteemed colleague Leslie Wylie, which is probably just your brand of totally bonkers.

Phish, who started dropping his ‘bonjours’ and picking up a solid ‘howdy y’all’ in 2014, went to the WEG last year – but he was one of many good horses to have an issue with the tricky water complex, and ultimately finished 66th after two issues on course. This year, the gelding – who was second at Fair Hill and Rebecca Farm in 2017, and 12th at Kentucky last year – notched up a contentious flag penalty at Kentucky, which further fuelled the debate about the revised wording of the rule and saw him drop to 13th. Without that 15, he’d have been fifth.

He’s a mid-to-high 30s horse, a quick and ordinarily clear cross-country jumper, and a reliable showjumper, too, if we discount that freak three he had down at the WEG, at which the showjumping was held a day late. He’s also more than ready to make the step up in intensity at Burghley, which should suit him, as a full Thoroughbred. Your loyal British reporter is also delighted to welcome Will back, so he can say excellent things like “I’d have traded him for a ham sandwich.”

20: Arthur Chabert and Goldsmiths Imber (FRA) – FIRST-TIMERS

Eleven-year-old British-bred Sport Horse mare (Bandmaster xx x Badgers Black Dove). Owned by the rider.

It’ll be a debut five-star for both Goldsmiths Imber and Arthur, who’s married to British eventer Kirsty Johnston. He’s a one-horse-at-a-time kind of guy, and has been riding the British-bred mare exclusively since her international debut back in 2016. It only took a year for her to move up from CCI2*-S to CCI4*-S, and she’s had some really promising runs since then, jumping clear around Chatsworth, Blenheim, Bramham CCI4*-S, and Burgham CCI4*-S.

They won’t be out for a competitive run on their debut, and admittedly, they’ve got some polishing to do before that can be a goal – their dressage is a high-30s to low-40s affair at the moment, and their showjumping record is a bit erratic too, skittering from a single rail to five rails with little provocation. Still – a first Burghley can be the making of a horse, and its rider, and we look forward to seeing what they make of the course.

Becky Woolven and DHI Babette K record a career best for the rider at Luhmühlen. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

21: Becky Woolven and DHI Babette K (GBR)

Thirteen-year-old KWPN mare (Marlon x Fleur). Owned by Julie Record.

We’re used to seeing Becky at five-stars with the gorgeous Charlton Down Riverdance, but this year, we’ve seen her introduce Babette to the top level. Formerly ridden by Laura Ritchie-Bland, Babette joined Becky’s string in 2017, and has been learning the ropes at four-star ever since. This spring, we’ve seen her come into her own – her dressage scores have dropped to the low thirties, and she’s reliably producing some reasonably speedy clear rounds. She’s prone to a pole or two, but despite that, she’s been in the top fifteen in CCI4*-S sections at Burnham Market and Chatsworth. She was at her very best – as was Becky – in her five-star debut at Luhmühlen in June – there, she finished ninth after adding just 1.6 time penalties and a single rail to her 35.3 dressage. That’s a very different track to Burghley, though, so we may not see the same blazing speed here – and she’s also coming back from a 20 while cruising around her prep run at Hartpury, so the pair may start off conservatively to build confidence.

Eliza Stoddard and Priorspark Opposition Free. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

22: Eliza Stoddart and Priorspark Opposition Free (GBR) – FIRST-TIMERS

Eleven-year-old British-Bred Sport Horse gelding (Fleetwater Opposition x Raunds Freeway). Owned by Bruce and Anna Staley. 

Eliza was the winner of the ‘whodat?’ prize at Belton this year, when she and Dick O’Malley finished sixth in the Grantham Cup. But those who know, certainly know: Eliza is a seriously talented jockey who has been quietly working her proverbial off to carve out her niche at the upper levels. She proved that Belton wasn’t a fluke, heading off to Ballindenisk and finishing sixth in the CCI4*-L there.

Eliza cut her teeth in the industry working for some of the greats, including Oliver Townend and Pippa Funnell, so it’s no surprise she knows her way around a cross-country course. This will be her second five-star – she went to Luhmühlen in June with Dick O’Malley, though didn’t complete. It’ll be a five-star debut for her horse, though, who had two very short international seasons in 2015 and 2017, and really, for argument’s sake, began the game properly last season. This year, he’s been in the top twenty in a CCI4*-S at Chatsworth and the CCI4*-L at Bramham, and slipped sub-30 in the first phase at Burgham’s CCI4*-S, too. Expect a low-to-mid 30s score, a conservative and educational trip around the cross-country, and two or three rails down on Sunday.

Andrea Baxter and Indy 500. Photo by Sherry Stewart.

23: Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 (USA)

Fourteen-year-old mare (Cromwell xx x Tens of Thousands xx). Owned by the rider.

Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 continue their quest for Burghley redemption, after an annoying fall early in the course in 2017, 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 CCI4*-L 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 came back to Burghley last year, and completed – albeit with an annoying twenty penalties at the Leaf Pit.

They’ve completed Kentucky CCI5*-L three times, and this year they got the clear cross-country they’d been working towards, which saw them finish in the top twenty. This year, 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 — their fifth place finish at Rebecca Farm in July is a testament to that fact, and a great confidence boost for them too.

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?

24: Alicia Hawker and Charles RR (GBR) – FIRST-TIMERS

Twelve-year-old AES gelding (Verdi TN x La Di Dah). Owned by Robert Hawker.

This will be a fourth five-star for Lici and her top horse Charles, who made their level debut at Pau in 2017. There, they finished 37th after a slow cross-country with a 20 – but that was a year in which it was practically a victory to even finish. Then they went to Badminton last year, where they notched up another 20 and finished 49th. They’ve certainly got the goods at the four-star level – their career-best result is third in Bramham’s Under-25 CCI4-L – but until this spring, it hadn’t quite come together at the top for them. Something clicked at Badminton, and they romped home clear – not slowly, either! – to finish 30th. They were sixteenth in their final run at Hartpury, and if they can keep their first phase score at or below 35, they could aim for the top twenty here.

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

25: Georgie Spence and Wii Limbo (GBR)

Sixteen-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Highline x Patricia). Owned by Suzanne Doggett, Lucy Fleming, Russell Spence, and Sam Wilson.

‘Woody’ was bought by Georgie as a three-year-old, and she’s produced him all the way through the grades. This will be their eighth five-star together — their best result at the level was 12th at Badminton in 2015. Georgie 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 last year, where they scored a 28.9, and they’re reasonably 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.

David Britnell and Continuity impress on their five-star debut at Pau. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

26: David Britnell and Continuity (GBR) – FIRST-TIMERS

Fifteen-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Contender x Mensa I). Owned by the rider.

This will be a third CCI5*-L for David and his best mate Brad, who made the long journey south to Pau for their debut last season. It was well worth the 50-odd hours spent in the lorry – they finished tenth, climbing up the leaderboard after two impressive performances in the jumping phases. Then, they went to Badminton this spring, and became the first horse and rider combination ever to compete at both the grassroots championship – they finished fifth in the BE100 in 2011 – and the five-star.

David, who is a BHS Senior and UKCC 2/3 Coach, finished 38th at his first Big B after scoring less than a penalty above his projected mark of 33.1 and then enjoying a conservative clear round across the country. Three poles down on the final day was a bit of an unfortunate end to an exciting week for the duo, but their final run at Hartpury certainly looked promising – they finished ninth after adding just six time penalties to their 33 dressage.

26: Katie Preston and Templar Justice (GBR)

Twelve-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Weston Justice x Welton Vivat). Owned by the rider.

2018 saw TJ and owner Katie, a full-time equine vet, make their five-star debut at Luhmühlen, where they finished eighteenth. Then, they went on to Burghley, once again jumping clear, and this time finishing 24th. This spring has been a bit of a rougher ride – they were eliminated at Badminton for accumulated refusals, and then Katie took a tumble at Bramham. They picked up 40 penalties at Barbury, but then they had a great weekend at Gatcombe, finishing ninth in the CCI4*-S British Open Championship. It’s rare that we see a true amateur rider take on the big guns these days, but for Katie and TJ, this has likely been an instrumental part of their success – Katie’s veterinary skills certainly helped her to bring her horse back to his best after a major injury a couple of seasons ago.

Dressage is the trickiest phase for 15.2hh TJ, who will likely be the smallest horse in the field this year. Expect a score in the high 30s, which won’t be competitive in the early days – but with any luck, we’ll get to watch a merry TJ clear on Saturday. Unfortunately, Sunday’s competition will drop them back down a few places – TJ likes to take a few poles for the road.

Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan at the 2019 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

28: Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan (USA) – FIRST-TIMERS

Ten-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Master Imp xx x Ardragh Bash). Owned by Anne Eldridge.

You might remember Ariel Grald as The Great Flag Thief of Kentucky 2019:

Despite this, and as you can see in the video, both horse and rider remained cool, calm, and focused, totally belying the fact that it was their first five-star. In fact, they went on to finish 12th, and looked incredibly impressive in each phase. This came as no surprise to the good folks at US Equestrian, who had named Ariel to their 2019 Developing Potential Training List over the winter. Now, she and ‘Simon’, who she sourced in Ireland, are ready for their next big challenge: Burghley. But how will they fare? Well, we can expect a mid-to-high 30s dressage to get the ball rolling – they scored 39.3 at Kentucky. Then, a clear round – hopefully with no accessories this time – is well within their capabilities. They had an unfortunate 20 at the Fork last year, but it’s their only blip since 2016. They’re reasonably quick, though not amongst the speediest in the field, and they’re reliable show jumpers – they’re more likely to clear than have a rail, although the tough stamina test on Saturday may push them towards one. Their final run at Millstreet in Ireland saw them record a top-20 finish in the CCI4*-S in a 56-strong class chock-full of big names. They’re certainly an exciting pair for the US efforts.

Sarah Bullimore and Reve du Rouet at Luhmühlen’s CCI5*-L. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

29: Sarah Bullimore and Reve du Rouet (GBR)

15-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Balou du Rouet x Onassis Queen). Owned by Brett Bullimore and Christopher and Susan Gillespie.

The consummate heartbreaker, Reve du Rouet is the sort of guy you’d match with on Tinder knowing, even through the brain fog of that third glass of Savvy B, that for better or for worse, this one would change your life. For a while, you’d imagine he’s changing it for the better – he’d show up unannounced with your favourite takeaway, looking sickeningly handsome with his crooked grin and slightly-too-long hair. He’d make you feel like he really got you, and he’d know lines of Pablo Neruda poems by heart, which is either lovely or incredibly cringe-worthy, depending on the sort of person you are. Then, you’d be sure he’s changed your life for the worse when, fuelled by his commitmentphobia and one too many whiskeys, he’d call you a very rude name in a bar and end up snogging some girl you’re pretty sure you sat behind in high school Trigonometry. Eventually, he’d grow up and get over himself and settle down with you, but he’d never quite lose the air of sheepishness for having been such a committed knobhead once upon a time. But you’d love him nonetheless, knowing that somehow, against the odds, he’d truly changed his ways.

That’s Reve du Rouet all over – gorgeous, crazy talented, and sometimes, well, just plain crazy, he’s spent years putting us all on the edge of our seats wondering which side of the Jekyll and Hyde coin we’d be given today. His flightiness is down to a genuine fear of crowds, which has seen his tension boil over dramatically in the past but – dare we say it? – seems to be under control these days. This is largely due to some seriously tactical riding – Sarah sneaks most of his schooling into her hacking and fast work, so he never realises the pressure that’s being put on. As a result, he finished his 2018 season with a first-phase PB at Burghley, posting a 27.3. That beat their previous PB of 28.5, delivered the previous season at Pau, and on both occasions, he backed up his impressive starts: he finished second at Pau by just a tenth of a point and was fourth at Burghley. It wasn’t to be their week at Badminton, and Sarah opted to retire on course, but they proved at Luhmühlen that no harm had been done, finished fifth – the horse’s third top-five finish at this level.

This is one of the most underrated partnerships in eventing, and there’s a five-star win in there.

Ben Hobday and Harelaw Wizard. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

30: Ben Hobday and Harelaw Wizard (GBR)

Twelve-year-old British-bred Sport Horse gelding (Endoli xx x Arnloss Fairy). Owned by Charles Robson. 

Although we still miss the V8 Supercob Mr Mulry, who retired last year, Harelaw Wizard is certainly following in his oversized footsteps. By the Thoroughbred Endoli and out of a half-Clydesdale mare, he’s certainly not the typical stamp of an event horse, but that’s never stopped him – nor his determined rider – before.

Ben is a master at fitness for these heavier, unlikely types, and makes great use of the beach near his yard for fastwork and therapeutic splashes in the surf. Sourced as a youngster from Ian Stark, Harelaw Wizard was produced to the five-star level by Emily Parker, before Ben took the reins in 2018. The horse hasn’t had a cross-country jumping penalty since 2016, and jumped a slow clear around Burghley last year for 30th place. He tends to be a mid-30s scorer, though he delivered a fantastic PB of 28.9 last year at Hartpury CCI4*-S. He’s not the fastest horse in the field, nor is he the best showjumper – he flits between clear rounds and sixteen-faulters. We haven’t seen him in an international since he finished 37th after his clear round at Badminton this spring – some time, three rails, and a starting score of 39.1 stopped them from creeping any higher, but they still garnered the biggest cheers of the day as they made their way across the country.

Francis Whittington and Evento. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

31: Francis Whittington and Evento (GBR)

Ten-year-old KWPN gelding (Zento x Etude). Owned by Sarah Arrowsmith.

Isn’t it a treat to see Frannie back at a five-star? The floppy-haired charmer is one of the biggest characters on the circuit, and we can’t help but feel that the last couple of seasons have been a bit quiet without him as he’s produced his next generation of top horses up to this level.

This will be a big learning curve for Evento, whose last two international runs haven’t quite gone to plan – he picked up a 20 in the CCI4*-L at Bramham, and then fell at the tough British Open Championship at Gatcombe. But he was quick and clean at Chatsworth this spring for seventh, and he began his season with classy clears at Burnham Market and Belton, so he’s certainly capable, if not yet competitive. We’ll be looking at a mid-to-high 30s dressage, a confidence-building fact-finding mission on the Saturday, and two rails down on Sunday.

Dom Schramm and Bolytair B. Photo by Shelby Allen.

32: Dominic Schramm and Bolytair B (AUS) – FIRST-TIMERS

Thirteen-year-old KWPN gelding (Polytair x Nobelle). Owned by the Naked Horse Eventing Syndicate.

US-based Aussie Dom is basically our EN mascot this week – after all, his wife Jimmie is part of our fabulous team, and so he’ll be lucky if he escapes Chinch, who’s very keen to catch a ride across the country, Willberry-style.

This will be a second five-star for both horse and rider, who made their debut at Kentucky this spring. They finished 30th after picking up a 20 and a broken pin, but don’t discount them – Dom is an under-the-radar purveyor of innate Aussie flair and Bolytair B, who was produced by Anthony Clark in England, is an exciting up-and-comer. Discounting Kentucky, they’ve been in the top 20 in every international they’ve contested since early 2017, and they’ve come achingly close to a few wins, too – they were third in their final prep run at Bromont CCI4*-S last month, third at Jersey Fresh CCI4*-L two seasons ago, and eighth at Fair Hill CCI4*-L last year. Their first-phase performance tends to fluctuate through the 30s spectrum, and they’ve not quite found fifth gear yet, but their Kentucky blip was the only black mark on an otherwise faultless international record. On Sunday, they’ll likely pull one rail or none at all – and whichever way the cookie crumbles, we expect the affable Dom will be thrilled to realise a long-time dream.

Want to get to know the Schramm fam better? Check out their old fan-favourite YouTube series, Evention TV.

Caroline Powell and On the Brash. Photo by ‘Athalens.’

33: Caroline Powell and On the Brash (NZL)

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 one of many horses who fell victim to the Curse of Pau in 2017. That was his five-star debut, and perhaps something of a shock after an 11th place finish at Bramham CCI4*-L and sixth at Blair Castle CCI4*-S foretold rather better things. Since then, they’ve jumped clear around Badminton for 29th place, clear around Burghley for 31st, and this season, they’ve been clear in CCI4*-S classes at Bramham and Burgham.

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 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, something they’re certainly getting better at. (They’ll also have to try to avoid the ropes on the Dairy Mound – they got caught up here last year while trying to gatecrash a picnic, and it was sheer luck and quick thinking from Caroline that got them untangled and back on their way without an elimination or worse).

34: Richard Skelt and Credo III (GBR) – FIRST-TIMERS

Twelve-year-old KWPN gelding (Tenerife VDL x Tandora). Owned by Una Roe and Neil Todd.

Richard, who doesn’t come from a horsey background, cut his teeth working for the formidable Marietta Fox-Pitt, which means he’s got to be tough as nails now. (We can write this with some confidence – your British EN reporter also worked for Marietta, who once made her cross-country school in a field of cows and their calves. “JUST JUMP THE FENCE, THE COW WILL MOVE,” she bellowed. A Marietta favourite? “I don’t know why you fell off – no one ever got hurt staying on the horse.”) ‘Pedro’, who was originally produced by Angus Smales, was a naughty youngster who still struggles in an arena – he averages a mid-to-high 30s mark, but may rise higher in the atmosphere of the main arena at Burghley. The pair have jumped steady clears around Bramham CCI4*-L, Camphire CCI4*-L, and Burnham Market CCI4*-S, but Richard took a tumble at Belton and they picked up a 20 at Chatsworth, so their season hasn’t entirely been plain-sailing. They’ll take a long route or two and aim to get home with more experience in the bank. And on Sunday? They’ll likely pull two or three rails, though they’ve gone as high as seven at Burgham CCI4*-S in 2018.

35: Ginny Howe and Undalgo de Windsor (GBR) – FIRST-TIMERS

Eleven-year-old Selle Français gelding (Lotus XV x Angelique Folle). Owned by the rider.

Ginny and her French horse both make their five-star debut at Burghley after two and a half methodical – but very promising – seasons at four-star. Ginny prefers not to over-run the horse, and tends to stick to three or so internationals per year with a big run at the end, and that method is paying off – Undalgo de Windsor hasn’t had a cross-country jumping penalty in an international since he was a three-star horse, way back in 2016. His low-40s dressage scores still need some work, but we have every reason to believe this duo will come home beaming after having a lovely time tackling the Captain’s beefy track.

36: David Doel and Shannondale Quest (GBR) – FIRST-TIMERS

Fourteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Cascaletto St. Ghyvan Z x Shannon Dales Clover). Owned by Gillian Jonas.

Another horse-and-rider five-star debutante combo for your consideration – David and Shannondale Quest have picked up two CCI4*-S top-tens this season, but they’ve also had the odd wobble, like their elimination at Camphire in their last international run. Still, we’ll try not to hold it against them – it’s only their second cross-country issue since they came together in 2017. Previously, the horse was ridden by Louisa Lockwood, who produced it to CCI3*-S.

They’ll likely deliver a mid-to-high 30s dressage, and while they’re not the slowest combination we’ll see, we’ll probably see David wisely choose a few long routes to help produce the horse for the coming season. They’re unlikely to jump clear on Sunday – they tend towards two rails – but that won’t be the point this week, anyway.

Doug Payne and Vandiver. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

37: Doug Payne and Vandiver (USA) – FIRST-TIMERS

Fifteen-year-old Trakehner gelding (Windfall II x Visions of Grandeur). Owned by Debi Crowley, Jessica Payne, and the rider.

This will be a third five-star for the pair, who were fifth at Kentucky earlier this year and, remarkably, a first trip to Kentucky for the well-travelled Doug. Vandiver was produced to the five-star level by Dutch rider Werner Geven, and filled the gap in Doug’s stable that was left by the sale of Crown Talisman in 2015.

The current Reserve US National Champions last made their way to the UK in 2017, when they finished 14th at Blenheim CCI4*-L after an uncharacteristic three poles. They scored a 35.5 at Kentucky this spring, although we’d expect to see them drop that score more towards the high 20s, which is where they tend to sit in four-stars. Across the country they’re quick and reliable, and both brimming with the sort of experience that allows them to economise across the country, and on Sunday, they tend to be clear-or-one performers. They won’t have flown all this way just to hack around the park – expect them to deliver one of the standout performances for the US this week.

Isabel English and Feldale Mouse. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

38: Isabel English and Feldale Mouse (AUS) – FIRST-TIMERS

Seventeen-year-old Connemara/Thoroughbred gelding (Glenormiston Praise x Zoe). Owned by the rider.

I met Isabel English for the first time in a crowded bar a couple of weeks ago, where several hundred sweaty teenagers were Vossy Bopping around us and a framed photo of Trevor Breen collected airborne condensation in the corner. I was working on the press team for a major showjumping competition, which meant that any eventer I saw – even if I didn’t actually know them – was suddenly my very favourite person. Three or four or eight gin-and-tonics down, I bellowed my love for Feldale Mouse at her.

“HE…IS THE BEST…PONY…AND I LOVE HIM,” I dispensed, my eloquence and erudite nature once again elevating me above the commoners in the room. “HE. IS. SO. SMALL. SO. COOL.”

Isabel, for her part, took it with aplomb, partly because she is much cooler than I am, and partly because she spent a few years training with Michi Jung, so she’s absolutely used to foreigners bellowing barely comprehensible things at her. And, for what it’s worth, even without the gins, I do love Feldale Mouse. He has small man syndrome in the best possible way; it’s like he’s spent his whole life thinking, “you called me MOUSE?! Oh, just you wait, pal.”

Isabel is only 24, but she’s accomplished an enormous amount in her career with the Connie cross. She went five-star for the first time basically the moment she turned eighteen; that resulted in a twelfth-place finish. The next two years, again riding Feldale Mouse, she finished eighth. Then, in 2016, she left her Australian hometown of Biddaddaba (yes, really) to move to Germany and work for a certain Herr Jung. Since then, the duo has tackled 16 internationals, only running into problems across the country on two occasions. This spring, they tackled their first Badminton, jumping a reasonably slow but classy clear.

Don’t expect them to blitz into the lead on speed – sorry Mouse, your legs aren’t that long – but do get ready to loudly cheer on this dynamic duo, who are basically the personification of every childhood daydream you ever had. They’ll score in the mid-30s, but who’s going to remember that bit when they’re jumping one – and perhaps two – fantastic clears?

Imogen Murray and Ivar Gooden. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

39: Imogen Murray and Ivar Gooden

Twelve-year-old gelding (Young Convinced x Ballybrohan Diamond). Owned by Aivar Ward and MS Team.

When we look at Ivar Gooden, known by his friends as Sir Charles, we get a glimpse of the ‘golden era’ of eventing – that heady heyday in which the Ians, and the Lucindas, and the Ginnys of the world matched wits and willpower over enormous timber fences. Sir Charles is a classic cross-country machine, and he’s proven that several times over with his brilliant results at both Badminton and Burghley.

Charles was one of only two horses to jump clear around both British five-stars 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 that year — and he’s reliable across the country, too. He looked very impressive when finishing in 11th place at Belton’s CCI4*-S that year, with the second-fastest time of the day on a course that saw no one make the optimum. This year, we enjoyed watching him tear around again, this time for ninth.

At Badminton last year we saw both Imogen 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. They finished their season with 19th at Burghley.

Dressage has historically been this duo’s weak point, but they tore up the form guide at Great Witchingham at the beginning of this year when they won the AI after posting an enormous PB of 23.9. They didn’t quite match that at Badminton, where they scored a 39.6, but they only added 1.6 cross-country time penalties to it across the weekend and so they finished eighth – their first top-ten finish in a five-star. They had a genuine drive-by at Barbury for a rare 20, but jumped brilliantly at Aachen and Haras du Pin, acting as pathfinders on both occasions. The dressage isn’t there yet, so they won’t win – but now that they’ve cracked the top ten, they’ll be looking to go a few better and sneak into the top five.

Sarah d’Argouges and Sebastian Cavaillon. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

40: Sebastien Cavaillon and Sarah d’Argouges (FRA) – FIRST-TIMERS

Thirteen-year-old Selle Français mare (Quite Easy I x Uranie des Halles). Owned by Michel Lancelot. 

Successful five-star debutantes abounded for the home front at Pau in 2018, and Sebastien and his stunning Selle Français mare were no exception. They’ve been partnered since 2013 and moved up to CCI4*-L  in 2015, so they’ve gotten to know one another well over the challenge of the level.

And there have been a few challenges – they’ve had a few 20s, have been spun at two horse inspections, and they’ve had a horse fall and a showjumping elimination, too. But they’ve also had their successes – they’ve finished ninth at Saumur and tenth at Haras du Pin. That all came together just in time to allow them to finish 15th at their first five-star last season, although they were one of several combinations whose last-minute change of plans at the influential combination near the end of the course almost looked like a run-out.

They made their Badminton debut this spring, finishing 27th after jumping a slow clear and pulling a solitary rail. With clears at Jardy and Hartpury’s CCI4*-S classes under their belts since, then, they should be well-prepared for Burghley – but speed will be their issue, and it’ll be interesting to see the stunning Sarah take on a stamina test like this one.

41: Julia Norman and Carryon Bobby Boy (GBR) – FIRST-TIMERS

Fourteen-year-old British-bred Sport Horse gelding (Lauriston x Guldet KLT). Owned by Diana Wethered.

Julia and Bobby had intended to head to Burghley last year, but instead stormed around a strong CCI4*-L track at Millstreet for fifth place. Since then, we’ve seen them tackle Belton’s CCI3*-S, finishing 46th after another slow clear cross-country and two rails down in the showjumping, and their five-star debut at Badminton, where they jumped a steady clear for 52nd place.

Dressage has historically been a tricky phase for this horse, but his scores are steadily improving – he’s dropped from the 40s to the 30s over the last year, and put a 39.4 on the board at Badminton. His showjumping that week was uncharacteristically expensive – he took six rails down. But both will have learned a lot about recovering and performing on the Sunday from the experience.

Tim Price and Xavier Faer. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

42: Tim Price and Xavier Faer (NZL)

Thirteen-year-old British-bred Sport Horse (Catherston Liberator x Faerie Song Too). Owned by Trisha Rickards, Nigella Hall, and the rider.

The second of Tim’s rides, Xavier Faer is…okay, okay, we know you just want us to copy and paste the bio on Tim and Jonelle’s website. Here goes:

“Hugo” is a half brother to Faerie Dianimo but is a very different type being tall and rangy.  He really should have been named “Faerie Groundhog Day” as every day is a new day to Hugo…literally.  He is not the smartest tool in the box but he has a great relationship with Tim and stepped up to 4 star last season like a pro.  He is spooky and is so in love with Classic Moet that he has even learnt to jump on his own to join her in whatever paddock she is residing in.  Hugo is like a typical boarding school kid.. he has no idea where the washing machine is but he knows exactly who the staff are.

In other news, Hugo finished third at Kentucky this spring, finishing on his dressage score of 30.9 and proving that even Tim’s ‘second string’ is formidable. Since then, he’s been eighth in the CCI4*-S at Millstreet, and 12th in the British Open Championships at Gatcombe, although he did manage to do that despite notching up 60 cross-country jumping penalties. In 2017, he finished third at Badminton, and then finished in the top twenty at Burghley – although here, too, he had a 20. He’s getting better and better, although he won’t eclipse the likes of Ringwood Sky Boy – but on a good day, he could slip into the top ten.

Marcelo Tosi and Glenfly. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

44: Marcelo Tosi and Glenfly (BRA)

Fourteen-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Presenting xx x Dorans Glen xx). Owned by the rider.

There are a few things I’ve been accused of saying one too many times. “He’s earned himself a place on the FEI World Bum Rankings” is certainly one of them. “How hard is it to become a member of the ground jury? I’d like to be saluted” is another. But the most common offence of them all is the one I’m going to use to describe darling Glenfly – “he just looks like he’s been plucked straight out of a Munnings painting.”

But you know what? Je ne regrette rien. I’m absolutely right. And frankly, I couldn’t take my Thoroughbred-loving eyes off him when he was mincing around Kentucky, having a lovely time in his own lovely way, this spring. His first-phase score of 40.8 (robbed! Robbed, I tells ya!) precluded a competitive finish, and he wasn’t particularly fast, and okay, he had three rails down, but he did jump around clear on Saturday, tucking his improbably fine legs up by his pretty little face, and oh god, Marcelo, please just get bored of your lovely pony and send him to me, please!

That Kentucky dressage score was considerably above Glenfly’s norm, so we’ll be expecting a low-to-mid 30s score here, another steady clear, and then a couple of poles to topple on the final day. I’ll still be carrying some polos in my pocket for him, regardless.

Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z. Photo by Jenni Autry.

45: Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z (USA) – FIRST-TIMERS

Eleven-year-old KWPN gelding (Zapatero VDL x Zonne Trend). Owned by The Deniro Syndicate and Ocala Horse Properties. 

Poor Liz and Deniro have had a frustrating season, and it’s hard not to feel that their time to shine must be coming up soon. After all, both horse and rider are inarguably talented – in fact, this has got to be the most exciting horse Liz has ever had, and despite some ongoing muddles with the flying changes, we can expect a competitive mid-to-high 20s first-phase performance. On cross-country, they should be clear and quite quick – until this season, they hadn’t had a wobble since 2016, and they’d won five internationals in the space of eight months in the 2016-2017 seasons. They’ve been fifth in the Blenheim eight-and-nine-year-old CCI4*-S (2017), second in Wiesbaden’s CCI4*-S (2018), and eighth in the horse’s five-star debut at Luhmühlen last year.

This year, they’ve been in the top ten in CCI4*-S classes at The Fork, Carolina, and Millstreet, but their Kentucky was a frustrating one: they had a freak fall at fence three. At Aachen, too, they were disappointed – an otherwise foot-perfect run was scuppered by a slip on the flat just a few fences from home. Liz is nothing if not determined, and she wants her top horse to have his day – so don’t discount them because of a bit of bad luck.

46: Dee Kennedy and Chequers Playboy (GBR)

Seventeen-year-old KWPN gelding (Kennedy x Kamarilla). Owned by the rider.

Dee and Chequers Playboy first appeared at five-star in 2013, when they finished 39th at Burghley. The following year, they nabbed 16th at Pau. After that, it got a bit tricky — they were eliminated at both Burghley and Badminton in 2015, withdrew before the dressage here in 2016, and were spun at the final horse inspection in 2017’s Burghley. Last year, they retired on course at Badminton, and since then, Dee has been focusing on consolidating things at the four-star level, with steady clears at Bramham, Chatsworth, and Burgham.

Now that they’re back at the top, hopefully their luck will turn, and Dee can set her sites on piloting Kenny — who she rides with two sets of reins — around the difficult track. A fun fact for you: Dee used to be in a pop band. They toured with Boyzone. This is easily the most ’90s fun fact you’ll get in this guide.

47: Samantha Lissington and Ricker Ridge Rui (NZL) – FIRST-TIMERS

Eleven-year-old New Zealand Sport Horse (by Littorio; dam unknown). Owned by Christine Quigley and the rider.

Samantha – nee Felton – is one of the new wave of Kiwi talent making its way to the UK, and like fellow expat (and bridesmaid) Ginny Thompson, she’s based herself at the former yard of Blyth Tait with her husband, indoor football player Brayden, and a handful of her former string of horses. Like Ginny she, too, had to sell the rest to make the move, but with one eye on Tokyo, it was an inevitability.

Their first run in the UK – and their final prep for Burghley – saw them struggle through an uncharacteristically tough dressage, which earned them a 42.2, considerably higher than the low-to-mid 30s marks they usually post. A steady clear and two rails down saw them finish 51st. But they’ve won CCI4*-S sections at Kihikihi and Takapau, and never featured outside the top ten in their seven international runs from May 2018 to April 2019 – and even more excitingly, the big guns of Kiwi eventing are already murmuring about her being the next big thing. Expect this week to be a litmus test rather than the main performance.

A fun fact? Sam was actually born in Australia, to nomadic parents – they lived on a boat for two years of her childhood and sailed the South Pacific, before eventually settling in New Zealand, where they set up an avocado orchard. Though none of them were horsey, Sam and her sister were promised ponies, and the whole thing snowballed – a few years later, Sam would win a training stint with Jock Paget, who remains a close friend, trainer, and mentor to this day.

48: Rebecca Gibbs and DeBeers Dilletante (GBR)

Seventeen-year-old British-bred Sport Horse gelding (De Beer x Bordesley Belle). Owned by Sarah Bliss. 

Rebecca and DeBeers Dilletante – named for his sire, not the diamonds, I did check – made their five-star debut at Burghley last year, but after jumping a steady clear across the country, they ended up withdrawing before the final horse inspection. Since then, though, they’ve been on the up and up – the horse, who had never show jumped clear in a four-star, has now done just that in both his international showjumping rounds. He’s also jumped clear around CCI4*-S cross-country courses at Burnham Market and Bramham, but rather bafflingly, he’s been withdrawn after the first phase in both his other entries, likely because he didn’t live up to his normal 30-31 dressage performances. Now they both know they can get it done at Burghley, we’ll have to hope we get to see the whole show.

49: Simon Grieve and The Rutman (GBR)

Ten-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Cancun VDL x Kilrainey Lady). Owned by Joanne Rutter.

The Rutman only made his international debut three years ago, and Burghley will be his fourteenth international – and then ten-year-old is still learning plenty about the whys and wherefores of top-level eventing. He’ll post a high 40s test, and though he’s not yet a quick horse across the country, Simon will be focusing more on an educational clear with some long routes taken – in the horse’s last international at Bramham CCI4*-L he picked up a 20, so this will be crucial. On Sunday, he’ll have a couple of rails, but the goal this week isn’t to be competitive – it’s to take a tentative step up to the next level and finish it with a more mature, more confident horse.

Chris Talley and Unmarked Bills. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

50: Chris Talley and Unmarked Bills (USA) – FIRST-TIMERS

Ten-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Posse xx x Red Ransom). Owned by the Unmarked Bill Syndicate. 

We can already tell you that the fashion-forward Chris will bring the noise in the trot-up, and we can’t WAIT to see him disrupt the tweed and tailoring of the British eventing scene. We’re also excited to see them tackle the Captain’s cross-country course, which always suits a blood horse.

It only took two years to take Unmarked Bills, or Billy, from the track to four-star, and another two to get him to five-star. They made their level debut at Kentucky this spring, finishing 27th after jumping clear on Saturday. Dressage can be a bit of a tricky phase for this horse, who scores in the upper-30s to mid-40s, and will have to contend with the busy Friday atmosphere at Burghley. They’ve only had one 20 in their seventeen internationals, although they retired on course at Great Meadows’ CCI3*-S last month, which isn’t ideal as far as last runs go. They’ll need to channel their Kentucky gumption – and accept that on Sunday, they could have as many as six down. But a Burghley debut isn’t about winning – it’s about stepping up to play with the big boys. And that’s something they most certainly can do.

Nana Dalton and Absolut Opposition. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

51: Nana Dalton and Absolut Opposition (GBR)

Fourteen-year-old Trakehner x Irish Sport Horse gelding (Fleetwater Opposition x Ruffos Star). Owned by the Miley’s Friends Syndicate.

Nana’s remarkable story is one of the most compelling ones in this year’s Burghley field. A stalwart competitor at this level, she shouldered her way through a truly brutal 2018, which saw her suffer a head injury and undergo a double mastectomy, all in one season. She was back in the saddle remarkably quickly, and while Badminton didn’t end up happening for her this year – she never made it off the waitlist – it’s been a bit of a blessing, really, allowing her the time to rebuild her strength, her business, and her life. Now, having relocated to William Fox-Pitt’s Dorset yard, she’s ready to grab life – and Burghley – by the horns. Expect a low-to-mid 30s dressage, a slow clear, and a couple of rails on the final day but, like, who’s keeping track? We’re all here to see this remarkable, tenacious woman do the thing she does best and stick two middle fingers up at the odds.

Some highly recommended reading for those of you who want more Nana in your lives (all of you, then!) – she writes a fantastic, funny, and incredibly candid blog for Horse&Hound.

Hannah Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot. Photo by Jenni Autry.

52: Hannah-Sue Burnett and Harbour Pilot (USA)

Sixteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Cruising x Shannon). Owned by Jacqueline Mars.

This is Hannah-Sue and Harbour Pilot’s ninth international season together, and the enormously experienced pair will be tackling their eighth five-star and second Burghley this week. They came here in 2014, jumped clear and reasonably quickly across the country, and then withdrew before showjumping – so with an eleventh-place finish at Kentucky this spring propelling them on, they’ll be hoping to complete the job this time. If they do, they’ll certainly be a great hope for the US side – they’re very capable of delivering a mid-20s score, although it can drift up to the high 30s as we saw at Kentucky this year. On Saturday, they’ve got experience and a long partnership on their side, and they’ll be looking to go direct and economise their lines like they did at Luhmühlen in 2017, where they came home inside the time and finished eighth. Their showjumping is a bit iffy, though getting better – we can realistically expect one down, which is a big improvement on the two or three of old.

James Sommerville and Talent. Photo by Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

53: James Sommerville and Talent (GBR) – FIRST-TIMERS

Thirteen-year-old AES gelding (Eurocommerce Toulouse x Rozalina). Owned by Jennifer Sommerville and the rider.

Yorkshire-based James worked for both Nicola Wilson and Oliver Townend before setting up on his own, and if you’re easily charmed by a bit of Northern twang, this one will certainly tick a few boxes for you. If quirky, clever jumping horses are your bag, his horse will take care of that.

James and Talent made their five-star debut at Badminton in 2017, but their campaign ended early when James took a tumble mid-course. They went back last year and finished 45th, though a knocked pin somewhat marred their score. This year, they started their week by winning the best-dressed prize – not that I’m still bitter about it or anything – and finished it with a clear cross-country round and 33rd place. Since then, they’ve finished ninth in the Nations Cup at Strzegom and 39th at Burgham after an unfortunate flag penalty. This will be their first Burghley, and it’ll be exciting to see how they step up to the plate.

Virginia Thompson and Star Nouveau at Badminton. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

54: Ginny Thompson and Star Nouveau (NZL)

Fifteen-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 in 2017, before 26-year-old Thompson sold her entire string and business back home to be based with fellow Kiwi Blyth Tait in the UK. They contested Badminton last 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.

They’ve since dropped their dressage scores by a fair few marks, as evidenced at Burghley last year, where they produced a 36.5, well down from their 43.6 at Badminton. But Burghley was an early finisher for them: they withdrew after a cross-country in which they clocked up twenty penalties. This spring, they went to Badminton with redemption in mind, and so, so nearly found it – they blazed around with the fastest round of the day, which rocketed them into the top ten after cross-country despite their 38.3 dressage. But on Sunday, they tipped eight rails, sending them tumbling back down to 39th. They are so close to showing us some real Kiwi magic – but there’s still some consolidating to do first.

56: Kirsty Short and Cossan Lad (GBR)

Seventeen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Carnaval Bouncer x dam unknown). Owned by Amy Burbage and the rider.

We haven’t seen Kirsty and Bouncer in an international since Burghley last year – they were entered for Badminton, but unfortunately, they never made it off the waitlist. Their Burghley run saw them finish in 38th place after notching up twenty penalties across the country.

Their record at this level is patchy – their dressage average is 48, 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 almost 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.

George Hilton-Jones and Efraim. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

58: George Hilton-Jones and Efraim (GBR) – FIRST-TIMERS

Ten-year-old KWPN gelding (Ultime Espoir x Veroniek). Owned by Isabelle Hilton-Jones.

Buckinghamshire-based George runs a compact but busy yard, from which he produces, competes, and breeds his eventers. He also set up an innovative event horse selling scheme, which mimicked all the best bits of an auction – horses in one place, vets on site, and the chance to see horses perform – without the actual auction. Sometimes, he wears kilts. All in all, he’s a pretty well-rounded chap.

George has produced ten-year-old Efraim through the levels, beginning with his debut in 2015. Now, he’s done 18 internationals, and up until his last two run, the only cross-country jumping fault he’d picked up had been 11 penalties for a knocked frangible pin at the beginning of last season. Unfortunately, those last runs represent a real black spot on his record: he picked up 40 penalties and was ultimately retired on course at Chatsworth, and then completed his first five-star at Luhmühlen, taking home twenty penalties as a souvenir. We’ll forgive him on the basis of the clear rounds he notched up in CCI4*-S classes at Belton and Burnham Market, though. Both horse and rider have all the right stuff for a clear round at Burghley – now, we’ll just need to see what they do with the information they gleaned at their five-star debut.

Buck Davidson and Jak My Style. Photo by Valerie Durbon Photography.

59: Buck Davidson and Jak My Style (USA)

Fourteen-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (breeding unknown). Owned by Kathleen and Roberto Cuca. 

Buck took over the ride on the quirky Thoroughbred of unknown provenance when his former rider, Justine Dutton, was injured in a rotational fall with the horse in 2017. His is the sort of background story starry-eyed horse novels are written about: he was bought from an estate sale, unraced but race-trained, by a family keen to train him for the hunter-jumper arenas. Then Matthew Bryner stepped into the picture four years later, when the seven-year-old horse had been standing idle for a couple of years because he was ‘too naughty’ to ride. Matthew, who taught the family’s daughter to ride, ended up purchasing the gelding and producing him. Eventually, Justine took the reins, and now Buck. The full story is a good one – click here to dive in.

This will be his second five-star – he started at Kentucky this spring, scoring a 34.1 in his first international appearance since late 2017, but didn’t get to go cross-country, as Buck fell and broke his collarbone earlier in the day. Really, we’ve seen so little of this horse that it’s hard to know what to expect – he won’t win the day in the first or last phases, but he’s a Thoroughbred horse with speed on his side, and we could see him blossom at Burghley.

Richard Jones and Alfies Clover. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

60: Richard Jones and Alfies Clover (GBR)

Twelve-year-old Irish Sport Horse 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. In 2017, he and Alfies Clover were on track to achieve the best result of Jones’ career in the CCI3* at Bramham, where they posted a 35 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 five-star, and Jones’ first since 2014.

The pair retired across the country at Badminton last spring after clocking up 20 penalties, but they then went on to put their Bramham demons firmly to bed — they finished 7th in the CCI4-L, adding nothing to their 31.9 dressage. Then they went on to Burghley, where they did the same again: the determined duo finished seventh, adding just 2.8 time penalties across the country to their dressage of 34.2. They’ve always been a cracking combination, but last season we saw Richard and Alfie hit their stride – that they were one of rather a lot of combinations to retire on course at Badminton this spring shouldn’t worry anyone too much. The 20 they picked up at Burgham is slightly suspect, but we saw them FOD for fourth in the CCI4*-L at Bramham, so the magic seems to still be very much in evidence.

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

61: Lillian Heard and LCC Barnaby (USA)

Thirteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Guy Cavalier x Lady Tanjour). Owned by the rider.

It’ll be a third consecutive Burghley for Lillian and her long-time partner who, like Andrea Baxter and Indy 500, are on a quest to defeat their Burghley demons. It all started in 2017, when they fell across the country – then, in 2018, they returned to complete, though picked up a 20 along the way. The duo, who are based with Boyd Martin, finished sixteenth at Kentucky this spring, and sixth in their final prep run at Bromont CCI4*-S – so we’ll be expecting a mid-t0-high 30s dressage, one down on Sunday, and that longed-for steady clear round.

Matthew Heath and The Lion.

62: Matt Heath and The Lion (GBR)

Seventeen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Ricardo Z x Cartron Countess). Owned by Emma Clarke, Clare Davis, and the rider.

It’ll be an eighth five-star start for this combination, who have always tended to favour Burghley over Badminton. They’ve run here five times, and their best finish was 22nd in 2014; they were 26th last year after a good, clear cross-country run, but they’ve been eliminated twice and picked up a 20, too, at the level.

This is the twilight of this horse’s career, and Matt knows him inside-out – he’s aware that his old friend’s mid-to-high 30s dressage won’t put them in contention in the first phase, and the horse isn’t the quickest across the country either, so he’ll be here to have another solid performance and, hopefully, crack the top 20.

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

63: Piggy French and Vanir Kamira (GBR)

Fourteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Camiro de Haar Z x Fair Caledonian). Owned by Trevor Dickens. 

“Vanir Kamira is going to win a five-star one day, but it won’t be Badminton – she’s a Burghley horse through and through.”

Thus spake (though did not write) the journalist in charge of this form guide, who was inordinately happy to concede that she might not know all the things about all the things, and who cried like a happy, milk-drunk baby when the duo did just what she (I?) said they wouldn’t. And what a long time coming it was – Piggy has been refreshingly candid about her struggle to get to the top and stay there without driving herself into a seriously dark place along the way. Badminton wins always sort of seem to add that fairytale something, don’t they? After all, if you wrote a novel in which the plucky heroine and her ‘scopeless yak’ – Piggy’s words, not ours – jumped two perfect clear rounds, and then won because the heroine’s ex-boyfriend added just one time fault too many in his showjumping round, it would be slated for overuse of deus ex machinaBut that’s just what happened.

Now, Piggy is our live Grand Slam contender. Sure, she’s still got two legs to go – she’ll need to win Burghley and Kentucky to make it happen – but nonetheless, all eyes will certainly be on her this week. We’ve only seen this pair in one international since that Badminton win – they cruised around a tough Hartpury track for a steady clear, which will be all the prep this incredibly experienced mare needs. She posted a 25.8 dressage – 0.2 better than her Badminton test – and although she tipped a rail, it’s important to note that the showjumping was moved indoors due to weather conditions, which certainly played a part in many horses’ performance. Either way, a Burghley win is well within this dynamic duo’s reach, and would surprise approximately no one in 2019, the indubitable #YearOfThePig.

Dan Jocelyn and Blackthorn Cruise. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

64: Dan Jocelyn and Blackthorn Cruise (NZL)

Ten-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Eurocommerce Vancouver x Ms Cruize). Owned by Panda Christie and the rider.

This will be an eleventh Burghley for Dan, who first competed here in 1998, and a five-star debut for Blackthorn Cruise, who finished second in the CCI4*-L at Tattersalls this year, after adding just 3.6 time penalties to his 29.3 dressage. It was a career-best result for the horse, who tends towards the low-to-mid 30s and a slower cross-country, so as exciting as he is, it’s important to remember that he’s still young and inexperienced. This could be a very good horse for Dan for the future, but he’ll need to ride him with that in mind – and he likely will, as he hopes the gelding will be his Tokyo horse. On Sunday, we’ll be in for a treat – he’s a very good showjumper.

Emily Philp and Camembert. Photo by Anna Franklin/Event Rider Masters.

65: Emily Philp and Camembert (GBR) – FIRST-TIMERS

Fourteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Courage II x Skehanagh Diamond Lass). Owned by Nigel and Mitchell Philp. 

Talk about being good over the poles: until Badminton this spring, the uber-talented Bert hadn’t had a rail down, nationally or internationally, since 2015 – and that was his first since 2013. He’s becoming more and more impressive across the country, too – he finished third at the Event Rider Masters finale at Blair Castle last year after adding just 2.4 time penalties in terrible conditions.

Badminton marked the five-star debut for both horse and rider, and although an exuberant leap over the first element led to an annoying drive-by at the skinny logs at Nyetimber Heights, there was an awful lot to like in their performance. Burghley should suit the horse – and the rider, now that she’s notched up her first five-star completion, should be ready to tackle it with all guns blazing.

Zara Tindall and Class Affair. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

66: Zara Tindall and Class Affair (GBR)

Ten-year-old Irish Sport Horse (OBOS Quality x Rubys Rosshaven Flight). Owned by Gleadhill House Stud Ltd. 

Here’s another rider we’re delighted to welcome back to Burghley – although we’re less enthused about the prospect of the tabloid paparazzi, who conduct themselves with all the charm of a dump truck backfiring.

We saw Class Affair at his best at Bramham this year, where he finished ninth in the CCI4*-L after jumping clear inside the time across the country. It was his first time doing so at the four-star level, but unfortunately, his next run at Haras du Pin CCI4*-S didn’t go quite as smoothly, and he picked up a 20 on course.

This is a young horse, and one that’s still very much learning the job – we’ve seen flashes of brilliance, but now they need to be established before they can shine through at the very upper echelons. Expect a mid-30s dressage, a steady, educational round, and possibly a Sunday clear – he’s a very good showjumper, but has pulled rails in his last couple of outings.

67: Johan Lundin and Mind Me (SWE) – FIRST-TIMERS

Thirteen-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Saffron Walden xx x Younevertoldme xx). Owned by Lili Skarby.

Produced to CCI4*-L by Ireland’s Esib Power, Mind Me was sourced by Ludwig Svennerstal for 54-year-old Johan, who is the oldest rider in this year’s field. They began their competitive partnership at the beginning of last season, and are still establishing themselves at the top levels, but they’ve jumped clear around Baborowko, Sopot, Strzegom, Camphire, and more, only picking up a 20 at Blenheim in their international partnership.

They should deliver between a 35 and a 37 in the first phase, although they may creep higher in the tricky atmosphere of Friday afternoon. They’re still figuring out the speed on Saturday, though getting quicker all the time – this is a Thoroughbred horse for a Thoroughbred course, so that’ll work in their favour. But it’s a debut here for Johan, who has previously competed at Burghley, so he may decide to play it safe – particularly as it’s also a move up for Mind Me. On Sunday, they’ll pull three or four rails.

Jonelle Price and Faerie Dianimo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

68: Jonelle Price and Faerie Dianimo (NZL)

Fourteen-year-old British-Bred Sport Horse (Dimaggio x Faerie Song Too). Owned by Jacky Green, Trisha Rickards, and the rider.

Maggie May is the queen of Mere Farm, with her medium trot to die for and her extravagant jumping style. The 2017 winner of Luhmühlen five-star hasn’t been to Burghley before – and actually, we haven’t seen Jonelle herself here since 2016, when she finished third with Classic Moet. Though she’d intended to bring her Badminton winner this year, she’s now down to just one ride. Here’s how Tim and Jonelle describe the vivacious mare:

Homebred by Trisha Rickards, Maggie May is the princess of the yard. She is small, feisty, funny and has scope which belies her tiny frame. Her supermodel status means she does have food issues and she despairs at her friend Classic Moet’s attitude to eating which is to pig out at any opportunity.  Maggie May’s one weakness is that she gets bullied in the paddock by nearly everything which is probably due to the abuse she doles out to them on the arena.  Like Marilyn Monroe she is at her best in front of a crowd and despises doing dressage on grass in a 20 by 40 at a one day with no cameras in attendance.

She’s a maternal half-brother to Tim’s ride Xavier Faer – but will she beat him? Well, she’ll certainly be up their after the first phase, in which she should skip her way to a sub-30 score, and she’s ordinarily quick and clear across the country, although we’ve never seen her over a course quite like Burghley. On Sunday, we’re hopeful of a clear round: she hasn’t had a pole in an international since early last season. It’s all a bit of a question mark, really, but a top ten finish isn’t at all outside the realm of possibility for this pair.

Clara Loiseau and Wont Wait. Photo Tilly Berendt.

69: Clara Loiseau and Wont Wait (FRA) – FIRST-TIMERS 

Fifteen-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Starborough xx x Impatience xx). Owned by the rider.

Pau 2018 was a seriously happy hunting ground for French young guns, and Clara and her beloved gelding were right up there with the very best of them. They finished third, delivering one of only four double-clears on Saturday – in the end, a solitary rail kept them from finishing on their dressage score at their debut five-star.

Clara is a stylish, positive, very French sort of rider, and a perfect match for her elegant Thoroughbred, who cruises down to forward distances seamlessly. They’ve never had more than 12 time penalties at the four-star level and above, and in fact, they finished a stonking 22 seconds inside the time at their one and only five-star. Their dressage scores are creeping ever closer to the 30 mark (although let’s not talk about that first-phase elimination at Jardy last year!). Their showjumping is the one weak link – they tend to have a pole or two, and at Aachen, they were eliminated for a rider fall in this phase.

Clara and Wont Wait were one of our standout pairs at Pau, but the course was made for them – it rewarded the forward riding they find so natural. Badminton, at which they debuted this spring, was a different course with different tests, and though they jumped around clear on the Saturday, they weren’t able to beat the clock in quite the same way as they did at Pau. The 13.6 time penalties they accrued couldn’t save them from the effects of a 38.1 dressage, and while they were impressive through the week, we’ll need to see them tap into that French je ne sais quois to make it happen for themselves at Burghley.

Woodge Fulton and Captain Jack at Badminton. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

71: Woodge Fulton and Captain Jack (USA) 

Sixteen-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Numerous x Lady Malone). Owned by the Full Moon Farm Syndicate.

As this year’s recipient of the Wilton Fair Fund Grant, kindly provided by David Lenaburg to help up-and-coming US riders further their development, Woodge has relocated to Germany to base with Dirk Schrade. She and ‘Cappy’ were impressive at Kentucky in both 2017 and 2018, at Burghley in 2017, and in their Badminton debut this year – they’ve gone clear in all of their five-star runs so far.

The 23-year-old rider and her ex-racehorse are cut from much the same cloth – they’re both scrappy in a vintage sort of way, gutsy, and ineffably positive, which allows them to thunder around the biggest of tracks and make gains up the leaderboard. Cappy struggles in the first phase, usually scoring in the mid-to-high 40s, but as a first four-star horse for his very promising rider, he’s been perfect. They were slow at their first two five-star runs and at Badminton, but came home clear inside the time last year at Kentucky – so they’ll be exciting to watch here.

A fun fact: Captain Jack, who raced as Captain Frank, was nicknamed ‘Captain Destroyer’ when he was on the track for his unsavoury habits in his stable.

Lauren Kieffer and Vermiculus (USA). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

73: Lauren Kieffer and Vermiculus (USA)

Twelve-year-old Anglo-Arab gelding (Sazeram x Wake Me Gently xx). Owned by Jacqueline Mars.

Lauren returns after her 2017 Burghley debut with Veronica, at which she finished twelfth. This time, she rides Vermiculus, the quick and keen Anglo-Arab with whom she contested last year’s WEG. They were eliminated there, but bounced back for ninth at Kentucky this spring. They finished fifth at their home five-star the year prior, so Burghley is an exciting step up for them.

They scored a 33 at Kentucky this spring, but we’ve seen them go sub-30 in their last two internationals. The horse is quick, as is the rider – they won’t finish inside the time, but will add ten or so time penalties, and on Sunday, they’ll likely pull just a solitary rail.

A fun fact: Vermiculus is a full brother to Snooze Alarm, with whom Lauren made her five-star debut in 2010.

Emma Hyslop-Webb and Pennlands Douglas. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

74: Emma Hyslop-Webb and Pennlands Douglas (GBR)

Fourteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (ARD VDL Douglas x Currabawn Cavalier). Owned by the rider.

Emma gave me a telling off at Badminton for calling her cross-country colours ‘Barbie pink’ in my form guide. Apparently they’re actually cerise, and if you’ll excuse me, I’ve just been ordered to pick all the brown M&Ms out of this utter diva‘s candy jar.

I kid, I kid (although the cerise thing is true!) – Emma is a great sort with a cracking sense of humour and yes, cross-country colours so damn bright that you’ll never, ever miss her on course. She brought both her Burghley mounts to Badminton for her – and their – first visit this spring, and completed with them both too, which is no mean feat.

Pennlands Douglas did pick up a cheeky 20 on course, which isn’t unusual for him – he had a 20 in his last run at Camphire, too, and in four of his five internationals in 2018. But he’s certainly capable – he finished just outside the top twenty in his five-star debut at Pau in 2015 with a classy clear. Emma’s job will simply be to get him around, avoiding drama along the way – and with a bit of gumption and a couple of long routes, she may well manage it.

Michael Owen and the ‘overgrown pony’ Jims Pal dig deep to post the horse’s career-best result at Tattersalls. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

75: Michael Owen and Jims Pal (GBR)

Thirteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (breeding unknown). Owned by Ashleigh Dean.

We fell in love with 15.2hh Jims Pal at Tattersalls CCI4*-L, where he finished fifth in a tough competition – despite his rider having dislocated his shoulder on the previous day’s cross-country course. He’s a total mutt – “he could have been stolen from someone’s field as a foal, for all anyone knows about him,” says Michael Owen – and probably more pony than Irish Sport Horse, but all this means that he’s tough, and clever, and chock-full of squirrelled-away talent.

“He’s Irish-bred, but we don’t know his full breeding – we think he probably has a lot of Connemara in there, though,” he explains of the horse who came from a dealer as a ‘naughty’ four-year old with an untraceable history. Bought for a pittance, the youngster then went hunting with Michael’s girlfriend, who produced him to Novice. “I took over the ride when we realised he had a bit more potential, and the rest is history.”

We’re expecting a low-30s mark, and for Jims Pal to cover the ground as quickly as his little legs will allow – he certainly made easy work of the open distances at Tatts. His showjumping can be a bit iffy, although he only had one down when Michael was jumping injured – but he can have four, or even six, down on a bad day. His last two international runs have seen him take just one, so we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume this phase has improved.

Ludwig Svennerstal and Balham Mist. Photo courtesy of Event Rider Masters.

76: Ludwig Svennerstal and Balham Mist (SWE)

Twelve-year-old British-Bred Sport Horse (Mill Law x Rock Me Baby). Owned by Andrew Ayres and the rider.

Busy Ludwig has two rides in this year’s competition, and the second of them is the scrumptious Balham Mist, who made his five-star debut at Burghley last year. He picked up 40 penalties across the country, which isn’t entirely out of character – he would be one of the more inconsistent cross-country performers in the field. That said, he’s coming here off the back of a top ten finish at Camphire, so there’s certainly hope for him – but Ludwig will be planning to build on his education, not to try to be competitive with the gelding, who will likely be a bit off the pace in each phase.

Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

77: Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street (GBR)

Eleven-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (dam unknown; sire OBOS Quality). Owned by Jonathan and Jane Clarke.

MGH Grafton Street is a funny thing, isn’t he? He’s so deliciously talented that he almost always leads the dressage – and he’s flirting ever closer with the 20 mark – but on cross-country, he’s just, well, naughty. Or that’s how Pippa explains his spate of infuriating twenties, which have lost him events like Tattersalls CCI4*-S this spring. Fortunately, he’s owned by some of her longest-standing owners, so they know as well as we do that when Pippa believes in a horse, it’s usually with good reason – and now, it looks like we’re starting to see the reward. He’s had three runs since that Tatts, which saw him laugh in the face of an innocuous drop fence, and he’s finished in the top five in all of them. The first, granted, was just a CCI3*-S at Brightling, but Brightling is unbelievably hilly and it was one of the hottest weekends of the year, so if he’d wanted an excuse to play the heartbreaker, he certainly would have found it. Then he was fifth at Barbury – a tough Barbury, by all accounts – and third in that stonking great big Hartpury earlier this month. This will be his first five-star, so we can’t promise to breathe while he’s on course – because really, he’s either going to be in the top five or the bottom five at the end of the day on Saturday.

Gemma Tattersall and Santiago Bay. Photo courtesy of the Equerry Bolesworth International Horse Show.

79: Gemma Tattersall and Santiago Bay (GBR)

Eleven-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Ars Vivendi x Zantus). Owned by Caroline Teltsch.

As committed members of the global #maresquad, we’re big fans of feisty little phenom ‘Kizzy’, who came back with a bang last season after taking 2017 off with a minor injury. At 16.1hh, she’s one of the smaller entries, but she packs one of the biggest jumps – she’s a true try-hard clever clogs, and we’re seriously excited to see her around her second five-star.

She debuted at Pau last year, though picked up an annoying 20 on course – but Burghley is the polar opposite of Pau, and it’ll be interesting to see how the long gallop stretches and big, bold efforts suit her. She may well prefer them to the go-kart track of the French five-star. She comes to Burghley off the back of two consecutive CCI4*-S wins – she scooped them at Jardy and Arville, finishing on scores of 31.8 and 33.1, respectively, which should give an idea of her consistency.

Expect a score around the 30 mark, and – with any luck – a quick enough clear across the country. On Sunday, she could have one down, but she’s a reliable and consistent showjumper, so Gemma will be aiming for the clear. Burghley’s a big ask, but this could be a dark horse contender for a very good result.

Izzy Taylor and Springpower at Blenheim. Photo by Katie Neat Photography.

80: Izzy Taylor and Springpower (GBR)

Ten-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Power Blade xx x  April Imperator). Owned by Andrea and Jeremy Brereton and Linda Mars.

Originally produced by Lucy Jackson and then passed along to Jodie Amos, Springpower joined Izzy’s string in mid-2017 and quickly made the step up to CCI4*-S, debuting at the level in Blenheim’s hot eight- and nine-year-old class. He finished seventh, adding just three time faults to his dressage score of 33.8. He went a few better in the same class last year, finishing a close second to Laura Collett’s winner London 52. Then, he went to Boekelo CCI4*-L, where he was eighth.

But it hasn’t all been fun and games, necessarily – the talented young horse can be quite cheeky in the dressage, and the buzzy atmosphere at Badminton could exacerbate this. He’s proven to be tough and fast across the country, although he did fall at Bramham last season. His showjumping is a bit of a weak point; he’s likely to have a rail. At Badminton this spring, Izzy retired him on course after picking up a 20, and he took a tumble in the Jardy leg of the ERM – but the pair also finished 10th in the ERM at Chatsworth and third in CCI4*-S at Burgham. It’s a bit of a gamble, really – this could be a dark horse duo, or Izzy might opt to put her hand up.

Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class. Photo by Jenni Autry.

81: Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class (GBR)

Twelve-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Courage II x Kilderry Place). 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 in 2017 – on his five-star debut. Now, he’s one of the most consistent and formidable superstars on the circuit.

What’s perhaps most exciting about Thomas is that even after he won her, 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 last 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. He won Burgham’s CCI4*-S that summer, and then finished second at Burghley. This spring, he won Burnham Market on a record finishing score of 21.8, then scored a 21.1 at Badminton, breaking the record for the lowest score – though only holding it briefly, as stablemate Cillnabradden Evo came along and bettered it. He ultimately finished second after adding just a time fault too many. He’s since been second at Burgham and delivered a 21 dressage at Millstreet, though Oliver opted not to run him. Though Oliver has been away at the Europeans – and is still recovering from six weeks out after a serious fall from a youngster – this has got to be the favourite to win this week.

Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy clear the final fence on the Burghley course, taking the win in 2018. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

82: Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy (NZL)

Sixteen-year-old gelding (Courage II x Sky Lassie). Owned by Verenna Allen and the rider.

Imagine the excitement that will ensue when we have the last two winners of Burghley – and half-brothers – out on course at the same time – madness, madness, we assure you! Anyway, we’ll shut up now and give you what you’re actually here for…the infamous Tim and Jonelle bio.

Oz or Ozzie is without doubt one of the favourites on the yard despite his quirky personality. His relationship with Tim is legendary and when he rocked up to Rio Olympics bearing a team flag there was not a dry eye in the house.  He hates to be alone ( even when he is not alone he sometimes worries that he may be on his own) and he is best buddies with Wesko which shows his generous personality as he has often played second fiddle to him.  He is built like a long distance runner which is pretty appropriate as his youth saw him ‘bolt’ on many an occasion! Ozzie is like a fine wine that just gets better with age….

Although Ozzie was only ever meant to be a sales horse – his tempestuous nature meant that Tim didn’t fancy hanging on to him, though he “couldn’t even pass him on to the Brazilians” – he stuck around, eventually gave up trying to buck everyone off, and then, you know, won Burghley last year. He was tenth at Badminton this year, too, and has been second, fourth, and fifth here previously, proving that even the quirkiest of horses can be incredibly consistent when dealt with in a way that takes all their, um, charms into account. While he won’t rival Ballaghmor Class in the first phase – expect a score between 25 and 28 – he’ll certainly do so across the country. Last year, he very nearly won by finishing on his dressage score – unfortunately, he finished a single second over the optimum time. He’s a tricky showjumper, and can have two or three down with his slightly unconventional jumping style, but he’s already proven he can make it happen when he needs to. Like Classic Moet, he’s the patron saint of unlikely champions, and we love him for it.

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