Breaking Down Burghley: The Comprehensive Form Guide

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

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

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

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

1. Oliver Townend and MHS King Joules – GREAT BRITAIN

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Todd and NZB Campino. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

7. Mark Todd and NZB Campino – NEW ZEALAND

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

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

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

8. Nana Dalton and Elite Syncopation – GREAT BRITAIN

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

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

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

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

10. Simon Grieve and Douglas – GREAT BRITAIN

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

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

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

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

11. Tim Price and Bango – NEW ZEALAND

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

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

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

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

12. Louise Harwood and Mr Potts – GREAT BRITAIN

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

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

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

Andrew Nicholson and Jet Set. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

15. Andrew Nicholson and Jet Set IV – NEW ZEALAND

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

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

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

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

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

17. Caroline Powell and On The Brash – NEW ZEALAND

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

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

18. Camille Lejeune and Tahina Des Isles – FRANCE

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

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

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

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

20. Hector Payne and Dynasty – GREAT BRITAIN

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

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

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

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

21. Andrew James and Cool Chica – GREAT BRITAIN

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

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

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

Harry Dzenis and Xam. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

23. Harry Dzenis and Xam – GREAT BRITAIN

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

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

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

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

24. Ginny Thompson and Star Nouveau – NEW ZEALAND

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

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

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

Ludwig Svennerstal and Stinger. Photo by Jenni Autry.

25. Ludwig Svennerstal and Stinger – SWEDEN

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

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

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

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

27. Austin O’Connor and Lucky Contender – IRELAND

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

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

28. Rebecca Gibbs and De Beers Dilettante – GREAT BRITAIN

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

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

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

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

29. Imogen Murray and Ivar Gooden – GREAT BRITAIN

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

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

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

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

30. Julie Tew and Simply Sox – GREAT BRITAIN

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

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

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

31. Katrin Khoddam-Hazrati and Cosma – AUSTRIA

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

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

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

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

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

32. Piggy French and Vanir Kamira – GREAT BRITAIN

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

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

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

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

33. Hazel Towers and Simply Clover – GREAT BRITAIN

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

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

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

34. Pascal Leroy and Minos de Petra – FRANCE

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

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

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

Harry Meade and Away Cruising. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

35. Harry Meade and Away Cruising – GREAT BRITAIN

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

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

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

36. Michael Ryan and Dunlough Striker – IRELAND

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

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

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

37. Sarah Bullimore and Reve du Rouet – GREAT BRITAIN

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

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

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

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

38. Tom Rowland and Possible Mission – GREAT BRITAIN

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

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

39. Willa Newton and Chance Remark – GREAT BRITAIN

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

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

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

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

40. Georgie Spence and Wii Limbo – GREAT BRITAIN

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

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

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

41. Sam Ecroyd and Master Douglas – GREAT BRITAIN

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

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

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

42. Polly Stockton and Mister Maccondy – GREAT BRITAIN

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

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

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

43. Kirsty Short and Cossan Lad – GREAT BRITAIN

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

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

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

45. Sarah Pickard and Polo Striker – GREAT BRITAIN

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

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

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

Andrea Baxter and Indy 500. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

46. Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 – USA

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

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

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

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

47. Nicholas Lucey and Proud Courage – GREAT BRITAIN

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

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

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

48. Tom Crisp and Coolys Luxury – GREAT BRITAIN

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

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

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

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

49. Ciaran Glynn and November Night – IRELAND

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

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

50. Ben Hobday and Harelaw Wizard – GREAT BRITAIN

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

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

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

51. Emily Prangnell and DHI Beaunesse – GREAT BRITAIN

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

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

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

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

53. Oliver Townend and Cooley SRS – GREAT BRITAIN

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

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

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

Tina Cook and Star Witness. Photo by Samantha Clark.

56. Tina Cook and Star Witness – GREAT BRITAIN

16.2hh, thirteen-year-old gelding (Witness Box x Glacial Storm). Owned by Jim Chromiak, Bridget Biddlecombe, Shaun Lawson, and Nicholas Embiricos.

Seventh, tenth, and eighth in the last three iterations of this event, Star Witness is incredibly reliable at the top level. He was also seventh at Badminton in 2016, and he hasn’t actually run an international below four-star since 2015.

He’s a horse who stands to benefit from the revised scoring system this year — his low-30s dressage won’t make him a first-phase leader, but he’s very, very good at finishing on that score, or certainly close to it. He went to Luhmühlen this year, but was withdrawn, so he’s a bit short of match practice — his last completion was in an OI at Tweseldown way back in March. Ordinarily, he’d be a bit of a favourite this week, but Cook’s fractured season (not at all aided by a badly dislocated shoulder at the beginning of the season) takes some of the bookies’ pressure off the pair.

An interesting fact about Star Witness: he’s got kissing spines, which is well-managed by Cook and her team. Where there’s a will, there’s most certainly a way.

Lillian Heard and LCC Barnaby. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

58. Lillian Heard and LCC Barnaby – USA

17hh, twelve-year-old gelding (Guy Cavalier x Rafael). Owned by the rider.

Heard and Barnaby tackled their first Burghley last season, but their dream came to an early end when they fell at the Leaf Pit. But the Irish Sport Horse, who Heard found in Ireland as a six-year-old, is certainly capable across the country — he’s completed Kentucky CCI4* three times, finishing thirteenth in 2017. This year, they had a bit of a wobble, picking up 20 jumping and 20 time penalties to finish 29th, but they jumped clear around the Plains’ CICO3* last month. This time, they’ll be looking to put their Burghley demons to bed — and Barnaby, who is a strong, keen horse in the second phase, should do exactly that.

59. Esib Power and Soladoun – IRELAND

16.1hh, eleven-year-old gelding (Madoun x Solicitor). Owned by Lynne and Kerri Lyons and the rider. 

Born to a racing family, Power is a serious contender who sometimes flies rather under the radar. Not content with simply eventing at the highest level, she also showjumps internationally, tackling enormous tracks like the Hickstead Derby regularly.

Soladoun is an undeniable talent, but his 2018 season leaves us in some doubt — he contested a CIC2* at Barbury and the ERM CIC3* at Blair Castle, but was withdrawn before cross country in both competitions. His last international completion was at Blenheim CCI3* last year, where he picked up an unfortunate 20 penalties. Earlier that year, he managed a seventh place finish at Chatsworth CIC3*, so he’s capable — but he may not be a natural competitor at this level, or at least, not yet. This is his first four-star, so it’ll be interesting to see if it brings out a hidden lionheart or backs him off entirely.

Ashley Edmond and Triple Chance II. Photo by Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

60. Ashley Edmond and Triple Chance II – GREAT BRITAIN

16.1hh, thirteen-year-old gelding (Lan Garth Triple x Joli Wajfi). Owned by Bridget Heal and the rider.

Ashley and Triple Chance moved up to four-star at Pau last year, finishing in 36th place with a 61.5 dressage, a slow clear round across the country, and four rails on the final day. Their best result together was in the U25 CCI3* at Bramham in June, where they came in 7th place. They’ll be aiming to break the sub-40 barrier, which is well within their capabilities — they posted a 38 at Hartpury’s CIC3*, and a 44 at Badminton earlier this year. Now that they’ve got one of the Big Bs under their belts — and with a clear round, too — they can focus on honing their performance.

Lydia Hannon and My Royal Touch. Photo courtesy of Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

62. Lydia Hannon and My Royal Touch – GREAT BRITAIN

16hh, fourteen-year-old mare (Touchdown x Cavalier Royale). Owned by Christopher Harris.

Lydia was thrilled to sneak into the top 20 in her Badminton debut with My Royal Touch last year. The pair were clear inside the time in Blenheim’s CCI3* at the end of the season, and now that they know they’re capable of tackling a track of this level, we may seem them pick up the pace. They were slow at Badminton earlier this year — 36 time penalties, and then four rails on the final day, saw them finish 41st, but they had suffered from a similarly tricky start to the season as many of their competitors. That sort of hurdle becomes twice as hard to circumvent when you’re relatively inexperienced at the level.

Your pub quiz breeding fact: My Royal Touch shares a sire (Touchdown) with former winner Paulank Brockagh.

Alex Bragg and Zagreb. Photo courtesy of Event Rider Masters.

63. Alex Bragg and Zagreb – GREAT BRITAIN

17.2hh, fourteen-year-old gelding (Perion x Nagano). Owned by Sally Ellicott. 

Bragg and Zagreb are favoured pin-up boys of the eventing circuit, and with good reason — they’re both super-talented as well as being nice to look at.

Zagreb put in a stunning performance at his first trip to Badminton last year, posting a 44.6 in the first phase and adding just 14.4 in the second to become one of the real crowd favourites going into the final day. It wasn’t to be, however, and Zagreb was held for re-inspection at the final trot-up. Alex made the tough, but absolutely correct, call to withdraw the horse and save him for another day.

The decision paid dividends, and Zagreb’s final five international runs of the season each earned him top ten placings, including 8th place at Aachen’s Nations Cup, third place in the Gatcombe leg of the ERM, 8th place at the Blenheim leg, and 5th place at Pau. This spring, they finished 36th at Badminton after a knocked pin and 40 time penalties pushed them out of contention, but a win at Jardy’s ERM leg proved that they belong on top. They’ve attempted Burghley once before — in 2016, when they were eliminated across the country — but they’ll be aiming for more than just a completion this week. They can be very competitive, and they ought to be here.

66. Pippa Funnell and Majas Hope – GREAT BRITAIN

16.1hh, eleven-year-old gelding (Porter Rhodes x Flagmount King). Owned by the rider.

This will be the four-star debut for Funnell’s own horse. He’s had a few interesting results — he was twelfth at Tattersalls CCI3* in May, and eighth in Barbury’s CIC3* last year — but he’s not yet shown us a truly dazzling performance. He could be a slow-burner — we have little reason to believe that Funnell would enter a horse at Burghley without some belief in his ability — so we’ll be keeping a close eye on him this week. He’s unlikely to be competitive, but his entry offers us the chance to learn by watching — as we did when watching Oliver Townend pilot the precocious Cooley Master Class around Kentucky this spring.

Emilie Chandler and Coopers Law at Badminton. Photo by Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

67. Emilie Chandler and Coopers Law – GREAT BRITAIN

17hh, fourteen-year-old gelding (Mill Law x Kildalton Gold). Owned by Nicola Dickson and Sally Williams. 

Emilie and Spider had a career-best result at Pau at the end of last season, finishing in 14th place and up from 52nd after the first phase. Prior to that, we hadn’t really seen them since Burghley in 2015, where they finished 21st. Spider is in his element on the cross country, but struggles with tension and occasional improvisation in the first phase.

Nonetheless, they finished a very respectable 20th in their Badminton debut this spring, producing a 27.9 dressage and adding 16.4 time penalties across the country. It was their final phase that let them down — they had four rails, where we normally expect one or two, and could have finished much higher without them. But Chandler has worked wonders on Spider’s dressage — she may have done the same with his showjumping since the spring.

Cedric Lyard and Qatar du Puech Rouget at Badminton. Photo courtesy of Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

68. Cedric Lyard and Qatar du Puech Rouget – FRANCE

Fifteen-year-old gelding (Defi d’Armenti x Arpad II). Owned by Alain Chevalier. 

Cedric has been a longtime member of the French front, and Qatar du Puech Rouget will be contesting his fifth four-star here. His first was Pau in 2016, where he finished in 18th place, before contesting Badminton last year. The pair retired on course, but bounced back to finish 5th in the CIC3* at Jardy. They then went to the Europeans, where they ran into difficulties on course. A confidence-building run at Ligniers CCI2* set them up well for Pau. There, they were the only combination to finish on their dressage score — a feat that was enough to propel them from 27th after the first phase to a third-place finish.

The horse does well over tight, technical courses but is perhaps less established over big, bold courses such as Burghley. Cedric will have to use the horse’s manoeuvrability to his advantage, rather than letting it back him off the big, galloping track here. He’ll be hoping to redeem himself — and the horse — after an unfortunate 20 penalties at Badminton earlier this year.

Andreas Dibowski and FRH Butts Avedon at Malmö. Photo by Julia Rau.

70. Andreas Dibowski and FRH Butts Avedon – GERMANY

17hh, fifteen-year-old gelding (Heraldik xx x Kronenkranich xx). Owned by Dr Manfred Giensch and Anne-Katrin Butt.

Three-time Olympian Dibowski has completed six four-stars with this horse, finishing second at Pau in 2014 and third at Luhmühlen in 2012. They attempted Burghley in 2013, but retired on course — but their impressive form on the continent suggests that the time is right for another go-round.

They’ve completed four three-stars this year, with four clear cross country rounds and top five placings at Strzegom and Sopot. Their showjumping performance is, in fact, the biggest question mark — they often have multiple rails, and at Luhmühlen last year, they retired in this phase. Nonetheless, they’re a very strong shout for the foreign offensive.

Abigail Boulton and Tilston Tic Toc. Photo by Samantha Clark.

71. Abigail Boulton and Tilston Tic Toc – GREAT BRITAIN

16.1hh, sixteen-year-old gelding (Quebec x Calypso I). Owned by Lucy Boulton. 

Boulton and Ben first came to Burghley in 2015, when Boulton was just 20. They finished 47th after a very slow but clear cross country, earning the best under 25 prize. They came back in 2016, but didn’t manage a clear on that occasion — they completed with a 20 on their record. They rerouted to Pau that year, where Boulton fell, but they had three clear rounds out of four starts at three-star in 2017, including a 15th place finish at Bramham CCIU253*.

They haven’t had any international runs this year, but have had a few quiet, clear OI and Advanced trips. This should be a quiet, sensible run for them, with the aim of a ‘proper’ competitive outing in the spring.

Lissa and Hollyfield II at Pau 2017. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

72. Lissa Green and Hollyfield II – AUSTRALIA

16hh, fourteen-year-old gelding (Quite Easy x Nocturne 877). Owned by The Viqueen Syndicate.

In her second four-star riding for Australia, Green pilots top horse Hollyfield II. The 14-year-old gelding is relatively inexperienced, having made the move-up to three-star in 2016, but Green rates the horse as a serious talent for the future and has made educational experiences her aim when running the horse. He was impressive around much of Pau’s course last year before Green opted to retire him due to brake failure near the end of the track, but it was Badminton this spring where he showed what he really has to offer. He jumped a stonking clear around Eric Winter’s tough track, adding 31.2 time penalties, but leaving Green and her team excited for the future.

Oli then had a quiet run for third place around Barbury’s CIC2*, before contesting Hartpury CIC3* earlier this month for a slow clear and 49th place. Now that Oli knows his own ability, we’d love to see what he produces when he’s moved up a gear — the raw talent is certainly there.

73. Matt Heath and The Lion – GREAT BRITAIN

16.3hh, sixteen-year-old gelding (Ricardo Z x Nad Elshiba). Owned by Emma Clarke, Clare Davis, and the rider.

The Lion went to Burghley last year, but Heath took a tumble on course, ending their week early. It was their first cross-country blip since 2015 — incidentally, that one happened here too, and they were eliminated at Badminton earlier that year as well. In 2014 they completed with a clear round, finishing 22nd, and they completed in 2013, too — albeit with a 20 across the country.

This year, they haven’t had any international runs, but they have had two good Advanced trips — they finished 11th in the Advanced at the Festival of British Eventing, and 2nd in July’s Aston-le-Walls Advanced. Not a competitive threat, but if they can produce a clear round here, they could build upon it in the spring.

Dan Jocelyn and Dassett Cool Touch. Photo courtesy of Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

74. Dan Jocelyn and Dassett Cool Touch – NEW ZEALAND

16.2hh, twelve-year-old gelding (Van Dantzig x Secret Touch). Owned by Therese Miller.

Jocelyn and Dassett Cool Touch finished thirteenth here in 2016, following it up with a clear round at Badminton the following spring. They picked up twenty penalties across the country at Badminton this year, but they then went on to Gatcombe earlier this month and finished twelfth in the CIC3*. This is a classic dark horse combination — the moment you discount them, they’ll rise like a pair of phoenixes and throw down the gauntlet. In all fairness, we’d like to see that again this week.

75. Gubby Leech and Xavier – GREAT BRITAIN

16.1hh, thirteen-year-old gelding (Clover Echo x Crusing). Owned by Antoinette Denham Harding. 

Leech climbed his way up the career ladder working first with Harry Meade, and later with Pippa and William Funnell. Now, he’s based on his own yard in Salisbury’s eventing mecca. He and Xavier have completed Burghley twice before, in 2016 and 2017, but they’ve had a cheeky 20 on cross-country each time. They’ve jumped clear around Bramham CCI3* and Hartpury CIC3* on their way to Burghley this year, but they’ll have to dig deep to put the pieces of the puzzle together this weekend. They can get a circa-30 dressage score, as they proved at Bramham, but the showjumping is hit-or-miss.

Oh, and his first name? It’s actually Daniel. We haven’t a clue where Gubby comes from, but we’re making it our mission to find out.

Michael Owen and Bradley Law. Photo by Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

76. Michael Owen and Bradeley Law – GREAT BRITAIN

16.2hh, fourteen-year-old gelding (Mill Law). Owned by Jane Jennings.

This will be Bradeley Law’s third attempt at the level — he was eliminated in his four-star debut at Badminton in 2016, but finished 35th earlier this year. We’ve only seen him on the international stage once since then — at Burgham CIC3* in July, where they finished 65th on a clear, but slow, cross-country, two rails, and a disappointing dressage of 56.5. They can be ten points lower than this.

Fun fact: Michael Owen produced Ludwig Svennerstal’s King Bob to four-star before the Swede took the reins.

81. Richard Jones and Alfies Clover – GREAT BRITAIN

16.2hh, eleven-year-old gelding (Tajraasi x Clover Hill). Owned by Sandra Martin, Dinah Saunders, and the rider.

Everyone loves a comeback kid, and good-humoured Jones has, perhaps, one of the more unusual comeback stories in this year’s field. Last year, he and Alfies Clover were on track to achieve the best result of Jones’ career in the CCI3* at Bramham, where they posted a 52.5 (35 in new scoring) and one of the top cross-country rounds of the weekend to sit in 11th place going into the final phase. After their round, however, disaster struck – Jones slipped while stepping out of the living area of his lorry and caught his wedding ring on the way down. He ended up losing his finger.

But he’s not stopped easily – this is a man who, the year prior, had to have a foot completely rebuilt – and we saw the pair at Burghley a mere three months later. They finished in 22nd place, despite the constant pain and lack of grip in Jones’ left hand. That was the 11-year-old gelding’s first four-star, and Jones’ first since 2014.

The pair retired across the country at Badminton this spring after clocking up 20 penalties, but they then went on to put their Bramham demons firmly to bed — they finished 7th in the CCI3*, adding nothing to their 31.9 dressage. They then posted a 33.9 at Burgham CIC3* last month, slipping to 30th place after an uncharacteristic three poles. If Jones can pull out the result he did at Burghley last year under the circumstances, he’s certainly capable of even better this week.

Buck Davidson and Park Trader. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

82. Buck Davidson and Park Trader – USA

16.3hh, sixteen-year-old gelding (Master Imp x Highland King). Owned by Carl and Cassandra Segal.

Kobe has had a number of good results, including 2nd at 2013’s Fair Hill CCI3*, and was named as reserve for the 2014 WEG — but we’re yet to see a big win from the talented Irish gelding. This will be his seventh four-star, though he’s only had two clears at the level. One of those earned him twelfth place at Kentucky in 2014, leading to that selection — though he was withdrawn from contention that summer after a bout of tendonitis.

A clear round here will be the name of the game for Davidson and Kobe, and if they manage it, it’ll be their first international clear of the season — they picked up 20 penalties at Kentucky and The Plains CICO3* this year.

Ben Way and Galley Light. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography.

83. Ben Way and Galley Light – GREAT BRITAIN

16.2hh, fifteen-year-old gelding (Turtle Island x Be My Native). Owned by Elisabeth Collins and the rider.

Way balances life as as a property professional with running a top-level eventing yard with partner Sarah Way. This will be his seventh four-star with Galley Light — their best result was 12th at Badminton in 2016. They had a good run around Camphire CCI3* last month for tenth place, but otherwise, it’s been a quiet season — they had a gap without competition from May until July. They know the course here now, though they haven’t got an entirely blemish-free record — but they should be able to produce the goods this week and deliver another clear. Whether it’ll be enough to be competitive, with a mid-30s dressage, a healthy helping of time, and a requisite rail, remains to be seen.

85. Katie Preston and Templar Justice – GREAT BRITAIN

15.2hh, eleven-year-old gelding (Weston Justice x Welton Crackerjack). Owned by the rider.

Preston combines her eventing career with a demanding job as a vet, but manages to find the balance — she and small but mighty TJ finished 18th at Luhmühlen this year, jumping a stonking clear round very nearly inside the time to complete their first four-star on a great note. Their showjumping performance let them down there, as it has a few times — they pulled six rails in Germany.

They’re very reliable across the country though, and haven’t picked up any jumping penalties in this phase since 2016. They should have a great time around Captain Mark Phillips’ imposing course, though they’ll start with a high-30s dressage and finish with poles. We’re most interested to see how they stack up against the optimum time — Luhmühlen proved they can be very nippy indeed.

86. Polly Jackson Griffin and Papillon – GREAT BRITAIN

16hh, fifteen-year-old gelding (Parforce x Asti Spumante). Owned by the rider.

Jackson Griffin is one half of the dynamic duo behind the lavish Monart sale in Ireland, and her string of Monart-prefixed horses demonstrates that she really does believe in the talented horses she puts her efforts behind. This one is obviously an exception — but he’s been a great upper-level mount for his rider, who has jumped around three four-stars with him in recent years. They’re yet to nail a clear at the level, though — and this will be a first international run for the pair in 2018.

They ran here in 2014, though they retired on course and rerouted to Blenheim’s CCI3*, where they sailed round clear. Last year, they picked up a 20 at Luhmühlen, but then finished 11th in Blair Castle’s WEG. They’ll deliver a mid-30s dressage, and, we hope, a first clear at the level.

Warren Lamperd and Silvia. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

89. Warren Lamperd and Silvia – AUSTRALIA

16.1hh, seventeen-year-old mare (Lancer II x Amigo). Owned by the rider.

The horse that coined the phrase ‘doing a Silvia’ – that is, um, banking a fence and making it look like that’s how it ought to be done – is back. Bossy, as she’s known at home, is well known for being game and gutsy, and she proved her adaptability last year at Burghley when she made light, if creative, work of the Dairy Mound combination. They finished in 31st place after adding rather too many time penalties and poles to threaten the top 20, but Bossy is a classic cross-country competitor.

With street smarts come personality quirks, and Bossy displays plenty of those at home – impossible to contain in a paddock, she’s allowed to roam free-range around Warren’s Berkshire base and choose the best grazing spots. An unbroken broodmare until the age of six, she spent more of her formative training putting Warren on the floor than learning to contain her enthusiasm, but his patience has paid off, and he’ll leave the start box on a partner he can trust. The pair will post a score that hovers around 50-51 (33-34), and although they’ll rack up time penalties, they’ll likely go clear – their blip at Badminton, in which they both took a tumble, was their first international cross-country jumping penalty since 2014.

Mark Todd and Kiltubrid Rhapsody at Badminton. Photo by Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

92. Mark Todd and Kiltubrid Rhapsody – NEW ZEALAND

17hh, eleven-year-old gelding (Cascaletto St Gyvan Z x Lombardo). Owned by Niki Ryan and Dr Elizabeth Donald. 

‘Raps’ really came into his own this year, stepping up from several good results at three-star in 2017 (including third at Saumur CCI3*, fourth in the British Open Championships, and ninth at Blenheim’s ERM) to complete his first Badminton exceptionally stylishly. He produced a very competitive 23.4 dressage, added just ten time penalties across the country, and pulled an annoying rail on the final day to finish sixth — but we get the feeling there’s even more in there.

Raps’ four-star debut came at Pau last year, where he clocked up 20 penalties to come 25th. Still, at that Pau, completion alone was absolutely not a given — and his Badminton performance shows the sort of course he excels over, which appears to be those that allow him to get into a forward rhythm, tackle some enormous, bold fences, and then snap to attention for a smattering of very technical combinations. Pau has the technicality, but none of the scope for galloping. Burghley should suit him, and he’s on good form — he clocked up a top-fifteen finish at Aachen last month, and had an easy, confidence-boosting run at Somerford CIC2* for seventh place earlier this month. The baby fangirl in us all is desperate for a Toddy victory at a four-star — and this horse, under the right circumstances, could certainly deliver.

Nana Dalton and Absolut Opposition. Photo by Samantha Clark.

93. Nana Dalton and Absolut Opposition – GREAT BRITAIN

17.2hh, thirteen-year-old gelding (Fleetwater Opposition x Ruffo). Owned by Miley’s Friends and the rider.

Dalton has known Miley since he was born, as she used to compete his mother. From day one, she adored his “natural swagger and character”, and set up a syndicate to buy him as a two-year-old. He found life as an eventer easy, and completed Badminton when he was a ten-year-old.

He then missed the majority of the 2016 season due to a mystery lameness that worsened and worsened, despite clear MRIs, scans, and X-rays. When one of the syndicate members suggested the horse ought to be euthanised, Dalton decided to scrabble together the funds to purchase the horse herself and secure his — at that time — questionable future. She managed it, and turned him away to let his body heal itself. It did, and he came back in time to head to Pau in 2017, where he picked up 20 penalties across the country but completed the event. This year, he finished 30th at Badminton, producing a very good test for 28.2, adding 20.4 time penalties on Saturday, and pulling five rails on Sunday. He can usually be counted on for a handful of poles — though Badminton was his record most — so he likely won’t be a super-competitive entity here, but should produce another good clear.

Bill Levett and Improvise. Photo by Nico Morgan.

94. Bill Levett and Improvise – AUSTRALIA

16.1hh, fourteen-year-old gelding (Master Imp x Diamond Wood). Owned by Elisabeth Murdoch.

Womble was originally produced by Chris King, and Levett took the reins back in 2010. Since then, they’ve had seven four-star runs — their best result came at Burghley in 2014, where they were sixth. They returned last year, but withdrew before the final phase, and their 2018 form hasn’t been quite as consistent as we’re used to — they’ve only had two clear cross country rounds out of six international starts. The horse sat out the 2017 season, so it may be that he’s been getting his confidence back up, but while both horse and rider are very capable of another top-ten finish, it might be more likely to come in 2019.

95. Simon Grieve and Drumbilla Metro – GREAT BRITAIN

15.3hh, eleven-year-old gelding (Metropole x Touchdown). Owned by Catherine O’Connor, Merna Merrett, and the rider.

Grieve will be riding for his seventh and eighth Burghley completions this week, and the petite Drumbilla Metro, who gave him his first Badminton completion this spring, should, in theory, step up to the plate. Unfortunately, the horse hasn’t had an ideal season — he’s only had two runs since Badminton, once around an Advanced at Aston, where he finished 15th, and once at the CICO3* at Haras du Pin earlier this month, where the pair were eliminated for a rider fall. Without time for one more confidence-building run, these are less-than-ideal circumstances — but Grieve has two rides here, and hopefully a good trip around the course earlier in the day will set him up to pilot Drumbilla Metro to his autumn redemption song.

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

96. Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy – NEW ZEALAND

16.3hh, fifteen-year-old gelding (Courage II x Sky Boy). Owned by Verenna Allen and the rider.

The more eagle-eyed among you may have spotted a trend — the impressive stallion Courage II sired a remarkable proportion of this year’s Burghley entries, including last year’s winner, Ballaghmor Class. The marvellous Oz is another one of those horses who is achingly close to a big win — he came second here in 2015, fourth in 2016, fifth last year, and he’s been fifteenth, ninth, and twelfth at Badminton.

He’s ultra-capable in the first phase, scoring 25.8 at Badminton earlier this season, and he’s proven over the track here, with the ability to go very close to the optimum time at four-star. In fact, he’s won the William Miflin trophy at Badminton twice for being the closest to the time. Unfortunately, if anything stops him from winning this week, it’ll be the showjumping — he’s just as likely to have two down as he is to go clear. The Prices take their top horses for a mass exodus to Spain’s showjumping Sunshine Tour every winter, so hopefully we’ll see that effort pay off this weekend, and Tim can catch up with his wife Jonelle’s incredible season.

97. Louise Harwood and Balladeer Miller Man – GREAT BRITAIN

16.3hh, eleven-year-old gelding (Stormhill Miller x Porter Rhodes). Owned by Alli Haynes.

Harwood is known for piloting her homebreds around the upper levels, but Balladeer Miller Man bucks the trend. He was bought as a four-year-old from Ireland, but nonetheless, he grew and grew to fit in with diminutive Harwood’s stable full of oversized stars.

This will be the horse’s first four-star — he jumped clear around Bramham CCI3* in June and was 12th at Camphire CCI3* last month. Expect a dressage mark that hovers around the 40 area, a smattering of final-phase rails, but hopefully another clear round to finish off his immaculate season.

Swallow Springs and Andrew Nicholson. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

98. Andrew Nicholson and Swallow Springs – NEW ZEALAND

16.2hh, ten-year-old gelding (Chillout x Cult Hero). Owned by Paul and Diana Ridgeon.

Nicholson’s striking grey has been quietly impressive for the past few seasons, and now that his ultra-famous stablemate has retired, his time has come to shine. He finished third in 2016’s iteration of the prestigious 8/9 year-old CIC3* at Blenheim, following it up with 2nd and 5th at Barbury and Chatsworth CIC3* in 2017. He then finished 9th in Blenheim’s CCI3*, and his performance this season hasn’t been any less promising — he was second in Bramham’s tough CCI3* in June, leading one well-intentioned but somewhat misguided reporter to ask, “is this one likely to be your WEG horse, then?”

“Oh, yes, he’s got WEG written all over him,” replied Nicholson with a twinkle in his eye. “I expect they’ll be beating my door down to get us on the team.” #topbantz Nicholson aside, this horse really is a true talent, and one that the rider thinks a huge amount of. Burghley has been the plan all season, and although his showjumping can be a tad unreliable, Bramham proved that the horse can add very, very little to his good dressage score when it counts. Expect Nicholson to pilot this four-star debutante competitively — a top ten finish, at least, would come as no surprise.

Ireland’s Joseph Murphy and Sportsfield Othello. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

100. Joseph Murphy and Sportsfield Othello – IRELAND

16hh, seventeen-year-old gelding (Ricardo Z x Ring of Ford). Owned by Alison Schmutz, Andrew Tinkler, and Jill Andrews.

Third on the reserve list for the Irish team, Sportsfield Othello instead makes his way to Lincolnshire to tackle his second of the Big Bs this year. He had a very good Badminton this year, finishing in 13th place for the second consecutive year after a steady climb up the leaderboard through the week. They added just 6.4 time penalties — impressive, when you consider how tough the time was to get this year — and dropped two rails on the final day, scuppering their chances of creeping into the top ten.

Franky has had two quiet international entries since then — he finished third at Mallow CIC3* in June, adding just 3.2 time across the weekend, and then ran Camphire as a combined test at the end of July. This will be the horse’s second attempt at Burghley — they withdrew after dressage in 2015, so we’ve not yet had the chance to see how the track suits him. But his Badminton form adds up — he can do big, he can do bold, he can push it on and reel it back, and he should be an exciting candidate this week.


Oliver Townend and Cooley Master Class. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

106. Oliver Townend and Cooley Master Class – GREAT BRITAIN

16.2hh, thirteen-year-old gelding (Ramiro B x Master Imp). Owned by Angela Hislop.

Oh Coolio, how you dazzled us this spring. How you proved some of us so spectacularly wrong when we speculated that perhaps you were too fragile to be a four-star horse. How wonderfully and visibly you learned and matured around the Kentucky cross-country course to finish the competition not only the victor, but twice the horse you were when you started.

Nevertheless, do we think you’re going to Burghley? Unlikely — Townend has two known entities up his sleeve in Ballaghmor Class and MHS King Joules, and we rather fancy stablemate Cooley SRS as the third option — but then, the plan was likely never to aim you at Burghley, anyway.

Coolio led after dressage in Blair Castle’s CIC3*, but it was always the plan to withdraw him, so we can forgive him the three time penalties he picked up as he skipped around the showjumping course. If we don’t see him this week, it’ll be interesting to see where he’s aimed next — Pau would possibly not suit the horse, but a last-minute entry to Blenheim could be on the cards.

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

107. Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class – GREAT BRITAIN

16.2hh, eleven-year-old gelding (Courage II). Owned by Karyn Shuter, Angela Hislop, and Val Ryan.

Ultra-talented but ultra-sharp and tricky, Thomas went from flying completely under the radar to winning Burghley practically with his eyes shut last year. Of Townend’s entries, this one is the dead cert — he’ll be hoping for a repeat performance of last year to prove a few points this week.

What’s perhaps most exciting about Thomas is that even after he won here last year, Townend admitted that the horse was still ‘babyish’ in many ways — the dressage wasn’t yet quite established, and the atmosphere in the main arena had the ability to slightly pull his focus off his job. His jumping style, too, was still green — he jumped big to make up for the fact that he hadn’t yet learned to jump economically. But discovering your capabilities over a course like Burghley, and then taking the winter holidays to mull over all you’ve learned, is the making of a tempestuous talent like Thomas.

He was fifth at Badminton this spring after that astonishing 20.8 dressage test, proving that the first phase is very much established now. He looked to tire on cross-country — leading to, perhaps, one of the bigger talking points of the first half of the season — but looked fresh and well on the final day, unfortunately pulling two rails to drop out of contention. Townend took a tumble from him at Aachen, but they regrouped and won Burgham CIC3* the following week, lest anyone murmur that they’d lost their touch. They were then part of Townend’s total domination of Blair Castle CIC3* last weekend. This is a very, very safe bet for a top placing, and if nothing else, we can’t wait to see the difference in Thomas over all three phases. The development of a young horse like this is very nearly as exciting as the major victories — we just hope he’s stopped lawn-darting the grooms across the gallops.

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