Good morning from the final fray, the hard-won front line of the 2018 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials. The day dawned bright and beautiful as the crowds gathered en masse for a tense final horse inspection: would the long night of icing and walking be enough? Would those hardened athletes who had fought so hard and dug so deep in yesterday’s test stride into Sunday fit, and well, and happy? We focus so much on the three phases of eventing that sometimes it’s easy to forget that dreams can be dashed just as harshly in the horse inspections, too — but there will have been little but this moment on the riders’ and grooms’ minds for the past fourteen hours.
There was a notable spate of withdrawals before the trot-up even began this morning: Oliver Townend withdrew his pathfinder horse MHS King Joules, who has been so consistent this week and sat in tenth place after the cross country phase. Oliver’s other rides, Cooley SRS (13th overnight, now 11th) and Ballaghmor Class (2nd), were accepted.
Andrew Nicholson, too, withdrew one of this two rides — Jet Set IV was eighth overnight, but his Burghley ends there. Andrew will ride Swallow Springs (5th) in this afternoon’s final session.
Fellow Kiwi Ginny Thompson (40th) opted not to present Star Nouveau, and Burghley first-timers Hector Payne and Dynasty, who was 29th after a clear cross country round, made the same decision. Rebecca Gibbs (30th) and De Beers Dilletante and the wonderful Julie Tew and Simply Sox, whose incredible story has moved us all so much this week, also decided not to present this morning.
Never mind, we’ll find someone like Tew. (Except we won’t, because she has broken and re-healed our icy cold hearts over and over again, and we are taking this worse than a break-up.)
After the initial landslide of withdrawals, though, it was plain sailing across the board, with just one horse sent to the holding box throughout the ground jury’s ministrations. That was Tina Cook‘s Star Witness, who added nothing to their dressage score yesterday to climb an incredible 50 place from 62nd to 12th. Now, in the wake of the withdrawals, she sits in 10th place going into this afternoon’s final session of showjumping. Not. Too. Shabby.
There was an almost disappointing lack of dance moves today, particularly from Harry Meade and Away Cruising, who sit in fourth place on a score of 31.1 after an scorching round across the country yesterday, and who behaved so delightfully badly at the first horse inspection.
But never fear, Harry – you gave us quite enough material on Wednesday to distract us from doing any actual work for the next six months, at least.
#fillercontent, people. Filler content for days.
The current leaders, Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy, sailed through the trot-up, and we’re delighted to report that both looked fit, well, and full of running after making such light work of the course yesterday.
Our American entrants, too, saw no trouble this morning — all three will go forward to showjumping, with Lillian Heard and LCC Barnaby (now 37th) Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 (now 35th) showjumping in the morning session and Buck Davidson and Park Trader (now 12th) jumping in the final session.
One of the most important parts of the final horse inspection — in our humble opinion! — is the awarding of the grooms’ prize for the best cared-for horse over the duration of the event. This morning, it was awarded to Janet Willis, who looks after Willa Newton‘s Chance Remark (10th), and has worked for the Newton family for 33 years.
The morning’s session of showjumping commences at 11.15am BST/6.15am EST, with the final session beginning at 2.25pm BST/9.25am EST. Stay tuned!