I’m not particularly sure what it feels like to walk down the aisle at your wedding, but I imagine the butterflies aren’t far off those you feel when driving up Burghley House’s tree-lined driveway for the first time in three years. There’s a quiet buzz of excitement about the place now, hours before the first horse inspection, that intensifies as you draw closer to the event itself, which is thrumming with the long drone of drills and building works as champagne bars, spectator amenities, and the media centre take shape around us all. What a thrill! What a joy! The pandemic stripped us of so much, but we’re back, and Burghley’s back, and life feels damn good right now. We’ve got plenty of action to come this week — which you can watch along with from home, if you’re not able to make it here — but first, it’s time to get to know the full field of entries at this year’s event. And so, without further ado, meet the Burghley class of 2022 — conveniently assembled in drawn order for your reading pleasure. Go Eventing!
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1. Oliver Townend and As Is
Eleven-year-old Spanish Sport Horse gelding (Meneusekal x Paraca, by Lacros). Owned by John Peace.
Our pathfinder — once again! — is Oliver Townend, who has previously been victorious here in 2009, with Carousel Quest, and 2017 with Pratoni-bound Ballaghmor Class. First out of the box this year, though, will be a new ride and a five-star debutant in As Is, who was previously ridden by Andrew Nicholson. Oliver took over the ride this year, and the pair made their international debut as a partnership in a CCI3*-S at Floors Castle, where they finished eighth. They only have three FEI runs to their name, but in all three, they’ve finished in the top ten.
As Is comes from the same Spanish breeding dynasty as Nereo, and he shares his predecessors penchant for speed and economy across the country. In his 16 FEI starts since 2017, he’s finished in the top ten 10 times, and has made the time seven times. His most promising result, insofar as potential Burghley success goes, is the seventh place finish he earned at Bramham CCI4*-L this year, despite activating a safety device and picking up 11 penalties along the way. He still made it home easily within the optimum time, proving he’s a real stayer. That’s not the first time he’s finished seventh in that class — he did so in 2019, too, with Andrew aboard, and he didn’t add any time penalties on that trip either.
Burghley is a huge step up for a debutant, and Oliver will also be fact-finding the course for his next two rides, but he’s never one to hang around and he knows he’s sitting on a quality animal. We can expect this to be a round that puts some serious pressure on those that follow — and likely one that helps the pair climb after a first-phase score of around 30.
3. Tim Price and Bango
Sixteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Garrison Royal x No Sale, by 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 years flogging through the swamp-like mud for food. This has 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.” So quips Jacky Green, the comic genius behind much of the Kiwi effort and the woman responsible for perhaps our favourite set of totally professional horse descriptions ever.
We at EN rather feel that poor Uno has been overlooked in the past, despite the fact that he’s actually got some serious five-star mileage under his belt. He’s had to endure the shame of taking stablemate Ringwood Sky Boy’s place for the lap of honour here when the latter won in 2018, which surely must have opened him up to some ribbing from his equine pals, and he suffered a real indignity at Badminton in 2019, when Izzy Taylor’s Springpower bolted spectacularly on the strip at the first horse inspection, leaving Uno’s subsequent sashay almost totally stripped of pomp and circumstance. He keeps on showing up and doing the job with a smile on his face, and along the way, someone always marches in with tap shoes on and steals his thunder. Frankly, we’re tired of it. #JusticeForUno, we say.
This time, though, it feels like a bit of a special moment to see the gelding return, partly because we haven’t seen him at an FEI event since Kentucky last year, where he finished 18th after tipping three rails on the final day. Prior to that, his previous FEI appearance was at Burghley in 2019, where he finished fifth. He was also tenth here in 2018, and he always seems to excel over a tough, stamina test of a track. His high 20s to low 30s first-phase score won’t feel competitive, but this is a horse who should climb — and as that Kentucky showjumping round was a real outlier in his performance record, and possibly the first sign of whatever prompted his long competitive break, we feel safe in putting our money on a top ten finish for this pair.
4. Pippa Funnell and Billy Walk On
Thirteen-year-old British-bred Sport Horse gelding (Billy Mexico x Shannon Line, by Golden Bash). Owned by Barbara and Nicholas Walkinshaw.
Dear Feale came so close to winning a big one last year, when he led the dressage at Bicton’s pop-up CCI5* in August, ultimately finishing in second to Gemma Tattersall and Chilli Knight. The rangy, elegant product of the Funnells’ Billy Stud has been a real labour of love for Pippa, who spotted his promise early on and has carefully cultivated a quite remarkable record for the gelding. In 33 FEI starts, he’s finished in the top ten 21 times, and for the first two seasons of his international career, he never finished outside it. That included a second place finish in the 2016 Seven-Year-Old World Championship — an exceptional boost for British breeding — and wins in his first CCI2*-S and his first CCI3*-L.
Since his step up to the top levels in 2017, he’s delivered some exceptional moments for Pippa. He’s had top five finishes in the very tough four-star shorts at Chatsworth and Hartpury, plus a sixth place finish in Blenheim’s CCI4*-L in 2019 and a 13th place finish in that huge, tough CCI4*-L at Bicton last June. This spring saw him make his second visit to Badminton: he made his five-star debut here in 2019, but retired on course after picking up 20 penalties and activating the safety device at the footbridge. His first-phase score of 26.5, though, was very exciting, as was his 23.9 at his second five-star last year. But once again, it didn’t quite go to plan this spring: he ran into trouble at the mirage pond water, refusing at the big drop in, after which Pippa opted to retire on course. His return to form came mid-summer, though, when he finished second at Barbury CCI4*-S, confidently popping the drop into water there.
Expect these two to be well in the hunt after dressage, and, now that the gelding feels more himself, to make it happen across the country. Bicton proved that a galloping, stamina test sort of track really suits him, and he should go the distance. We probably won’t see him catch the time, but the smattering of penalties he’ll pick up shouldn’t do him any harm after what will likely be a very influential day of cross-country. On Sunday, he’s got a 50/50 chance of jumping a clear. If he does, we should be looking at a top five candidate.
5. Emma Hyslop-Webb and Waldo III
Nineteen-year-old KWPN gelding (Faldo x Naomi, by Henzo). Owned by the rider.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen Emma’s signature pink colours partnering her unicorn of a gelding around a five-star — in fact, the last time we saw them at this level was at Badminton back in 2019, where they finished 44th after a clear round across the country. Waldo then had most of 2020 and all of 2021 off, and returned to FEI competition at Chatsworth CCI4*-S this spring, where they withdrew before cross-country after a tough 53.1 in the first phase and a rail down over the poles. They then ran in the CCI4*-S at Bramham, finishing 31st, and that’s been the extent of their international outings this season — but this stalwart partnership has experience in its corner. Emma has produced him through since the beginning of his career, which has included runs at both Pau and Badminton. They won’t be here to challenge for a top finish, but they’ve got what they need in their wheelhouse to give Burghley a jolly good go.
9. Harry Mutch and HD Bronze
Sixteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Limmerick x Northern Madera, by Toca Madera). Owned by Carole Mutch.
This will be a third five-star for 25-year-old Harry and his self-produced gelding after they debuted at Badminton in 2019, having gained a serious education on the way around. Since then, we’ve seen them jump clear around CCI4*-S tracks at Burgham and Barbury, but they’ve also had some problems at Blair and Bicton, where they tackled the CCI4*-L for under-25s last summer summer but retired on course. That didn’t come after any actual issues, mind you — they made it most of the way around the hilly course in the heat but Harry decided to save him for another day when he was approaching the final combination and thought his much-loved gelding didn’t feel as reactive as normal. Since then, they returned to Bicton for the pop-up CCI5* last year, finishing 18th after picking up 20 penalties on course, and they’ve had quite a good summer this year, with a win in the CCI3*-S at Alnwick Ford and clear rounds in CCI4*-S classes at Barbury, Hartpury, Burgham, Chatsworth, Burnham Market, and Thoresby. Their Bramham under-25 CCI4*-L experience didn’t quite go to plan with a rider fall on course, but they’ve been hard at work training with Pippa Funnell as part of the Wesko Equestrian Foundation programme, and the difference that work is making is palpable. The huge gelding, who used to throw in bonus lead changes on his centrelines, has become much stronger and more balanced, and we’ve seen their scores drop from the high 30s to mid 40s all the way down to the occasional sub-30. Although they won’t be fighting for a top placing in their Burghley debut this week, we could be about to witness Harry’s development in real time, and their partnership should stand them in good stead for a coveted clear around this tough course.
11. Woods Baughman and C’est La Vie 135
Fourteen-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Contendro I x Anette). Owned by Kim and James Baughman and the rider.
This is a first Burghley for 25-year-old Woods and his excellent German gelding, with whom he became the USEF CCI4*-L National Champion back in November. That’s a pretty good title to carry into a competition of this magnitude, which will be a second five-star start for the pair — Woods, who’s a Lexington native, made his debut at Kentucky this spring, having first visited the three-day when he was just a tiny six-year-old, taking weekly ‘up-down’ lessons and dreaming of life as… a bull rider. His goals have (fortunately) shifted.
These days, Woods trains with Sharon White, who he first started working with when he was part of the Young Rider program, which she coached. His first job away from home was a winter spent in Florida at her southern base, and it was through Sharon that he was able to secure a year-long stint in Germany, where he based with Dirk Schrade. Dirk would help him find C’est La Vie, who was produced to CCI3*-S by Ben Leuwer – a rider responsible for a number of excellent horses, including Clever Louis, winner of the 2019 Blenheim eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S under Chris Burton.
Just a matter of months into their partnership, Woods and ‘Contendro’, as he’s known at home, won the 2019 CCI3*-L National Championship. It was a brilliant way to close out their first season together, and the stage seemed set for an excellent 2021 -– but it all went pear-shaped when they came to Kentucky for the inaugural, very tough CCI4*-S. Woods fell on cross-country after the gelding hung a leg over a fence, and in doing so, broke two lumbar vertebrae. Though he was back riding within weeks, he and Contendro had to go back to the drawing board with their cross-country performances, which suffered an ebb of confidence and, crucially, control. A major step down to the Preliminary level helped them rebuild and they returned to the upper levels stronger and better than ever. In their last five FEI runs before Kentucky, they were only outside of the top five once — and that was a 12th place finish in the CCI3*-S at Unionville, where they ran steadily. Though they went on to pick up 40 penalties at Kentucky, it was a huge educational stepping stone for them, and they’ll have come on even further as a result.
Now, they come to the UK with big goals — despite a tricky journey to get here. Their goal will be to start the week with a sub-30 score, which they’ve consistently delivered at four-star, though they had a disappointing high-30s mark at Kentucky — and then to attack Derek di Grazia’s course boldly, listening to one another throughout and building their foundations for their very exciting future. Their sensible, educational steadiness will probably keep them from fighting for a placing this time, but Woods knows now that you can make the biggest leaps as a rider by taking it one well-thought-out step at a time. Come Sunday, they should be grinning: they hadn’t had a rail down in an international since 2019… until Kentucky.
12. Padraig McCarthy and HHS Noble Call
Eleven-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Fortunas x Noblina, by Cavalier Royale). Owned by Pearl Chaffe and the rider.
It’s a joy to see Padraig come forward for (somehow!) his first-ever Burghley, particularly aboard a horse like this one, who’s proven he’s a real stayer. HHS Noble Call debuted at five-star at last year’s pop-up event at Bicton, which would be a local fixture for the Devon-based rider. They finished eighth there, delivering an excellent performance as the first clear round over the enormously tough terrain. Their mid-to-high 30s dressage (which has peaked in the mid-40s at four-star, and went to 47 in the Advanced at Thoresby this month) and tendency to knock a few rails will make a repeat placing tricky in a field of this strength, though. ‘Ben’ can be an anxious horse, which tends to impact his performance in the ring, though Padraig has been working hard to help him relax over the winter, as he explains to Horse&Hound.
There’s a lot to like about the tough, genuine gelding, who began his eventing career in 2018 after showjumping to 1.30m for his breeder, the Irish Olympic jumper Marion Hughes. Though the dressage was disappointing at Thoresby, they did deliver a clear round in the showjumping there, plus a characteristic efficient clear across the country. Their last international run was at Badminton, where they finished 33rd after a swift clear round, but their low-40s dressage and three rails stopped them from being more competitive on that occasion.
13. Phoebe Buckley and Tiger Mail — DEBUTANT HORSE
Twelve-year-old British-bred Sport Horse gelding (Jaguar Mail x Little Tiger, by Java Tiger). Owned by Mrs V S Gingell.
Phoebe has high hopes for her five-star debutant, and rightly so: he’s the son of her extraordinary mare Little Tiger who, at just 14.3hh, made light work of five-stars all over Europe. Her best-ever finish at the level was 16th here in 2008, and her son will have enormous shoes to fill as he gives the world’s biggest course a jolly good go. He’s certainly been very consistent since learning the ropes at four-star, and we can forgive a blip at Bramham CCI4*-L, because he was competing in a different bit set-up, which backed him off too much, forcing Phoebe to retire after picking up a 20. He went on to Burgham CCI4*-S after that, though, jumping a gutsy clear in which he powered through a near miss in the water. Like his dam, he’s hungry to get through the flags, and while he still has some things to learn about dressage, in which he’s a high-30s scorer, he should be great fun to watch here with his plucky rider in the irons.
14. Cornelia Dorr and Daytona Beach 8 — DEBUTANT PAIR
Twelve-year-old Oldenburg mare (Duke of Hearts x Sandance, by Santander H). Owned by the HCS Syndicate.
Cornelia Dorr makes her hotly anticipated step up to five-star this week riding, perhaps, the feistiest and coolest of mares in the field. Daytona Beach, who originally came from Sandra Auffarth, is a quirky sort of lady, but she’s also tough and gutsy, with one heck of a gallop and jump on her. At the moment, she has a tendency to bubble over and blow up in the dressage, and the big atmosphere of Burghley will probably instigate a bit of interpretive dancing, but Cornelia, who has based herself with Kevin and Emma McNab this year, is pragmatic and realistic about the whole thing and knows that for now, she can enjoy the really good bits while still working away on improving what should one day become a rather nice test. Their high-30s to -40s test will keep them out of the hunt this week, but Burghley — and a five-star debut — is all about Saturday, where they’ll be out to gain a serious education and prove a few points along the way. Daytona has never picked up a jumping penalty across the country at four-star, other than an 11 for activating a safety device at Stable View last spring, and their European campaign so far has included good runs at Burnham Market, Houghton Hall, Avenches, and Kilguilkey four-stars.
Like Woods Baughman, who’ll be the first of the American contingent out of the start box, Cornelia is trained by Sharon White, who’s making the trip over to help her young charges out. With that secret weapon in her pocket, plus the confidence boost of that clear very-nearly-inside the time in her team debut at Houghton Hall this spring, Cornelia should be on her way with springs in her heels and a fire in her belly.
15. Rodolphe Scherer and Song du Magay
Sixteen-year-old Selle Français gelding (Summer Song x Indra, by Hand In Glove). Owned by Catherine Nauleau.
This is our first time seeing Rodolphe at this level since Burghley in 2016, when he finished sixteenth with Makara de Montiege. This time, he returns with Song du Magay, who was previously piloted to CCI4*-L by South Africa’s Victoria Scott-Legendre. This isn’t the first time a horse has swapped between the two riders: Rodolphe was the original producer of Victoria’s Olympic mount Valtho des Peupliers.
Rodolphe, who recently took on the role of cross-country coach to the German eventing team, comes from a real eventing dynasty: his father, Ivan, was reserve for France at the 1980 Olympics and later became a technical delegate for the sport. Rodolphe himself began representing France young, riding at Junior and Young Rider Championships and stepping up to five-star at just 20 years old. He’s twice ridden at the Olympics for France, too, both times finishing in an excruciating fourth place individually.
These days, with wife Aude — also an upper-level eventer — at his side, he runs a busy yard in the Loire, coaching, training, and selling horses. He was also the team coach for the Indian team before taking on the German role.
With Song du Magay, who he began riding in late 2020, he represents a real dark horse shot at a placing here. The horse averages a low-to-mid 30s mark, but went down to 29.4 in his final prep run at Jardy CCI4*-S last month, and he’s seriously consistent and naturally very fast across the country. He’s prone to a rail — and sometimes two — on the final day, which is what kept him out of the placings back at Luhmühlen CCI5* back in 2017, where he was fifteenth and clear inside the time, but Burghley’s influence can be such that a big climb on Saturday leaves some wiggle room for rails on Sunday. We saw that writ large in 2016, when Chris Burton took the win despite taking four rails.
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16. Wills Oakden and Oughterard Cooley — DEBUTANT HORSE
Twelve-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Puissance x Oughterard Sky Cruise, by Cruising). Owned by the rider.
EquiRatings released an interesting stat the other day: 1% of all international eventing wins since 2010 — the first year a Cooley horse ran in an FEI event — have been won by Cooley horses. I say this is an interesting stat, but I did just read it aloud to my totally unhorsey boyfriend and he just sort of scoffed scornfully and said, “that’s shit. If I had horses it’d be like, 73%.” So there’s that, I guess. Your move, Richard Sheane.
Anyway, there’s no denying the extraordinary hold that the Cooley empire has had on our sport, making it one of the most prevalent and coveted prefixes in eventing. Scotland’s Wills Oakden certainly has a fine stamp of a Cooley in this one, with whom he was fourth at Blair Castle CCI4*-L in 2019 and sixth at Ballindenisk CCI4*-L this spring. He did retire on course in Barbury’s CCI4*-S this summer, but bounced back for a good finish in a hot field at Burgham CCI4*-S last month.
Oughterard Cooley hasn’t yet had his big moment to step into the spotlight, and is a little low on mileage after sitting out all of 2021, but it feels like Wills is due his big moment and if the gelding can stick to form, which has seen him deliver consistently quick, clear cross-country rounds and good showjumping performances, he should climb from a mid-30s starting point and make a splash (though hopefully not a literal one) this week.
17. Andrew James and Celtic Morning Star — DEBUTANT HORSE
Eleven-year-old British-bred Sport Horse gelding (Chilli Morning x Rebels Riches, by Rich Rebel). Owned by Michelle Harries.
In just his fifteenth FEI event, this son of 2015 Badminton winner Chilli Morning will make his debut at the level over the toughest, most stamina-sapping of courses — but his excellent performances over courses such as this year’s Bramham CCI4*-L, where he was clear inside the time for 20th place, prove that he’s a force to be reckoned with. He could well be the ‘Who Dat?’ hero of the week, which is an accolade I’ve just invented but am now taking very seriously indeed.
These two will likely score in the 40s to start their week off, so they won’t be a particularly competitive entity to start with — but actually, while that’s not really anyone’s dream starting score, it’s not too shabby at all a finishing score. Maybe finishing on it is a bit of a punchy aim for a five-star debut, but this is a horse who’s on the road to being able to make that happen, because he’s quick and consistent. His showjumping lets him down a little bit, though only by a rail or two, but keep an eye on this as an exciting one-to-watch for the future, who could well come good this week.
18. Francis Whittington and DHI Purple Rain
Twelve-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Arthos R x Wynona VWG’s, by Niveau). Owned by Ro Audley, Belinda Drummond, Amy Drummond and Beryl Chaplin.
It’s crucial that, whenever we talk about Francis’s five-star partner, we take a moment to hit play on this first.
Okay, ready? Cool. ‘Prince’, as he’s known at home (obviously), stepped up to four-star back in 2019 before the world fell apart, and since then, he’s had three runs at CCI4*-L and eight at CCI4*-S, and he made his five-star debut at Bicton last season. Though many of his runs have been educational, rather than competitive, he didn’t run into any trouble until last season, when he hit a couple of stumbling blocks: first, he retired on course at Bicton’s CCI4*-L, though that was due to a tack malfunction late on the track. Then, he picked up an uncharacteristic 20 penalties in his next outing, Burgham’s CCI4*-S, but then rallied for a great clear at Hartpury’s CCI4*-S. His Bicton CCI5* run was excellent, and he finished 14th — though it was more down to the four rails he pulled on Sunday that he didn’t sneak into the top ten. His clear round proved that he can go the distance over tough terrain, which stands him in good stead for Burghley, and he’s been getting more and more competitive since, with a fourteenth place finish at Burnham Market CCI4*-S, thirteenth at Houghton CCIO4*-S, and tenth at Barbury CCI4*-S. Francis will be aiming to keep the starting score under 35, and then we’ll expect a clear with some time to add. It’s Sunday that’ll have us all holding our breath: he’s been clear in his last two outings at internationals, but historically takes two or three poles.
19. Izzy Taylor and Ringwood Madras
Eleven-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Tinarana’s Inspector x Ringwood Rajah, by Rame Z). Owned by Sarah Van Vegchel.
We’re kind of thinking of this as a five-star debut for this smart mare, because although she went to Pau last year, she had an early runout at the influential angled brushes at 5 and Izzy opted to put her hand up and save her legs. She’d left the startbox on a 31.2, which wouldn’t be too shabby a score to start her Burghley campaign on, but actually, she’s been really nailing the first phase this year and hasn’t been out of the 20s since Pau. Her most recent FEI outing, at Burgham CCI4*-S, saw her dip all the way down to 25.4, although Burgham always seems to deliver low outlier scores year on year.
In any case, this is an exciting addition to Izzy’s string, and she’s quietly been proving herself since joining the Oxfordshire rider’s line-up early last year. Previously, she’d been produced to CCI4*-S and the Blenheim eight- and nine-year-old class by Ben Way, and in just her second international run with Izzy, she took fourth place in her CCI4*-L debut at Blair Castle last summer. That proved she can cope with tough terrain and stamina questions, though she did add 12 time penalties, and she coped well with the distance at Bramham CCI4*-L this year too, despite the 20 penalties and 11.2 time she picked up along the way.
At just eleven, this is a big milestone in her career and Izzy will be thinking of her as a useful asset for the future, so while she won’t aim to win it, expect to see her put the pressure on the young mare and then give her the grace and space to step up to the plate. This will be a really fun pair to watch in terms of production around a tough course.
20. Angus Smales and ESI Phoenix
Thirteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Clover Echo x Catina, breeding unknown). Owned by Diana Birch and Charlotte Straker.
This’ll be the first time we’ve seen experienced competitor, course designer, and keen hunting man Angus at Burghley since 2017, and he makes his return with a horse part-owned by loyal owner Charlotte Straker, who began providing rides for Angus just after he’d left school. Previously a stable jockey for Oliver Townend, Angus has had plenty of success at the top level and is an intuitive, gutsy cross-country rider who should do well over a track like Bicton’s.
This is just Phoenix’s thirteenth FEI start, as Angus only tends to aim him at a couple of internationals each season. He made his debut in 2017 and within a year, stepped up to four-star. He’s jumped around Blenheim clear and Bramham with an activated frangible penalty, and his only international cross-country jumping penalty came at Burnham Market CCI4*-L in 2020, when he had a 20. He should score in the low-30s, which won’t put any pressure on the top end of the leaderboard, but will keep him in close enough contention to climb, though he’s not naturally a particularly quick horse and Angus isn’t likely to put that extra pressure on him. He was sixteenth and very steady, with 60.8 time penalties, at Bicton CCI5* last year, so Angus will play to his strengths and hope the course is tough enough that a slower round doesn’t count against him.
22. Piggy March and Vanir Kamira
Seventeen-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Camiro de Haar Z x Fair Caledonian, by Dixi). 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 machina. But that’s just what happened.
It did rather feel as though we’d been referring to Piggy and ‘Tillybean’ as the reigning Badminton champions for a solid decade, though, didn’t it? The length of the pandemic comes into sharp focus when you consider that Tilly won as a fourteen-year-old in 2019 and returned for the first time since as a seasoned seventeen-year-old this spring. It’s been tough to watch horses like this — proper, gutsy five-star horses that aren’t CCI4*-S winners or championship-style rides — sit out the lost seasons, but there’s no doubt her fire is still lit, as a win in Hartpury’s CCI4*-S this month showed.
And what a joy for Piggy to leave the startbox on Saturday aboard one of the world’s greatest cross-country horses. That’s what you want when you’re heading out to tackle a course of this magnitude — and the gritty little machine of a mare has every chance of adding another title to her roster, too, with her mid-to-high 20s dressage score and her excellent and very quick cross-country performance. The tricky bit for Tilly is showjumping: they had three rails at Bicton’s CCI4*-L last year and two at the five-star there, and tend to be nearly guaranteed one down, which is what made their Badminton clear and subsequent win even more of a fairytale finish. This year, they knocked one rail, but still finished fourth in what was arguably the best Badminton line-up we’ve ever seen.
Burghley relies heavily on big fences and stamina-sapping terrain, which will make it tough for many but plays well to Tilly’s strengths. For those of us who love slightly ordinary, quirky mares who have enormous hearts and deep wells of try, there’ll be plenty of reason to cheer for her on her way around.
“She’s a pain in the ass 362 days a year, and she’s really tricky to manage,” said Piggy when she won in 2019. “She’s not the nicest of things to ride, you know, and she’s difficult, but she’s amazing – I say it all so fondly, because we all love her to bits. She’s a true five-star horse that comes to form at Badminton and Burghley. The rest of the time, she feels pretty ordinary, and you have to work pretty hard for what you can get. She doesn’t find any of it easy, and if I’d built that [showjumping] course at home and practiced it on the same side of the arena, I could do it fifty times and never have a clear round. There’s something about her, and those great little mares that just do enough when they need to. If they’re on your side, they’re just incredible.”
23. Meghan O’Donoghue and Palm Crescent
Sixteen-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Quiet American x Edey’s Village). Owned by William Duhring and the rider.
Meghan O’Donoghue has had a whirlwind season, spending time in Europe getting her first taste of the global eventing scene at some of the most prestigious events. That’s included Aachen, where she made her US team debut with the ex-racehorse Palm Crescent, and although they had a hugely uncharacteristic 40 penalties across the country, it was a useful educational step. They followed it up with a very convincing clear at the Burghley prep event at Hartpury CCI4*-S, finishing 28th in a big field.
It was a circuitous journey that brought Palm Crescent to Virginia-based Pony Club alum Meghan O’Donoghue, who became a fan favorite when she debuted her mighty off-the-track Thoroughbred, Pirate. After a three-year racing career during which he raced 12 times, “Palmer” was placed with CANTER MidAtlantic, and after transitioning from track life under the watchful eye of Allie Conrad, the bright bay gelding eventually was purchased by and started his eventing career with Jan Byyny. He was later purchased by the Shipka family, who would go on to own the horse as a ride for Meghan as he showed his prowess at the upper levels. Meghan has since taken on ownership, but she’s always quick to reflect back on all of the wonderful people who helped her find this next shining star.
Palmer made his Kentucky debut last year, finishing 23rd, and they cracked the top twenty for 17th place on their sophomore run at Maryland in October. This year, they returned to Kentucky and took eleventh place, flying the flag for ex-racehorses and looking every inch a vintage American partnership.
They’re usually low-to-mid 30s scorers – their Kentucky test earned them a 32.8, while Maryland saw them score a 35.8 – but they did earn a serious outlier of 40.7 at Kentucky, and in any case, their talent lies in the climb. Though Palmer’s speed average is brought down by his slower runs at short-format internationals, he’s actually among the quickest in the field at the long format, where he’s able to settle into a high-octane cruising speed and eat up big, long, tough tracks. But like many classic, golden-era-style event horses, he doesn’t always have the easiest time on the final day, and is prone to a rail or two. He’s just once gone clear in the showjumping at this level, but if he can this week, we could see them make a bold bid for the top fifteen.
24. Danni Dunn and Grandslam
Seventeen-year-old British-bred Sport Horse gelding (Sandro B x Foxy Dora, breeding unknown). Owned by Anne Chapman and the rider.
It’ll be a second outing at five-star for Grandslam, who debuted at Pau last year, completing with a 20, and then went to Luhmühlen this year but didn’t complete after some issues on course. Danni herself has a bit more experience at this level with former top ride Zocarla, including a completion at Pau and starts at Badminton, but the five-star clear has thus far eluded her and will be top of her goals list this week. Grandslam, who was originally produced to CCI4*-L by Tyler Cassells, looks like the horse that could do it: he was very convincing in his final prep run at Hartpury CCI4*-S, finishing clear inside the time for seventeenth place, and he’s picked up a handful of placings at CCI4*-S and CCI4*-L since joining forces with Danni in 2016. He does have blips on his record, but when he’s on form, he’s very quick and goes inside the time more often than not. Even with a 20 at Pau last year, he finished with just six time penalties. His showjumping is generally good too, and he rarely pulls more than one rail if he pulls any at all, but their high-30s dressage will serve to keep a bit of pressure off them so they can focus on keeping that score card clean come Saturday.
25. Tom Crisp and Liberty and Glory
Fifteen-year-old British-bred Sport Horse (Caretino Glory x Little Runnymede xx). Owned by Robin and Patricia Balfour and Sophie Crisp.
Liberty and Glory, or Lori, is our dark horse pick of the week: she is, after all, quite literally a dark horse. But she’s also one of those classic, feisty little mares, fuelled by rage and opinions, and frankly, her first-phase performances don’t even MATTER when she produces the goods on Saturday. We saw her at her very best at Pau in 2018, where she climbed an absolutely ridiculous 54 places to finish sixth, delivering an emotional five-star best for Tom.
Lori is truly a family horse, ridden by a family man: she’s out of a full Thoroughbred mare who Tom’s wife Sophie competed through Advanced, and Sophie’s parents Robin and Patricia not only bred the mare, but continue to part-own her. The Crisp family at large – including sons Hugo and Harry, and youngest child Hermione – can be seen out in force at events, with everyone chipping in. Harry, who’s just hit his teens, is already jumping well around Novice (US Prelim) tracks, so we’d be unsurprised to see him trying to cadge the ride on dad’s mega mare before long.
Born on the fourth of July and given a patriotic moniker to match, Lori probably won’t dazzle in the dressage – she’s a high-30s scorer, although Tom has been working hard on her flatwork and her tempestuous nature. It’s Saturday that’ll really have you paying attention – despite the fact that she spent her early years enacting elaborate protests that included lying down in start boxes, 16hh Lori is yet to face any course she considers difficult. Her penalties at her five-star debut at Luhmühlen came as a result of enthusiasm and a subsequent genuine inability to get herself to the next element. She’s been largely out of action with some niggling bits and bobs over the last couple of years, so watching her come back and have a jolly time around this big track will be as fun for fans as it is for her.
26. Richard Jones and Alfies Clover
Fifteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Tajraasi XX x Aoifes Clover, by Clover Hill). Owned by Sandra Martin, Dinah Jones, and the rider.
Everyone loves a comeback kid, and good-humoured Jones has, perhaps, one of the more unusual comeback stories in the field. In 2017, he and Alfies Clover were on track to achieve the best result of Jones’ career in the CCI4*-L 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 following year they returned, added just 2.8 time penalties to their 34.2 dressage, and finished seventh. It’s all been a bit of a rollercoaster since then: they retired on course at Badminton in 2019 and then finished fourth at Bramham CCI4*-L, which is a big, tough, hilly track, and then had a 20 at Burgham and finished the year with a Burghley retirement. Then they sat out the entirety of the 2020 season. With just Burgham’s CCI4*-S under their belt to get them back into the swing of things last year, though, they jumped clear around the CCI5* at Bicton, adding 8.8 time penalties across the country and 6.2 total penalties in showjumping to their first-phase score of 33, giving them a very good sixth place finish.
When it’s good with this pair, it’s very good, and when it doesn’t quite come together, Richard puts his hand up and calls it a day – but Bicton certainly knocked some rust off and they looked committed and straight the whole way around. They followed that up with tenth at Badminton this spring, with just 2.8 time penalties across the country and a clear showjumping round. They’re here to work on another top ten finish, and a top five wouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility, either.
27. Jonelle Price and Classic Moet
Nineteen-year-old British-bred Sport Horse mare (Classic x Gamston Bubbles, by Bohemond). Owned by Trisha and Sophie Rickards and the rider.
At nineteen, ‘Molly’ is the oldest horse in the field — but we wouldn’t advise you call her a geriatric to her face, because she’s also probably among the fiercest competitors here. The 2018 Badminton victors return with a vengeance after two productive trips to the US last year, where they finished in the top ten at both Kentucky and Maryland, and a winter spent showjumping at Vejer de la Frontera, where they won a CSI4* accumulator class. That’s pretty good going for Molly, whose one and only weakness would be the final phase: in 30 FEI eventing starts, she’s had 10 clear rounds and when she won Badminton, it was after showjumping by Braille and praying to the eventing gods for none of those rails to fall. They didn’t, and the fairytale came true, but they’ll be grateful for having schooled for an extra few inches of airtime over the off-season — particularly after two rails at Badminton this spring pushed them to a faintly frustrating eleventh place.
Is Classic Moet the fastest horse in the world? It’s very possible – particularly when paired with her very, very quick rider. That’s what makes Classic Moet such a, well, classic contender for the likes of Burghley and Badminton – though her dressage has certainly come a long way over the last number of years, she’s not a first-phase leader. Instead, she climbs and climbs, and the tougher the time or the cross-country test, the better it suits our Molly. This weekend’s forecast — currently set for an 80% chance of thunderstorms — will play right to her strengths.
“She’s so unspecial that she’s incredibly special,” says Jonelle. “There’s nothing fantastic; she’s quite an ordinary mover, a bit of an unorthodox jumper, but she’s got a ginormous heart. She’s got a huge will to be an event horse and she’s fierce and courageous.” There’s no doubt that Jonelle wants her exceptional mare to have a big result to close out her career with, and they’ll put up a great fight this week with one of the rounds of the day on Saturday.
28. Alice Casburn and Topspin
Fourteen-year-old British-Bred Sport Horse gelding (Zento x Capriati). Owned by Caroline Casburn.
Just as at Badminton this spring, 20-year-old Alice finds herself right after Jonelle and Classic Moet in the draw — but that won’t intimidate her. She’s the youngest rider in the field but has had one of the most exciting seasons of any of our competitors: after making her CCI5* debut last autumn at Pau, jumping her way to a top twenty finish with a super clear on cross-country and the first faultless showjumping round of Sunday, she returned to the level this spring and was excellent at Badminton, finishing nineteenth again and winning both the Glentrool Trophy for the biggest climb of the week and the under-25 prize. She and Topspin then went to the Young Rider European Championships, finishing in individual bronze medal position and taking team gold, too.
Together, she and Topspin are a family legacy writ large: Alice’s mother, Caroline, rode at five-star herself, competing Topspin’s grandmother, mother, and then the gelding himself in the early stages of his career. Although he’s a whopping 17.2hh and petite Alice is whippet-slim, she took over the ride earlier in her teens and together, the pair have learned the sport and climbed the ranks quickly and competently. How quickly, exactly? Well, they made their FEI debut — a debut for both of them individually, not just as a combination — at the very end of the 2018 season. Yeah, they’re effectively three years into this game.
But what a three years it’s been. They’ve picked up six top-five international placings, including super second place finishes in two of their pre-Pau runs last year, the CCI4*-L at Blair Castle and the Pau-style CCI4*-S at Little Downham, and before this season, they’ve represented Great Britain on a Junior European Squad, finishing 16th at Maarsbergen in 2019. That Blair run was particularly impressive: it’s a seriously tough track over mountainous terrain, and the nearly full Thoroughbred gelding never looked like running out of steam for a moment. It was also the first chance for him to see significant crowds, which he’ll have to face this week, and though Alice was nervous about how he’d cope with them, she was delighted to discover that he loved seeing his fans at close quarters. When he faced the vocal and enthusiastic French crowd at their five-star debut at Pau last autumn, he responded similarly, and the pair delivered an excellent clear with 8.4 time penalties that had us all in our pony novel feelings.
The first phase is still the weak spot for this pair, who will likely post a mid-to-high-30s score — but with a course like this, there’s reason to leave the start box even if you’re near the bottom of the pack after the first phase, because so much will change on Saturday. Alice and Topspin are naturally quick, helped enormously by the fact that the gelding is polite and doesn’t pull, so Alice rarely needs to spend much time on set-up, and their long partnership and huge amount of trust means that the gelding is happy with a long or a short stride and will often make a last-minute adjustment himself to get the job done. On Sunday, they’ll be in their element: Alice has contested puissance classes with the gelding and jumped 1.40 classes, so they always feel confident coming into the ring.
29. Emily Hamel and Corvett
Fifteen-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Corrido x Tina XII, by Clearway). Owned by Black Flag Option, LLC.
Emily and her great grey Corvett were one of a slew of five-star debutants at Kentucky last spring, and they added to their growing fan club by jumping two impressive clear rounds and finishing 21st. If you don’t think you’ve spotted Corvett out on course before, cast your mind back: do you remember seeing a sparkling white, eager-eared bolt of lightning clearing each fence with about two feet of extra air? That’s Corvett, whose unique, gravity-defying approach to cross-country jumping makes him almost as much fun to watch as he is to ride.
Resale fail ‘Barry’ and former Wisconsin-based 4H grad Emily joined forces at Phillip Dutton’s True Prospect Farm, where they’ve both learned the ins and outs of their trade in tandem. That included a successful trip to the American Eventing Championships, where they finished fourteenth in the $60,000 Adequan Advanced Final.
While Emily and Corvett won’t put the pressure on in the first phase with their mid-to-high 30s score, they shine in the jumping phases and embrace the spirit of the climb (thank you, Miley Cyrus). While they have the odd blip on their FEI record, including an educational 20 at Badminton, their runs at Kentucky and Maryland proved that they can gobble up tough tracks in tricky conditions, and they should be very capable of another sterling performance this week. They hit a major milestone in cracking the top 15 at Maryland, where they finished fourteenth in great company, and while that’ll be a tough result to recreate here, this track will offer big-jumping Barry lots of fun challenges. They won’t be among the fastest finishers, and have picked up 8, 10, and 33.6 time penalties, respectively, in their three five-stars so far, but they’ve also jumped clear on the final day in two of the three, so there’s lots of ground for them to make up on the leaderboard over the course of the weekend – and we can guarantee that they’ll pick up plenty of new fans in the process with their gumption and pizzazz.
Emily has made this dream come true with a bit of creativity and a lot of help from her friends, family, and supporters, who helped her put on a fundraising auction this spring full of some pretty brilliant lots. The fact that she had to have knee surgery on April 9th after a misstep lead to a tear on her lateral meniscus didn’t dampen her spirits at all ahead of Badminton, but the months of healing and an exciting summer spent training in England will mean they’re well and truly back on form this week. Their great run at Hartpury CCI4*-S, which is built to be a Burghley prep, proved that in spades.
30. Sarah Bullimore and Corouet
Eleven-year-old British-bred Sport Horse gelding (Balou de Rouet x Lilly Corinne). Owned by the Kew Jumping Syndicate.
Dear little ‘Elfie’ is just 15.2hh (and even that might be an optimistic measurement), but he has enough personality to fill Winners Avenue. He’s always been a particularly special horse for Sarah and her husband, Brett: they bred him themselves, pairing Sarah’s 2015 European Championships ride Lilly Corinne with the mercurial stallion Balou de Rouet, who’s also the sire of Sarah’s longtime five-star partner Reve du Rouet. Balou babies have the well-earned reputation of being as tricky and sensitive as they are talented, but it would be hard to find a rider more tactful than Sarah, and horses who require enormous tact thrive under her careful production.
Like Reve du Rouet, who was 13th there in 2014, he made his five-star debut at Kentucky — and in doing so, he came forward as one of the hottest prospects to win the whole thing. As it happened, though, he went into cross-country in second place and then jumped around in orbit mode, going just a touch too green and picking up a late 20 as a result. It was disappointing, no doubt, but he’ll have learned a huge amount from the experience.
He’s certainly equipped to deliver a first-phase result that’ll challenge anyone in this field: he regularly scores in the low 20s and put a decisive 19.6 down in Burgham’s CCI4*-S last season. We’ve seen those scores fluctuate up to the high 20s and even across the 30 mark in the not-too-distant past, but with every outing, the gelding looks physically stronger and also more willing to concede that team work does, in fact, make the dream work.
Speaking of dreams, he certainly made a few come true last season. He and Sarah took the individual bronze medal at the European Championships in Avenches, which was Sarah’s first call-up to a Senior championship squad since she got the chance to ride as an individual at Blair in 2015 with the gelding’s dam. She’s consistently been listed as a reserve, leading her to jokingly (and a little wistfully) refer to herself as the British team ‘super sub’, but at Avenches, she was rightfully selected to go and proved exactly why when she finished on a score of 23.6. There’s been a few moments of rotten bad luck that have stopped her taking a five-star with Reve du Rouet so far, but with this incredibly special little horse, it looks like a fresh start and a renaissance for this extraordinarily underrated rider who’s well overdue her big moment.
31. JP Sheffield and Kiltar OBOS — DEBUTANT HORSE
Twelve-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (OBOS Quality x Photo Finish, by Hallodri). Owned by Anne Marling and Sue Wilkinson.
Longtime competitor JP might have crossed your radar for reasons beyond his own eventing results previously — he’s also an excellent producer of horses, and plenty of top-level competitors can be traced back to him, including Allie Knowles’s late, wonderful mare Ms Poppins and Fiona Kashel’s Creevagh Silver de Haar. That focus on producing often means that the good ones go to new homes before they reach the top, though, and that’s been rather the case for JP’s string — which means that, despite a wealth of experience at five-star events around Europe, he hasn’t actually competed at this level since 2012.
Child prodigy Kiltar OBOS, though, has stepped up to the plate in a big way, and will make his five-star debut here in what is just his thirteenth FEI start. He’s never had a cross-country jumping penalty in any of his international runs, and he’s naturally a pretty swift horse, too, though his dressage is generally in the high-30s to low-4os and his showjumping isn’t quite there yet. But for JP, the aim this week will be to prioritise his horse’s education in a sympathetic, forward-thinking way — and that’s where he really excels as a rider.
33. Felicity Collins and RSH Contend’Or
Thirteen-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Nintender x Coulonia, by Toulon). Owned by Vicky Collins and Avrina Milton.
RSH Contend OR is one of Felicity’s self-produced horses, and easily her most impressive: he helped her win the under-21 national title at Houghton in 2017, and then partnered her to 13th place at that summer’s Young Rider European Championships. That autumn, she moved him up to CCI4*-S, and he finished 14th in the eight- and nine-year-old class at Blenheim. In 2018, he was clear around Blenheim’s CCI4*-L, and this year, the pair finished 15th in the Young Rider Europeans, at which the team won gold and the dynamic duo were chosen as pathfinders. They made their five-star debut at Pau in 2019, and though they didn’t complete, they learned an enormous amount about the complexities of this level. Since then, we’ve seen them finish in the top ten in CCI4*-S classes at Barbury and Burnham Market, and they jumped around the CCI4*-L for under-25s at Bicton in June of last year, finishing thirteenth with 20 penalties under their belt. They then returned for the pop-up CCI5*, finishing tenth. This year, we saw them come forward for their first Badminton, where they were very good for 21st place.
Remarkably, Felicity has competed horses at each of the national age finals – and she ticked all those boxes as a teenager, which just proves her innate ability to produce a youngster carefully and considerately. ‘Mickey’ certainly isn’t anyone’s ride, but Felicity has produced him sympathetically and has a super relationship with the talented, quirky gelding, who’s waiting in the wings for his moment to shine. This course feels made for him, and they should climb through the weekend – particularly on Sunday, where he’s one of the most reliable horses in the field. Another top ten finish could be on the cards.
34. Andrew Heffernan and Gideon — DEBUTANT HORSE
Eleven-year-old KWPN gelding (Lucky Boy x Cinderella, by DK Induc). Owned by Gill Shea, Yvonne Watson, and the rider.
Dutch team trainer Andy Heffernan returns to five-star for the first time since 2017, this time with his lovely young horse Gideon. This attractive horse is still at an educational juncture of his career, but he’s really starting to come into his own, as a quick clear at Bramham CCI4*-L in June proved. They finished seventeenth there, adding just four time penalties across the country, and that’s one of the best bits of evidence you can come across that proves a horse is capable of going the distance here. The aim this week won’t be to record a hugely competitive result, but merely to lay some groundwork — but Gideon is good enough that an exciting result could just come along quite naturally. He’s a low 30s scorer that has gone into the 20s enough times to be a habit, and he’s at his quickest in a long-format competition. He’ll probably have two rails down on Sunday, but could still really impress this week.
35. Tom Rowland and Possible Mission
Fifteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Temple Clover x Bahrain Supreme). Owned by Robin and Bunny Patrick.
The aptly-named ‘Hunter’ was purchased from a hunting yard in Ireland when he was five, by which point he already had two years’ experience jumping colossal drains, banks, and gates. Unsurprisingly, he’s a reliable cross-country horse, although he finds showjumping a bit spooky. The pair tackled their first five-star in 2018at Burghley, finishing a very creditable 27th after a slow clear. That was enough to qualify them for Badminton, where they jumped clear for 36th place. The horse was just a twelve-year-old then, and it’s one of the nasty knock-on effects of the pandemic that we now see those young, early-career five-star horses coming back as very low-mileage teenagers, having lost a couple of valuable seasons in the prime of their competitive careers.
Hunter sat out 2020, but returned in 2021 to finish seventh in a hot field at Houghton Hall CCIO4*-S, adding nothing to their dressage score of 32.3 and proving that they do have speed on their side if they need it. They delivered another clear — though with an activated pin — at Badminton this year, finishing 46th. They suit a big, tough track, and though their mid-30s score and relatively steady cruising speed doesn’t make them a threat to the obvious leaders, they’re on the hunt for the top twenty finish they’re very capable of.
36. Zara Tindall and Class Affair
Thirteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (OBOS Quality x Ruby’s Rosshaven Flight, by Laughtons Flight). Owned by Gleadhill House Stud Ltd.
I’m already steeling myself for the avalanche of paparazzi that storm through the mixed zone when poor Zara is just trying to do her job on English soil, but equally, it’s such a treat to get this pair back on this side of the pond after they opted to head to Maryland last year. They picked up a 20 there but completed, and have previously contested Burghley back in 2019, where their day ended with a rider fall at the Leaf Pit. Class Affair is brimming with talent but isn’t necessarily the most straightforward horse; when he’s on form, he can slip sub-30 in the first phase and deliver an efficient, convincing cross-country round, and he’s a pretty good show jumper, too — but you never quite know whether you’re getting the angel or the devil on his shoulder, and in his 22 runs at four- and five-star, he’s run into trouble across the country in ten of them. Good runs in his last two CCI4*-S outings, at Barbury and Hartpury, bode well — but Zara will have a fair job on her hands this week. Fortunately, the former World Champion is well up to the challenge.
37. Tim Price and Vitali
Twelve-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Contender x Noble Lady I, by Heraldik). Owned by Joe and Alex Giannamore and the rider.
Tim inherited his Tokyo mount from fellow Kiwi James Avery in early 2021, after the gelding had had a couple of years out. They promptly won Strzegom CCI4*-L, the gelding’s debut at the level, just a couple of weeks after joining forces, and they were sixth in the CCI4*-S class at Luhmühlen last year, securing their place at the Olympics. It went a bit pear-shaped on the final day there, with three poles falling, but they returned to international competition at Houghton CCIO4*-S this spring to take the dressage lead on 21.2 and hold it with an excellent clear jumping round before withdrawing. The gelding then made his five-star debut at Luhmühlen, finishing tenth after dropping several places with his three rails down. Then, he came back and won the British Open Championship at Gatcombe, where he showjumped clear, and Tim is feeling confident that he’s got the phase very nearly sussed with this talented horse.
There’s a very strong chance that this is your dressage leader this week, and he’s a real weapon across the country — and time will tell if the Sunday goes to plan. If it does, he’ll give stablemates Polystar and Bango a real run for their money, and Tim a chance of finishing three horses in the top ten — an impressive feat indeed if he can manage it.
38. Oliver Townend and Tregilder
Twelve-year-old British-bred Sport Horse gelding (Royal Concorde x Trewins, by Hand In Glove). Owned by the Hazeldines and Mitchell Fox Group.
It seems like every time a five-star entry list comes out, Tregilder is on it — and then, at the eleventh hour, he’s always taken off again. This is ordinarily because Oliver has such an abundance of top-level horses that the rookie gelding, who was bred by Preci-Spark, has to step back to make way for one of his more competitive stablemates — but at Bicton last year, we finally got the chance to see how he fares at five-star. As it turns out, the answer was very well — despite hitting a MIMclip, he finished seventh.
Here, as at Bicton, the 2018 Blair CCI4*-S winner is the second of Oliver’s horses, so will be able to make use of the intel that his rider has picked up around the course, and he’s also the very last horse in the draw, so by the time he leaves the start box, there won’t be much that isn’t known about the track’s secrets. That’ll serve him well, because he could actually be well in the hunt after the first phase: we’ll be looking at a score in the high-20s to very low-30s, though he can and sometimes does fluctuate well above or below that benchmark, and he’s generally a quick horse. There was certainly a period in which a question mark loomed over his head: he was eliminated in the CCI4*-S at Houghton in May of last year, because he refused a double of corners three times, and Oliver also fell from him early in the course at Burnham Market at the start of the season. Since then, though, he’s been on flying form, finishing in the top ten in all four of his most recent FEI runs. Compared to Oliver’s last ride, Swallow Springs, he’s less of an obvious champion — instead, he’s rather more of a dark horse in that if all goes well, he has every chance, but Oliver may have to take it fence by fence.
39. Kate Shapland and Uris Cavalier — DEBUTANT PAIR
Fourteen-year-old British-bred Sport Horse mare (Uranium du Hossoit x Smoothstep Cavalier, by Cavalier Royale). Owned by Judith Shapland and the rider.
Life must feel rather like a pony novel right now for Kate Shapland, who comes forward to her first five-star with the horse she’s produced through the levels — and the only horse she’s ever ridden in FEI events. They’ve got a super bond that has seen them finish seventh in Bramham’s under-25 CCI4*-L and at Blair Castle CCI4*-L in 2021. At just 22, Kate has been dreaming about a Burghley run since visiting the event as a child, and now, with her feisty, strong-willed partner, it’s all about to happen.
They’ll likely post a low-40s score to start their week, which will take the pressure off them going into Saturday, where they’ll focus on a confidence-building clear round. They’ve never yet faulted in this phase at an FEI event, and they’re pretty quick, too, which gives them a ladder to climb — and though they’re prone to a couple of rails on Sunday, that completion will be a huge moment in this young rider’s career.
40. Kristina Hall-Jackson and CMS Google — DEBUTANT PAIR
Twelve-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Baltimore x Shalom Internet, by Cavalier). Owned by the rider.
25-year-old Kristina is one of the youngest riders in the field and her step up to this level is a hotly-anticipated one — and one that couldn’t really come at a better time, in terms of the support she’s been receiving over the last year or so. Like Harry Mutch, she’s a part of the Wesko Equestrian Foundation programme, which provides a selection of up-and-coming British riders with training and support from Pippa Funnell, with whom she’s worked hard to refine all three phases and develop a horse-first approach to production.
The star of her stable, and her ride this week, is the exciting CMS Google, with whom she finished sixth in Bramham’s tough CCI4*-L this summer — a career-best result for both. They’ve gone sub-30 at four-star before, but a score hovering just below the mid-30s feels more likely this week, and if their Bramham run is anything to go by, they should deliver a strong performance on Saturday. Because it’s a debut for both, they may well opt to run a little slower, but they’re undoubtedly capable of a quick run, as they proved when picking up just 2.8 time penalties over the hilly Bramham track. On Sunday, they should jump clear, and could really step into the spotlight as a result.
42. Hollie Swain and Solo
Thirteen-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding (Solos Landtinus x Manie Af Sulsted, by Praestegardens Hamlet). Owned by John Bodenham.
UK-based Kiwi Hollie made her five-star debut with the colossal Solo, who stands at over 17.2hh, at Luhmühlen this year, finishing a very respectable eighteenth after a steady run across the country. He can be a bit of a tricky character in the first phase, with scores fluctuating between the low-to-mid 30s and the low 50s, but he’s been a good servant at the upper levels, allowing Hollie to accrue some useful mileage. They’ll almost certainly opt for a steady, educational run rather than a competitive one, and they aren’t likely to be particularly quick, but ticking the Burghley box will be a huge moment for this hard-working up-and-coming rider, who comes from a family of racehorse trainers in New Zealand’s South Island and cut her teeth in the UK as a rider for Jock Paget at the height of his career.
43. Susie Berry and Ringwood LB — DEBUTANT HORSE
Thirteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Iroko x Seoidin Alainn, by Master Imp). Owned by Helen and Nick Caton.
Ireland’s bright young star Susie made her own five-star debut at Badminton this spring, where she was very impressive indeed with the former Jonty Evans ride John the Bull — and this week, she tackles her first Burghley with another horse she’s inherited from her fellow countryman. Though the gelding can be a little tricky — a testament, really, to that Master Imp on his dam’s side — he’s also precociously talented, and has had some excellent results recently, including eighth at Chatsworth CCI4*-S, fifth at Bramham CCI4*-L, and twelfth at Burgham CCI4*-S. That’s a definite step in the right direction after a rider fall in their season opener at Thoresby CCI4*-S, a 20 at Boekelo last year, and another 20 in the under-25 CCI4*-L at Bicton last year, and Albie has looked more committed and focused this year than ever before.
Their high 20s score will put them in a good position going into cross-country, where education will be a priority but competitive performance is certainly on the agenda, too. When this horse is on his A game, he’s exceptionally quick, and we could see them catapult themselves right into the business end of the leaderboard. They’re prone to a rail on the final day, but that shouldn’t dull the shine of what could be a very good week for this pair.
44. Arthur Duffort and Toronto d’Aurois
Fifteen-year-old Selle Français gelding (Polack II x Jovaly d’Aurois, by Daloubet d’Evordes). Owned by Julie and Paul Gatien and the rider.
British-based Arthur is no slouch — he’s been hard at work since his days riding for Andrew Nicholson, building himself a solid string of horses and chasing the five-star dream. He finally achieved it last year, making his five-star debut at Burghley, where he and Toronto finished in the top 30 after one green wobble on course.
After some teething problems in the horse’s first year at the four-star level, Toronto seems to be on a roll – he’s jumped seven consecutive clears at the level, making light work of tough tracks like Hartpury, Blair, and Bramham. Like many horses, he had a reasonably quiet couple of years, but did manage trips to Pau in 2020 and 2021, and looked at his best at Badminton this spring, where he finished 34th on a confident, fairly quick cross-country round.
This pair have been gaining essential experience at the five-star level after completing Burghley with a 20 in 2019, jumping clear at Pau in 2020, and sort of jumping clear again last year, though they did pick up a technical elimination late on course there. It didn’t do either of them any harm, though, and they can certainly be considered as going from strength to strength. This is a great chance to consolidate on the confidence they picked up at Badminton and really see how much they can climb. Toronto is a high-30s scorer and a one-to-two rail sort of horse, so that climb is essential.
45. Michael Owen and Bradeley Law
Eighteen-year-old British-bred Sport Horse gelding (Mill Law x Scarlet Lady, breeding unknown). Owned by the Jenning’s Syndicate.
With six five-stars under his belt, the bright and beautiful Bradeley Law isn’t short of experience at this level, and he and Michael’s partnership stretches back to 2013, when Michael took the reins from Mary Lofthouse at the CCI3*-L level. Their best result at the level is 15th at Burghley in 2018, when they added just 7.2 time penalties across the country to their 40.1 dressage, proving that they can climb if there’s a tough course for them to sink their teeth into.
Their first-phase performances have improved a bit since then, and will likely be nearer the mid-to-high-30s, and they’re generally fairly consistent, though they finished their 2019 season with 20s at Burghley and Burgham and had a pin at Bicton last year, after which they withdrew before the final phase. We’ve not seen them since then, and although that Burghley result in 2018 represented a particularly quick round for them, so we know it’s in there, we probably won’t see it again this week — but they’re very capable of putting in a strong performance for another top good finish.
47. Cedric Lyard and Unum De’Or
Fourteen-year-old Anglo Arab gelding (Yarlands Summer Song x Fee du Logis, by Prince Ig’Or). Owned by Marie-Christine Duroy and Renaud de Lauriere and the rider.
Unum made his five-star debut last season at Pau, performing admirably to take ninth place after adding 2.4 time penalties on cross-country, and a further 1.6 in showjumping, to his 31.6 dressage. Prior to that, he’d been a horse that performed respectably but never really made a splash, largely due to his high-30s dressage marks – but the notable exception to this, other than that Pau run, is his trip to Bramham to contest the CCI4*-L in 2018. We say it a lot, but that’s because it bears repeating: Bramham is as tough as a four-star gets, with huge terrain challenges to match the tough, big, bold and technical Ian Stark track. If a horse does well there, it says an awful lot about what they’ll go on to do in future. In 2018, Unum was ninth, and his 1.2 time penalty cross-country round was one of the fastest of the day.
He’s reliably quick, and mostly reliable, though he’s had the odd blip, including a 20 in a CCI3*-L at Haras du Pin in 2020 and a retirement on course at Badminton this spring. Since then, they’ve been second in a CCI4*-S at Maarsbergen and 20th in a huge, super-competitive field at Haras du Pin CCIO4*-S, which featured much of the Pratoni line-up. His showjumping, too, tends to be pretty consistent, and is usually at its best on the final day of a three-day. The major stumbling block for him will be the first phase, which is generally a mid-to-high 30s affair, but did dip down quite excitingly to the very low 30s at Pau. This is a bigger field, though, and we’re expecting the marking to be tougher as a result. Look to them to work on a big climb, particularly because the French and their penchant for forward distances tends to work quite well with Burghley’s open track.
48. William Fox-Pitt and Oratorio II
Thirteen-year-old British-Bred Sport Horse gelding (Oslo Biats x Cinnamon Brulee, by Topanoora). Owned by the Oratorio Syndicate.
This is an exceptional horse who, on his day, could take the spoils here – but he’s not quite as consistent as, say, the Toledos of the world, so it’s not quite as cut-and-dry a prospect. It’s certainly in his blood to top a five-star, though: his sire, Oslo, won Pau five-star back in 2011 with William aboard, and Oratorio has no shortage of talent.
Oratorio first stepped up to five-star in 2019, jumping clear around Badminton and finished 13th, and like many top horses, he had a quiet 2020. Last year, he headed to Kentucky, where he was putting in a seriously competitive showing — until an odd blip very late on course put him on the floor. We saw a couple of very experienced horses suffer the same fate at the same fence, and so we won’t hold that against the gelding, who was likely caught out by some odd lighting, or a slippery take-off, or some combination of factors. He headed to Bicton CCI5* in September for a second go and again, was running well — until he had a nosebleed, his first ever, mid-course. William opted to pull him up and take him home for thorough investigations, and then rerouted to Pau – where they picked up a 20 at the second water. He was briefly campaigned by Harry Meade this spring before Badminton while William was sidelined, and then William himself took the ride back for a fourteenth place finish at Badminton, which was his last international outing.
Oratorio’s mother was a point-to-pointer, though she was known for her sheer strength and force of will perhaps more than anything else. Those attributes have shown through loud and clear in the sparky and clever Rio.
“He’s absolutely blood, and he doesn’t know the meaning of ‘hard’ in any phase, on any day, ever. It’s exhausting at my age,” William told EN at Blenheim in 2018, where the pair finished second in the CCI4*-L. “I’m quite looking forward to the day when he says, ‘right, okay, let’s go onto the bridle a bit now!’ At my age, I quite like them to purr around a bit, but he’s a double handful. Sometimes the ‘woah’ can take 25 strides!”
Badminton in 2019 and this year proved how classy he is, despite some excesses of enthusiasm. After his thirteenth place finish, he even made William go rather soppy on us, as he told us, “For a while I did wonder what I was doing [coming back to the sport]. But suddenly, at 50, I see a future. Who says that at 50?!”
Rio was originally produced to two-star by Laura Collett, largely because William worried he’d be small like his 15.2hh dam, and partly because William wasn’t sure how much longer he’d want to stay at the top level anyway. Since taking the reins in 2017, though, William and Rio have notched up some pretty impressive results, including a second place finish in Blenheim’s CCI4*-L in 2018. They should put a high-20s score on the board — their Bicton score was a 27, and Pau was a 27.4 — and this time, we hope to see them cross the finish line with smiles on their faces again. If they do, expect them to be fighting for a top ten this time.
49. Bubby Upton and Cola III
Twelve-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Catoki x Vanessa XII, by Contender). Owned by Rachel Upton.
This isn’t 23-year-old Bubby’s first five-star — she ticked that box last year at Pau — but it is her first Burghley, and as we went into her Badminton debut this spring, the British eventing community had been rather waiting on tenterhooks for the moment this fierce talent would step up to the level on home soil. She certainly impressed enormously in the first phase, and the vast majority of the second phase, with her Burghley mount Cola — but an extraordinarily unlucky run-out at the final fence will have been on her mind as she’s been training ever since, and she’ll be coming to Burghley hungry for the result she should have earned there.
The current British under-25 national champion has already proven herself against many of the world’s very best riders, consistently placing in enormous four-star fields with her string of horses. That string continues to blossom and grow, too: she’s supported by Cheddington in the West Country alongside Chris Burton, and after his recent retirement from eventing she took on two of his rides in Blenheim CCI4*-S winner Clever Louis and Jefferson. She’s represented Britain at Pony, Junior, and Young Rider level, winning silver individual medals at Pony and Young Rider European Championships and becoming Junior European Champion in 2017 with Eros DHI.
Her mount, Cola, has been a horse she’s grown up alongside. They’ve been to two Young Rider Europeans together, winning team gold and individual silver in 2019, and have ticked off plenty of milestones on their journey up the levels. They haven’t just focused on Bubby’s age classes, either: they contested the CCI4*-S for eight- and nine-year-olds at Blenheim in 2019, finishing in the top twenty. At their five-star debut last year, they finished 12th, just dropping out of the placings after tipping two rails on the final day — but the strength of their performances, particularly across the country, shone through. They finished inside the time and Bubby rode with a maturity well beyond her years, which is something we’ve seen from her time and time again.
This really does feel like the time for young British talent to rise to the top, and Bubby will be looking to follow in the footsteps of Luhmühlen winner Mollie Summerland and Kentucky runner-up Yasmin Ingham in delivering a serious set of performances for a very good finish. They should start out sub-30, and they’re among the fastest four-star pairs in the field. Showjumping remains their slightly weaker phase, and there’ll be plenty of crossed fingers in the Upton camp as she tackles the final phase, but they delivered a very classy clear at Badminton, and there are few riders as game-faced and focused as Bubby, who has been balancing her riding career with her university studies until her graduation from Edinburgh earlier this year.
50. Helen Wilson and My Ernie
Thirteen-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Cardento x Whoopiminka, by Cantos). Owned by the rider.
It’ll be just the 14th FEI start for diminutive Ernie, but don’t underestimate what he and Helen could do this week. We were delighted to see Helen back at this level at Badminton, sixteen years after her last five-star runs, and she returns with an exceptional partnership with this horse. She picked him up very cheaply because he was a bit of a tricky youngster and nearly impossible to travel, and as a result, she made his formative years as straightforward for him as possible, choosing to prioritise hunting with the Surrey Union instead of chasing eventing results. He proved a catty, clever, and supremely scopy jumper, and in mid-2019, Helen decided to give him a go out eventing. He finished that season with a flurry of rosettes at BE100 and Novice (US Prelim), and in 2020, he stepped up to Intermediate and contested his first FEI events, picking up third place in the CCI3*-S at Cornbury. Last year, he stepped up to four-star, and though he did have one educational 20 in his second run at Houghton Hall, he’s generally been on the up and up since.
His sixth place finish in the CCI4*-L at Blenheim felt like something of an inevitability, despite not having previously placed at the level, because he’s such an exceptional galloping and jumping machine. They finished on their dressage score of 31.7 there, climbing from an initial 26th place, and although the gelding has had a bit of an up-and-down 2022, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if he did something very similar here. Certainly the track will work in his favour: it’s been designed to reward competitors who train outside the arena, and a horse with extensive hunting mileage will find nothing to shy at in its variable terrain and multitude of questions. Their Badminton experience didn’t quite go to plan, with a rider fall after some issues on course, and they had teething problems at Barbury CCI4*-S, too, but both horse and rider have all the right stuff. If it can all slot into place this week, they could record a fairytale finish.
51. Sammi Birch and Finduss PFB
Twelve-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Saffier x Belle Miranda, by Sarantos). Owned by Parkfield Breeding and the rider.
Sammi, who began her career riding ex-racehorses and relocated to England back in 2005, is one of Australia’s biggest stars, and perhaps best known in conjunction with top horse Hunter Valley II, with whom she was fourth at Pau in 2017. She’s also tough as nails, though it’s rare to see her without a warm smile on her face: in 2018, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and went through chemotherapy and a major surgery to remove the cancerous cells while still riding and competing at the top level. She balanced that with raising her young son and dealing with the heartbreak of missing the WEG that year due to a horse injury.
Talented Finduss PFB has been produced by a few leading ladies of the sport — first Holly Woodhead, who used to be Parkfield Breeding’s rider in residence and took him to the Seven Year Old World Championships and his first forays at four-star, and then, very briefly, by Laura Collett. He moved to British-based Australian Sammi’s string in early 2019 and has gone from strength to strength since, with classy clears and top ten finishes in four-star classes at Barroca d’Alva, as well as clear rounds at Burgham CCI4*-S and Bicton’s two major fixtures last season.
‘Loopy Louis’, as he’s fondly known at home, made his five-star debut at Britain’s ‘pop-up’ five-star at Bicton last autumn, where he redeemed himself after a rather interpretive dressage test to ultimately finish in eleventh place. He then went to Badminton this spring, where he finished 25th after adding just 5.6 time on Saturday and a rail on Sunday to his first-phase score of 38.7.
Louis wouldn’t be the fastest of our field this year, but he is a stayer – and if Burghley’s course under new designer Derek di Grazia lives up to its reputation of old, his resilience and keenness should see him go the distance, which will boost him up the standings. The final phase has historically yielded a rail, or sometimes two, for the gelding, but he didn’t have a single pole down in 2021 at the national or international levels, so we’re expecting him to make the best of Sunday and earn himself a respectable finish.
52. Selina Milnes and Iron
Thirteen-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Aquilino x Ushuaia, by Donnerschlag). Owned by William Rucker.
Over the last few seasons, Selina and Iron have, quietly and without fanfare, become serious British contenders at the upper levels, and so the gelding’s five-star debut at Pau last year came with high expectations indeed. Their super results at four-star last season include tenth at Blair CCI4*-S, fourth in the British Open Championships, tenth at Barbury CCI4*-S, and second — to William Fox-Pitt and Little Fire — at Houghton Hall CCIO4*-S this spring. They’ve also previously finished fourth in Blenheim’s CCI4*-L in 2018 and third in Bramham’s CCI4*-L — arguably the toughest in the sport — in 2019. And at Pau? They were eighth, adding just 4.4 time penalties across the country and 0.8 in showjumping to their first-phase score of 30.1. They’ve proven themselves over and over again, including at Badminton this spring, where they were a little slower than usual but finished well in 24th place.
Incredibly, Pau was Selena’s own return to the top level for the first time since 2012, when she contested Luhmühlen with the excellent Bodidily, with whom she finished 13th at Burghley the year prior. We’ll be looking to this pair to score between 29 and 31, and on Saturday, they should deliver a reasonably efficient clear — they added just 1.2 time penalties at Bramham in 2019, which is a galloping, big course with bold terrain, very different from the tight, twisty Pau course over which he was fractionally slower. In any case, he tends to showjump best on the final day, so should deliver a clear — and that will pay dividends this week. There’s a big dream being chased here, and nobody in the inner circles of the sport would be surprised to see them finish in the top ten.
53. Tom Jackson and Capels Hollow Drift
Eleven-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Shannondale Sarco St Ghyvan x Lucky Crest, by Lucky Gift). Owned by Patricia Davenport, Milly Simmie, and Sarah Webb.
Originally piloted by Georgie Campbell to two-star, this smart grey joined Tom’s stable in early 2018 and has been quietly impressing since. In their 16 FEI starts together, they’ve finished in the top eleven 11 times, including a second place finish in the 2018 Seven-Year-Old World Championships, an eleventh-place finish in the 2020 eight- and nine-year-old CCI4*-S, which is ordinarily held at Blenheim, and eighth in the very tough CCI4*-L at Bicton last June.
‘Walshy’ is naturally swift and very reliable, too, with just one mistake across the country in his international career. His first-phase performances tend to fluctuate, though – he proved at three-star that he can go sub-30, but it’s only happened for him once at four-star, and that was at Burgham last month. At Badminton this spring, though, he put a 30.3 on the board and ultimately finished sixteenth after three very impressive phases. Every season his showjumping gets better and better, too, so we could see him make one big final leap up the leaderboard on Sunday to give Tom another great result at five-star. Apropos of nothing, the 28-year-old is a dab hand at juggling, which will come in handy if we ever get our wish and see the first horse inspection swapped for a talent competition.
54. Morven Pringle and Dunbog Gypsy Rose — DEBUTANT PAIR
Fifteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Colourfield x Glenside Molly, by Orbis). Owned by the rider.
27-year-old Scottish rider Morven makes her debut at five-star with her longtime partner, Dunbog Gypsy Rose, who was her first horse after she graduated from ponies. They joined forces when Morven was a teenager and the mare was five, and along the way, they’ve ticked all their first-time boxes together — so while Burghley is always a punchy aim for a five-star debut, they’ll have years of intrinsic understanding and trust to lean on as they make their way around Derek di Grazia’s track.
A mid-to-high 30s dressage score will keep them out of the upper echelons of the leaderboard to begin with, but their results have been getting better and better over the last couple of seasons, with a consistent string of clears dating back to 2019 and times that are getting pretty economical. They tend to be reliable show jumpers, too, so will make a good effort to fight for that Burghley debutant prize.
55. Rosie Thomas and Balladeer Humbel Guy — DEBUTANT HORSE
Twelve-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Loughehoe Guy x Humbel Lass, by Humbel). Owned by the rider.
Rosie makes her return to the level for the first time since Burghley in 2012, when she finished in the top thirty with Barry’s Best. She’s also previously acted as pathfinder here, getting the job done in fine style with a clear inside the time, and she’ll no doubt be champing at the bit to get back out of the startbox with her current stable star.
Rosie, who’s the Chief Instructor of the Ludlow Pony Club, has produced the striking Balladeer Humbel Guy throughout his international career, and although he’s not yet quite ready to be competitive in this kind of field, this will be a great educational week for him. His scores can fluctuate between the high 30s and the 50s, but he’s never had a cross-country jumping penalty at four-star. He’ll pick up a fair smattering of time penalties and will likely have a couple of rails down on Sunday, but it’s all a useful building block for the future.
56. Sarah Clark and LV Balou Jeanz
Twelve-year-old New Zealand Sport Horse gelding (Balou du Rouet x Cotton Jenny, by Colombia). Owned by the rider.
Sarah Clark has made the huge journey over from Australia to contest her first-ever Burghley after a seriously impressive string of results Down Under, including a twelfth place finish in the pair’s five-star debut at Adelaide in 2019. In their ten FEI runs since, they’ve finished in the top twenty eight times — and in the top ten six, with two wins at four-star to their name. They’re putting in some serious effort to refine the marginal gains, and their dressage scores have steadily been dropping from the upper-mid 30s to the very low 30s. Getting a 31 or thereabouts on the board here will put them in an excellent position to climb, and though they wouldn’t be among the fastest pairs in this field, they’ve made the time at CCI4*-L before and can be very economical when they need to. Still, Balou has plenty of years ahead of him and Sarah may well decide to focus on his ongoing education this week with an eye on trying to catch the time in future seasons. On the final day, they’re prone to a rail, but should be well set for a week that makes their efforts feel worthwhile.
58. Richard Skelt and Credo III
Fifteen-year-old KWPN gelding (VDL Tenerife x Tandora, by Marlon). Owned by the rider.
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, and delivered a 37.7 on his previous run here in 2019. The pair have jumped steady clears around Bramham CCI4*-L, Camphire CCI4*-L, and Bicton CCI4*-S, but they’ve picked up horse falls here and at Bicton CCI5*-L, so will be hoping their third time at the level’s the charm. 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.
59. Phil Brown and Harry Robinson – DEBUTANT PAIR
Fourteen-year-old British-bred Sport Horse gelding (Laytender x Jodie, by Ontario). Owned by Orbit Electrical Services Ltd.
It’s a five-star debut for both horse and rider — but Stamford-based Phil and his delightfully-named Harry Robinson couldn’t be more local, so expect them to have one of the biggest cheering sections of the week. That cheering will be intensified by those close to Phil who know what it’s taken to get here: he first qualified a horse for five-star six years ago and intended to run at Burghley, but injuries got in the way and the dream was never realised. Since then, it’s been back to the drawing board, and he’s worked hard to produce his charming gelding to be ready for the challenge.
Good, steady clears around Barbury CCI4*-S and Ballindenisk CCI4*-L will serve as excellent prep for this stamina test of a track, as will their clear last year around Blair Castle’s mountainous CCI4*-L, which proved that the rather hunter-y gelding can go the distance. That’s the main focus for them both this week: their high-30s to low-40s dressage and propensity for knocking a few rails will stop them from troubling the leaders, but this is an enormous milestone and a great educational experience for both horse and rider and, perhaps more importantly, the well-deserved realisation of a long-held dream.
60. Kitty King and Vendredi Biats
Thirteen-year-old Selle Français gelding (Winningmood x Liane Normande, by Camelia de Ruelles). Owned by Diana Bown, Sally Lloyd Baker, Sally Eyre and Samantha Wilson.
It was on a knife edge whether Kitty and her talented team partner, known at home as ‘Froggy’, would be heading to Pratoni or getting a crack at Burghley, but the latter has won out — and Italy’s loss is our gain, as this pair could well run away with the whole thing this week.
On their day, they’re extraordinarily competitive, and can count a Bramham CCI4*-L win in 2019 among their achievements. In 39 FEI starts, they’ve clocked up 24 top-ten finishes, and their mid-20s (or below!) dressage tests see them at the business end of the leaderboard in any company. Froggy is naturally very swift, and he’s a great show jumper, too – but he hasn’t always been totally reliable across the country. He’s a typical cheeky Frenchman and can lose a bit of focus on course, and though it certainly looks like those days are behind him, we’ve seen him break hearts on more than one occasion previously.
If he behaves himself and commits to the job this week, as he should do, he’ll be fighting for a placing here. He’s a very, very good horse, and Kitty is an exceptional jockey — and the element of chance that’s historically ridden along with this pair appears to have fallen off and given up the game. At this stage, they’re a formidable partnership, and they come here riding high on the back of a ninth place finish and team gold at last year’s European Championships and a two-year streak of being exceptional across the country. Their dressage, which flirts with the mid-20s, will put them in the topmost echelons at the start of the competition, and they should deliver a quick clear on Saturday, followed by one of the showjumping rounds of the day on Sunday. The only question mark that really lingers here is the distance — Burghley is unique in its relentlessness, and we’ve not seen Froggy over a course of similar scope, though he was excellent for seventh place over Badminton’s gruelling track this year.
61. Emma Hyslop-Webb and Darrant — DEBUTANT HORSE
Fourteen-year-old KWPN gelding (Warrant x Noberlina, by Lux). Owned by the rider.
Five-star stalwart Emma Hyslop-Webb debuts a new ride at the level in Darrant, after an admittedly topsy-turvy run-up to the big day. Since stepping up to four-star in 2020, he’s had a couple of good results, including a steady run for twelfth place at Blair CCI4*-L last summer and 35th in Bramham’s CCI4*-S this year, but he’s also had his fair share of teething problems as he’s learned his job. In his ten four-star runs, he’s delivered three clears, but he was also something of a child prodigy in his first year at the international levels, easily bounding his way up from his first two-star to three-star in just a couple of months.
This isn’t his week to be competitive — instead, it’ll be about consolidating the education he’s had along the way, and Emma will more likely than not run him slowly, allowing for a couple of long routes and a confidence-building round rather than gunning for glory.
62. Ros Canter and Pencos Crown Jewel
Thirteen-year-old British-bred Sport Horse gelding (Jumbo x Cornish Queen, by Rock King). Owned by Kate James and Annie Makin.
This will be a second five-star for the very good Pencos Crown Jewel, who finished fourth in her level debut at Bicton’s pop-up Burghley replacement last year. Since then, she’s been on electric form, finishing 20th in a huge CCI4*-S season opener field at Thoresby Park, then taking third at Chatsworth CCI4*-S, second in Bramham’s achingly tough CCI4*-L, and eighth in Hartpury’s CCI4*-S, which is built to serve as a Burghley prep.
Though she’s unlikely to lead the dressage, she shouldn’t be far behind — her scores are consistently in the high 20s, and Burghley is a competition that allows for big moves up the leaderboard for horses that can go the distance and get the job done. Pencos Crown Jewel has certainly proven she can do that, with thirteen top ten finishes from her 24 FEI runs and a naturally fast rhythm that allows her to attack courses with easy efficiency. She’s prone to a rail, partly because she can be quite spooky, but her focus and technique in the final phase at Bramham, where a fence was blown down by a strong gust of wind mid-round, showed that she may well be beyond all that. She went clear and didn’t so much as flick an ear in its direction. Keep an eye on her this week.
63. Pippa Funnell and Majas Hope
Fifteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Porter Rhodes x Brown Sue). Owned by the rider.
Pippa has long ridden the reliable Majas Hope for owner Marek Sebestak, but was given ownership of the horse over the off-season, and so comes here in the rare position of being an owner-rider. It’s a financial gamble to do so for any rider, but Majas Hope is, fittingly, what we’d call a banker –- he goes out, puts his head down, and does his job every time, without much pomp or circumstance, but enormously reliably. That quality has led to him being selected for the British team: in 2019, he was the pathfinder at the European Championships and stormed home clear and inside the time, helping the team to gold and taking 22nd individually.
Since then, his weakest phase has taken a major turn for the better. He was a solid mid-30 scorer, but Pippa has put plenty of time and patience into producing more consistent work on the flat — and that, plus a swap to a double bridle, has seen him deliver four sub-30 scores out of his six FEI runs in 2021. His last two, the tough CCI4*-S and the inaugural ‘pop-up’ CCI5* at Bicton, saw him finish in the ribbons, and though Pippa retired him on course in Bicton’s CCI4*-S earlier last year, he was on good form at Kentucky this year, finishing fourteenth after being slightly hamstrung by a disappointing 35.2 dressage.
He’s got previous Burghley form, so we know he’s up to the distance: he was thirteenth here in 2018, and though he’s not had any other runs at the event, his scant 4.8 time penalties on that occasion are very exciting indeed. He could well be fighting for a top ten this week.
64. Cathal Daniels and Rioghan Rua
Fifteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Jack of Diamonds x Highland Destiny, by Flagmount King). Owned by Frank and Margaret Kinsella.
It’s a bit of a surprise not to see the 2019 Europeans individual bronze medallists on the Irish team for Pratoni, but she’ll come to Burghley with a damn good chance of making something very big happen for her talented jockey. This is one of the fastest horses in the field, despite standing just a 15.2hh (and an angry 15.2hh at that), and she’s enormously consistent over the toughest of tracks. She and Cathal partnered up when she was just five and he was a teenager, and the plan was originally for him to produce her and sell her on for owners and breeders Frank and Margaret Kinsella — but by the following year, they’d qualified for and competed at the Junior European Championships, finishing seventh. As a seven-year-old, she went to the Young Horse World Championships, finishing sixteenth, and the same year, she and Cathal went to the Junior European Championships again, this time taking individual silver. The next year, they stepped up to Young Riders, finishing sixth, and moved up to four-star, too, enjoying great success at the level. By this point, everyone involved had decided to hang onto the Red Queen, who probably would have eaten any other rider for dinner anyway, and as a nine-year-old, she stepped up to five-star at Pau. They finished twelfth there, and jumped clear around Badminton the following year, though a flapping bit of roof in the grandstand led to a disastrous dressage score of 56.4 in new money, and meant that Cathal had to focus his attentions on regaining her confidence in this phase. It came back quickly enough, and in 2018 they won a CCI4*-S at Chatsworth, finished seventh at Luhmühlen CCI5*, and went to the World Championships in Tryon, where they won team silver. In 2019, they won Bramham’s CCI4*-L for under-25s, and took that Europeans bronze, and the following year, they enjoyed great results at four-star despite the diminished season. Last year, they were sent to Tokyo as travelling reserves, then finished thirteenth at Pau, and this year, they were eleventh at Luhmühlen.
This will be Red’s first Burghley, but there’s no reason to believe she won’t be incredibly impressive over this huge track. She very, very rarely makes a mistake across the country, and Cathal is one of the world’s best riders in this phase, and they’re naturally very quick, too. Her mid-30s average is a bit of a constant frustration, but she can go lower, and Cathal is hungry for a big result for his horse of a lifetime. They’re prone to a rail, too, but their final phase round at the 2019 Europeans was a masterclass in gutsy showjumping riding, and if they’re in contention come Sunday, we’ll see this determined pair do everything they can to repeat it. A top ten should then be in the bag.
65. Tom McEwen and CHF Cooliser
Twelve-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Womanizer x Super Spring, by Ramiro B). Owned by Vicky Bates and David Myers.
This cool mare was set to make her five-star debut at Luhmühlen last year, but after that pesky German travel ban on the Brits threw a spanner in the works, she was rerouted from the land of schnitzel to the land of fine, flaky pastries. That delay allowed her to get a few more sensible runs in, including one at Blair Castle CCI4*-S, where she finished seventh. Eliza — who’s sometimes called Queen Elizabeth at home because of her royal attitude, and has to be led into the arena to work — has been with Tom since 2015, and throughout her 19 FEI runs, she’s proven a real cross-country specialist, never picking up a jumping penalty in this phase. She’s naturally efficient, too, and is getting quicker as she learns her craft – when she did make her five-star debut at Pau in October, she surprised everyone by securing an exceptional second place finish. She followed that up with a clear at Badminton this spring, finishing 27th after a steady run around and a relatively high-for-her 34.4 in the first phase.
Now, with stable star Toledo de Kerser busy with Pratoni, Tom’s sole focus for this week is Eliza. She’s proven she’s wholly capable of beating out the big guys at this level, but will have a big job on her hands this time, as her low-30s dressage will mean she has more climbing to do up the comparatively enormous leaderboard. But she’s a real machine across the country, and reasonably quick, and that’ll give her a massive amount of propulsion towards the business end of the scoreboard. On the final day, she’s prone to a rail, though does jump well on the final day under pressure, and was clear at Pau. Burghley, with its room for a serious climb up the leaderboard, could suit her well.
66. Tim Price and Polystar I – DEBUTANT HORSE
Seventeen-year-old Westfalian gelding (Polytraum x Waldbeere, by Waldstar). Owned by Trisha Rickards.
This will be just a third FEI run for Tim and the former Chris Burton ride Polystar, who returned from a long hiatus after Aachen in 2019, where he was ninth with Burto in the irons, to make a slow debut with Tim at Millstreet’s CCI3*-S in June. He followed that 24th place finish with a strong second in the CCI4*-L at Strzegom later that month, putting himself in a tidy position ahead of his five-star debut.
He’s got a very nice record indeed, with placings in nine of his eleven FEI starts with Burto, and previous wins in prestigious classes such as Saumur CCI4*-L in 2019, the British Open Championships at Gatcombe in 2018, and Arville Event Rider Masters the same year — but if anything will preclude a great result here, it’ll be the lack of mileage he and Tim have as a partnership. Still, Tim is an expert at picking up the reins and getting the job done, as he proved when he took on Vitali with such success, and this is a horse who knows his job very well. Expect a first-phase score in the high 20s, and for them to keep on fighting thereafter.
67. Oliver Townend and Swallow Springs
Fourteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Chillout x Kilila, by Cult Hero). Owned by Paul and Diana Ridgeon.
Oliver Townend’s direct reserve for Pratoni, Swallow Springs, is also one of the clear frontrunners in this field, despite only joining Oliver’s string late last season after the retirement of Andrew Nicholson. He made his five-star debut here with Andrew aboard back in 2018, finishing third, and followed it up with fifth at Badminton the next spring. He was also second at Bramham CCI4*-L in 2018 — despite being chased by a dog in his showjumping round — and won Barbury CCI4*-S twice. With Oliver aboard, he was tenth at Blenheim CCI4*-L — their first FEI event together — and won Burnham Market and Burgham CCI4*-S this year. His third place finish at Badminton this spring was impressive, but not without its dramas: the pair had a wobble early on in the course at the final element of the Quarry, and were subsequently held for over half an hour, restarted, and then eliminated retrospectively for what appeared to be a contravention of the flag rule. Ultimately, actually, it turned out that they’d been mistakenly eliminated for a horse fall, which was removed once contested, but that flag footage was a stark reminder that the specifics of that particular bit of the rule book are a little bit of a grey area even now.
Despite that, though, this is a very, very good horse who’s been produced to attack the toughest courses in a clever, economical way. He’s arguably one of the fastest horses in this field — second only, perhaps, to Classic Moet — and he’s extraordinarily reliable. His first-phase scores are impressive, too, generally hovering in the mid 20s but dipping well below them, too, and he’s a a good show jumper, though prone to a rail in a long-format. If he leaves them all up, this could well be our winner — and his position as last out of the start box on Saturday will keep spectators committed to the bitter end, even in the forecasted thunderstorms.