As we head into the cross country on Saturday Michael Jung retains his Day One lead on fischerRocana FST but shares it overnight with William Fox-Pitt on four star first timer Fernhill Pimms. Australia’s Sam Griffiths moves into third place on his faithful campaigner Happy Times. Australia’s Andrew Hoy slips a place to fourth, and Tim Price and Oliver Townend occupy equal fifth position on Ringwood Sky Boy and Armada.
Sam Griffiths now has two horses in the top 15 as Badminton winner Paulank Brockagh lies 14th after the first phase, and both did personal bests today, “I’ve been really pleased with how they’ve gone today, but as you know tomorrow is another day. It’s a pretty daunting course but they’re both quite experienced horses.”
“I’ve been working hard on the dressage with Happy Times and it’s nice to know that even as you’re getting older you can still improve, or at least that’s what I like to think! It’s a massive course out there, and I think Mark Phillips has been quite fiendish with what he’s done, there are lots of corners and narrow places where you could run out, and I think it will be a course where you’ll never feel really good until you’ve finished it because there are so many places you can get caught out.”
“I always feel that the cross country at Burghley is the toughest in the world – it’s the terrain, the size of the fences and the intensity, it’s the ultimate test, they’ve got to be amazing horses to do this and luckily I’m sat on a couple. Anyone who gets round is on a really good horse.”
William still seems in awe of his horse’s performance today at it’s first four star, “I was delighted with him; the fact that he coped so well with the atmosphere and the four flying changes — it’s a big step up and you have to admire a horse when they take that challenge and do so well. He’s a lovely horse to ride on the flat, he’s very easy and comfortable and he loves showing off, and I think there’s more to come which is exciting. “
Looking ahead to tomorrow’s cross country, “I think Mark Phillips has been very brave, everyone’s got their work cut out for them. It’s a big step up for my horse, I think he’s ready for the challenge but you never know until you ask the questions. He came here to hopefully put in a good performance and show me he’s one for the future, I just want him to go well, I don’t necessarily expect him to go clear inside the time but I want him to rise to that challenge and enjoy himself.”
At the moment William is planning on taking all the straight routes, but he has walked all the alternatives just in case, “He’s a very brave horse, he’s athletic and able but he’s quite green and he can be quite cheeky so it will be a case of just feeling how he is and if he needs a bit of an easy option at some stage I’ll certainly take it.”
Michael Jung and Fischerrocana FST could not be beaten today, but is looking ahead to the cross country tomorrow, “I have two very good horses and we’ve had a few good runs this season so I’m not too nervous, but it’s always very special when you leave the start box for a four star course. You need to be very concentrated, you need to have a good feeling for the horse, for the condition also of the course, it’s a special moment. I think the conditions are perfect, we have good weather, we have perfect ground, we have a nice beginning of the course but then it gets very tough.”
La Biosthetique Sam also did a nice test but fluffed one canter change, “I am very happy with Sam, he was very good in the beginning and then we had a little mistake in the first flying change but all in all we had a good round.”
Oliver Townend got the best score on his third and final horse, the quirky Armada, “We’re as good as we could be expeccted with all three: first horse was better than expected, second horse as expected, he was just green and he will be a good horse one day, and Armada — the good bits are getting better and better and the other bits are still there, but at the same time he’s getting closer every year. I think he got 68 the first time he came here!”
“Armada is a very good cross country horse, touch wood, but obviously getting older and occasionally I have to do things I never used to, like give him a squeeze, but I’m just happy to be here. It’s the toughest Burghley I’ve ever seen, it’s the biggest Burghley in my living memory but I am looking forward to it.”
Cross country starts at 11am Saturday morning and Lucinda Green agrees with practically everyone about the course, “It’s a corker!” She’s promised us a course preview in the morning so we’ll try and hold her to that if she stays still long enough. In the meantime, we still have an update on Tiana Coudray to come later.
Spoiler alert — she’s now the proud part owner/rider of the 2015 5 year old Burghley Young Event Horse Champion. Hoping that all the riders manage to get some sleep tonight, not sure if I will! Thank you for making Eventing Nation part of your Burghley experience. Go Eventing at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials!