It’s a strong New Zealand contingent lining up at the Land Rover Burghley International
Horse Trials this week.
Sir Mark Todd, Andrew Nicholson and Caroline Powell are all previous winners, with Tim
Price having come oh-so-close with his runner-up placing in 2015.
Sir Mark, currently ranked third in the world, will start Leonidas II, a horse he says
seems to be settling with age. “I am looking forward to this year’s Burghley. Leonidas has been in good form and has a nice draw, so I’m hoping he will go well again this year.” In 2015 the combination placed sixth.
Andrew, who holds the unique record of a hat-trick of wins at Burghley (2012-2014), has a duo of horses on the card with Nereo and Qwanza. He will be the first Kiwi to start in this year’s competition, having drawn number five on Qwanza.
Andrew also has a live claim on the Rolex Grand Slam, being the winner of this year’s Badminton Horse Trials with Nereo. If he wins Burghley this weekend, he needs to win Kentucky next year to be the third rider to take the coveted slam. Only Pippa Funnell and Michael Jung have achieved this milestone before.
Last year, Andrew and Nereo were second behind Chris Burton (Australia) and Nobilis
18. Chris withdrew from this year’s competition about a week ago.
Tim Price has his well-performed Ringwood Sky Boy and Xavier Faer entered in the
prestigious CCI4* event. Last year Tim and Sky Boy were fourth, and the year before (2015) they came second. He’s confident the course is well suited to both horses, and says, “I am very excited. I have two horses who are in great form and good physical condition and what I believe to be very well suited to Burghley. I’ve had a look at the course preview and think it looks really good and will work well for my guys. It looks difficult and will be a tight time, which will suit me too.” Both horses have good draws and he is hopeful for kind weather.
Caroline, by her own admission, has “one unknown and one old-timer” with her two, Onwards and Upwards and Spice Sensation. “Flash (Onwards and Upwards), well, he’s flash when he is flash,” she says, “and Spice is definitely feeling up for it. I always look forward to Burghley.” Caroline won this event on the marvellous Lenamore in 2010 and was eighth last year on Onwards and Upwards.
Included in the 71-strong line-up are Tina Cook and Oliver Townend – two
members of Team Great Britain’s triumphant gold medal win at the European Champs, as
well as current world number one, Michael Jung. Also on the card is 2017 Event Rider Masters Series winner Gemma Tattersall (GBR) who has been very consistent this season, with her experienced and well-performed Arctic Soul. They will be a pair to watch, for sure.
The event also sees 17 first-time combinations. Young British riders include Lincolnshire-based Sophie Brown and her home-produced Wil. Lissa Green, daughter of two-time Burghley winner Lucinda Green, was planning to ride, but her horse went lame just before the event started.
First-time international riders include Ireland’s Clare Abbott and Italy’s Vittoria Panizzon.
They’ll face strong competition from experienced combinations, including the hugely popular Zara Tindall, a former runner-up at Burghley, who this year will be riding her World Equestrian Games silver medal horse, High Kingdom.
Course designer Captain Mark Phillips says, “It is a big track. It is Burghley.”
There are 34 fences – or 52 obstacles if you count all the alternatives. “It will be very difficult to get time,” says Captain Phillips, himself a former winner. “I have given riders a lot of options – there are 11 places where they can take the one side which is the quick way, or the other side which is easier but more time. Riders need to decide what is good for the horse and where they may need to be more prudent and waste a little time.”
The first decent question comes at number four where combinations head into the first
water, and they come thick and fast from there. The Cottesmore Leap (fence 13) is the
biggest on the course and built to maximum size. It also holds the dubious
honour of being the scariest cross-country fence in the world.
However, Captain Phillips says the Rolex combination (18abc, 19) is the most difficult on the 6500m course. “We have top horses and riders here, so you hope the best will make it look easy,” he says. “I hope the riders make the right choices for their horses so the horses can come home happy; and the more horses and riders who get home, the happier I am.”
Riders from Australia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, the USA, New Zealand and, of course, the United Kingdom – will be chasing the £90,000 first prize.
Burghley is also the final leg of the FEI Classics Series, which brings together the world’s
six top-ranked events. Michael Jung is at the top of the leaderboard on 39 points, with Maxime Livio (France) second on 33, Nicola Wilson (Great Britain) third on 20 and Andrew fourth on 15. Maxime and Nicola have both withdrawn from this weekend’s competition. Tim is the only other Kiwi in the top 10, in eighth spot on 10 points. The winner of Burghley will collect 15 points, with 12 for second, 10 for third and eight for fourth, right through to a single point for the 10th place finisher.
Follow our Facebook and website for updates, and the event is scheduled to be on Sky Sport live (cross-country day).