No marks for guessing who’s leading; it’s none other than Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam on a lovely score of 38.9. The German was the only rider on the first day of the Burghley Horse Trials dressage phase to score under 40 but there are some big guns to come tomorrow.
“Sam is on good form. You have to be 100% perfect in all phases to win and this was not our best dressage performance, but I think the cross-country is tough enough to change the result,” he said afterwards.
Gemma Tattersall was “chuffed” with her score of 43.1 which puts her in second place on Arctic Soul. It’s a personal best for the pair, and Gemma – who’s certainly on form at the moment – will need to be confident going into the next phase, as everyone is saying what a big cross-country track it is.
While the two leaders are formidable competitors, and two that you’d rather have behind you than in front, Tim Price is still very pleased with his score on 46.5, which puts him in sixth place at this point on Xavier Faer. “Dressage is his weakest phase. It’s a nice place to finish; he’s coming along on the flat, he’s getting better at dressage. I felt he did almost everything I asked of him. We fluffed one change; other than that, it was pretty much on point for where he is.”
Tim obviously wants to spend more time with his new son who has arrived in the thick of the autumn eventing season, and spoke enthusiastically about Otis. “He’s a great little boy, I’m super-proud and Jonelle is doing a great job, I couldn’t ask for more.”
As for the cross-country, Tim is wary of its bigness and boldness. “It is also a long way around, you need to manage your horses accordingly, start in a rhythm and build it from there. He [Captain Mark Phillips] is a brilliant designer, he’s done a great job and I look forward to tackling it.”
Caroline Powell had her time in the arena today too, with first-time-to-Burghley horse Spice Sensation. The pair scored 55.7 and are in 21st position after day one.
Qwanza did a good test for Andrew Nicholson, and is currently 12th on 49.6.
American rider Mackenna Shea, 24, has made a great start to her first run at Burghley and is in third place on a score of 46.1 on Landioso, a 15-year-old Dutch-bred gelding who she has produced since he was four. Mackenna has based herself this summer with British rider Rodney Powell, but their campaign started late due to Landioso suffering from shipping fever. “I didn’t realise what a big step Burghley would be after Kentucky. Just walking the course takes so long,” she said.
Australia’s Paul Tapner is fourth on Bonza King Of Rouges (46.2), Georgie Spence is fifth with Wii Limbo on 46.4.
A host of stars could challenge for the lead tomorrow. These include Zara Tindall (GBR) and High Kingdom, the pair that finished third behind Michael (on fischerRocana) at Kentucky in April, and American rider Lauren Kieffer on the lovely mare Veronica.
A quartet of New Zealanders are also likely to feature at the top of the leaderboard: Badminton winners Andrew on Nereo, five-time Burghley winner Sir Mark on Leonidas ll, 2010 winner Caroline Powell with Onwards and Upwards, and Tim Price has his second ride, this time on Ringwood Sky Boy.
Michael Jung may have an unassailable lead in the FEI Classics, but his nearest rival, Maxime Livio (France) is not competing. Nicola Wilson, currently third in the series, does not have a Burghley ride either and looks vulnerable to being overtaken by the likes of Andrew who is fourth on the leaderboard, Tim, eighth, and Zara Tindall, ninth, all three holding obvious chances to take the prize money on offer for third.
The ground jury for this year’s Burghley is Martin Plewa (president, Germany), Katarzyna Konarski (Poland) and Harry Payne (GBR).