A good start for Jonelle and Tim but there's another day of dressage to come, plus of course the challenging cross-country and show jumping. Burghley is not called one of the toughest four-star events for nothing!
Bettina Hoy from Germany lit up the arena on day one of dressage at Burghley with a beautifully executed test on Designer 10. It was in a class of its own and may prove hard to beat.
The only fault in their exhibition of lightness, smoothness and balance seemed to be a little tension in a flying change, and, with a score of 34.5, Bettina has a comfortable eight-penalty margin over Australian Bill Levett on Improvise.
Jonelle and Tim Price will be well pleased with their efforts on the first day too. Jonelle went into sixth place on Classic Moet with a score of 48.5. Tim on his first ride, Bango, scored 49.5 and is currently tenth. He rides Ringwood Sky Boy tomorrow.
Bettina Hoy, who has been described as the ‘uber-diva’ of eventing dressage, was expected to do well in this phase. Her illustrious career stretches back to the 1984 Olympics, and she took the European title at Burghley in 1997 on Watermill Stream. She is a popular and familiar face on the British circuit, but has never won a CCI4* there, her best result being fifth at Badminton this year on Designer 10.
“I think Designer must have been having a little chat with [her other horse] Seigneur Medicott, who usually does the better test, as he felt great in there,” she said. “I’ve developed a special programme for him in the warm-up because he can get a bit tense. Every time I feel him tighten, I go into rising trot and that helps.”
She added that she had been working hard with her trainer, Sebastian Langehanenberg, as Designer 10, a 12-year-old Westphalian gelding by Dali X, “is not built for dressage”. Sebastian had suggested changing from a snaffle to a double bridle because having two bits in his mouth seemed to settle the horse.
“I’m feeling very motivated after Rio [where she was training a Russian rider]. Burghley holds a special place in my heart and, although it won’t be a dressage competition, I know Designer can do it.”
Bill Levett has been based in Britain for many years and has been getting closer to CCI4* success all the time. He re-routed Improvise to Luhmühlen, where the horse finished 13th, after an early retirement at Badminton in May.
Paul Sims, a relative newcomer to this level, is currently the highest-placed British rider, having scored his best CCI4* dressage result on the white-faced Glengarnock to lie third on 46.6. This is their third Burghley; they finished 25th last year. Paul admitted to feeling quite confident: “He’s a reliable cross-country horse, as long as I don’t make any mistakes.”
Burghley first-timer Elisa Wallace’s (USA) campaign got off to a good start when she scored 46.8 on the American thoroughbred Simply Priceless for interim fourth place. “He can be quite tense so it’s been a huge journey to get him to be expressive,” she said. “When I looked up at the scoreboard and saw the score, I couldn’t believe it.”
The main challengers tomorrow are likely to be New Zealanders Sir Mark Todd (NZB Campino) and Andrew Nicholson (Nereo), who have 10 Burghley wins between them, plus the dressage leader in Rio, Christopher Burton (Australia) on Nobilis 18 and his team mate Sam Griffiths on the veteran Happy Times.
Burghley is the final leg of the 2015/2016 FEI Classics™ series, which Michael Jung leads by a very wide margin, with Tim Price second and Clarke Johnstone third.