Kiwis brilliant at Burghley

With five New Zealanders in the top 10 after dressage, we're poised for a thrilling cross-country day tomorrow at Burghley

It was predicted – and Australia’s Chris Burton didn’t disappoint as he set the Land Rover Burghley arena alight in the last session of dressage with a superlative display on Nobilis 18. Dressage scores in the low 30s are as rare as the proverbial hens’ teeth at four-star level, so the duo’s final mark of 30.2 was proof of something special.

Chris Burton and Noblis 18: something special (Image: Libby Law)
Chris Burton and Nobilis 18: something special (Image: Libby Law)

“He’s a beautiful mover and today he was really relaxed, which meant I could ride forward and attack the movements,” said Chris, who was poised for a top finish at Badminton with this horse earlier in the year before suffering an unlucky tip-up across country.

“Nobilis was fantastic and I’m so proud of him,” he says of the 11-year-old, who was initially produced by German superstar Michael Jung. The pair have won four of their nine international starts.

He pushed overnight leader Bettina Hoy (GER) back into second place and New Zealand’s Andrew Nicholson, who pulled out a personal best test on Nereo, is in third place at the event that brings out the best in him, on mark of 35.2 which included a flurry of 9s towards the end.

Andrew Nicholson and Nereo (Image: Libby Law)
Andrew Nicholson and Nereo scored a personal best of 35.2 (Image: Libby Law)
The 16-year-old chestnut gelding, a world bronze medallist in 2010 and an Olympic team bronze medallist in 2012, produced a smooth test, with particularly smart lateral work, the only slight hiccup coming when the horse trod on himself during the rein-back.
Andrew has had the Spanish-bred Nereo since a three-year-old. “I think the soft going in the arena perhaps shut his power off a bit, and as he’s a sensitive horse I thought I’d accept it rather than pushing him,” he says. “Nereo has been one of my favourite horses ever since I got him and I trust him to behave with the crowd and to concentrate.”

Another of our New Zealanders, Caroline Powell, who won Burghley in 2010 on Lenamore, is right up at the sharp end, in fourth place on Onwards And Upwards with the good score of 37.8.

NZL-Caroline Powell rides Onwards and Upwards during the CCI4* Second Day of Dressage at the 2016 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (Interim-4TH). Friday 2 September. Copyright Photo: Libby Law Photography
Caroline Powell rode a polished test on Onwards And Upwards (Image: Libby Law)
NZL-Caroline Powell rides Onwards and Upwards during the CCI4* Second Day of Dressage at the 2016 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (Interim-4TH). Friday 2 September. Copyright Photo: Libby Law Photography
And Caroline was thrilled with the performance, and the score! (Image: Libby Law)
The 2009 winner, Oliver Townend is best of the British in fifth place on MHS King Joules, a horse previously ridden by both Andrew Nicholson and Mary King, on 38.1.

Two Irish-bred horses are in sixth and seventh: The Blue Frontier, ridden by dual Burghley winner Andrew Hoy, and last year’s runner-up, Ringwood Sky Boy with Tim Price. Tim is also in 26th place with a score of 49.5 on Bango, who he rode on the first day of dressage.

NZL-Tim Price rides Ringwood Sky Boy during the CCI4* Second Day of Dressage at the 2016 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (Interim-7TH). Friday 2 September. Copyright Photo: Libby Law Photography
Tim and Ringwood Sky Boy, who is sitting seventh (Image: Libby Law)
 Chris’s Rio teammate Sam Griffiths is having his seventh Burghley ride on the 17-year-old Happy Times and is in eighth place on 39.6. “He’s like Roger Federer – he’s quite old but I like to think he’s still got it!” jokes Sam.

Two seasoned New Zealanders complete the top 10, with two-time winner Blyth Tait (Bear Necessity V) on 40pen heading five-time winner Sir Mark Todd (NZB Campino) on 42.2.

NZL-Sir Mark Todd rides NZB Campino during the CCI4* Second Day of Dressage at the 2016 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (Interim-10TH). Friday 2 September. Copyright Photo: Libby Law Photography
Sir Mark Todd and NZB Campino round up the top 10 (Image: Libby Law)

Blyth, who has only competed once at Burghley since he returned to the sport, is thrilled at the progress made by his mount, an 11-year-old former hunter, following their 13th place at Badminton.

NZL-Blyth Tait rides Bear Necessity during the CCI4* Second Day of Dressage at the 2016 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (Interim-9TH). Friday 2 September. Copyright Photo: Libby Law Photography
Blyth Tait and Bear Necessity V: exceeded expectations (Image: Libby Law)
 “If Pippa [Funnell] or Bettina had him, he’d probably be better, but we’ve come on together and the horse has exceeded all my expectations,” he says.
“Burghley has always been a happy hunting ground for me. The unique undulations will be influential, and the size of the fences is frightening, but they make you ride well.”
Seventy horses completed the dressage; Rodolphe Scherer from France was eliminated when the Ground Jury (Sue Baxter, GBR, Anne Mette-Binder, Denmark, and David Lee, Ireland) decided that his horse Makara de Montiege looked unlevel.

Germany’s Bettina Hoy, who had been in the lead after the first day, slipped to second aboard Designer 10 on a score of 34.5.

There were quite a few comments both from riders and onlookers about inconsistency in the dressage judging – particularly with the cluster of high marks awarded towards the end of the second day.

Jonelle Price, who rode on the first day and sits 22nd with 48.5 scored on Classic Moet, posted on Facebook: “Frustrating to watch Friday afternoon judging at its finest here at Burghley. No disrespect to the horses and riders that went this afternoon, but to have two of the first 53 combinations perform 40 or below tests, then seven of the last 17 is peculiar to say the least – and no, the draw is not in order of ranking!”

However, those who are early on in the draw may have the distinct advantage on cross-country day as the weather forecast is predicting heavy rain from lunchtime.

The Australians are also looking good after the first phase. As well as those mentioned above, Bill Levett is 12th on 42.5 on Improvise, Shane Rose on Virgil is in 13th place with 45.1 and Sonja Johnson on Parkiarrup Illicit Liaison is 19th on a score of 46.9.

Riders have labelled Mark Phillips’ cross-country track, which follows a similar route to last year but with plenty of new challenges, as a “proper four-star, Burghley track”.

Chris Burton isn’t allowing himself to get too carried away after the first phase. “I think I’m more terrified than excited. It’s hard to feel confident when you’re facing the cross-country at Burghley – it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been here, the Leaf Pit is still huge – but I’m on a blood horse and this place always gets me going.”

Tina Cook, who finished eighth last year with Star Witness and lies 40th at the end of dressage says: “Some fences, like Capability’s Cutting [fences 8 and 9] are softer than last year, but then the Land Rover Dairy Farm [fence 14] and the Trout Hatchery [fences 20 and 21] have more elements to them and are probably more difficult.”

Andrew Nicholson adds: “I think Mark Phillips has got the hang of how to make the time impossible. With the early fences coming thick and fast it becomes hard to make up seconds and that’s when people make mistakes. I’d be surprised if anyone makes the time.”

Results after dressage
1 Christopher Burton/Nobilis 18 (AUS) 30.2
2 Bettina Hoy/Designer 10 (GER) 34.5
3 Andrew Nicholson/Nereo (NZL) 35.2
4 Caroline Powell/Onwards and Upwards (NZL) 37.8
5 Oliver Townend/MHS King Joules (GBR) 38.1
6 Andrew Hoy/Blue Frontier (AUS) 38.3
7 Tim Price/Ringwood Sky Boy (NZL) 38.9
8 Sam Griffiths/Happy Times (AUS) 39.6
9 Blyth Tait/Bear Necessity V (NZL) 40.0
10 Sir Mark Todd/NZB Campino (NZL) 42.2
Samantha Mynott competed on I Spye in the five-year-old Event Horse class but unfortunately didn’t make it into the placings.  The full results of this can be found on this link.

 

This report was compiled with input from the FEI news service and Burghley Horse Trials.