Sir Mark Todd is the best of the Kiwi contingent after the first dressage day at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, despite ruing two costly course errors that probably kept him out of the top three.
Riding NZB Campino, Sir Mark forgot one of the 20m circles, and then halted in the wrong place, but beautiful work saw him score 30.8 penalties for interim sixth place.
“It’s too early in the morning,” he joked. “I let him down and two errors is unforgivable. It’s bloody annoying to say the least.”
Tim Price shares equal eighth place on Bango, who scored 32.1.
“I’m really pleased with him — he’s not an out and out dressage horse and he is a bit of a headshaker which filtered through today.”
Virginia Thompson’s Star Nouveau looked so much more established and settled in this phase than she did at Badminton, proof of the hard work Ginny has been putting in. She had a few lapses of rhythm in canter but maintained a lovely frame and contact, scoring 36.5 for 24th place.
Andrew Nicholson’s first ride, Jet Set IV, is 16th on 33.8 and Caroline Powell’s On the Brash is 21st equal on 35.1.
British riders fill the first five spots. Despite being first into the arena, no-one managed to top defending champion Oliver Townend’s leading score of 27.2 with MHS King Joules.
“If the horse can stay on his dressage score of 27.2 I’ll be happy,” says Oliver. But looking ahead to Saturday’s cross-country phase, he admits that Mark Phillips’ track will be very influential: “Burghley is always very big but it’s as big as it’s been, in terms of dimensions, as I’ve seen it. I think it will be stamina sapping for the horses as there are three big hills and no real breathers. It will be tough.”
Sarah Bullimore came within 0.1 of Oliver’s score with her Pau CCI4* runner-up Reve Du Rouet. “I’m really chuffed. He’s genuinely scared of the crowds so he was fabulous.”
Harry Meade and Away Cruising are in third place on 29.5, while last year’s runners-up Piggy French and Vanir Kamira lie fourth on 29.9. Georgie Spence and Wii Limbo complete the top five on 30.4.
Dressage continues overnight (NZ time), with Sir Mark, Tim and Andrew on their second horses, and Dan Jocelyn on Dasset Cool Touch the ones for Kiwi fans to watch.