It was an exhilarating day of good old-fashioned cross-country at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials with a near foot-perfect performance from Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy, who are now in first place.
Tim and ‘Oz’ added just 0.4 time penalties, and they made the track that had caused so many problems for so many great riders look like a pony club course.
“He just ate it up,” says Tim. “The course felt like an old friend, and the horse is my old friend, it was perfect conditions, and it all just came together. He’s not a fast horse but he knows how to dig deep, and he did. I had to take tight lines to get it done.”
Tim has also clear on his first ride, Bango, adding 9.2 time penalties to sit 17th.
Pathfinders Oliver Townend and MHS King Joules, who were third after dressage, had 10.4 time penalties, enough to put them in 10th place overnight — but it was an early indicator that things were about to be shaken up in a major way.
“It was a tricky enough course to ride,” he says. “The course is the biggest I’ve ever jumped — it walked massive, but it jumped even bigger. Then you add in the toughest terrain in the world.”
Less than a rail separates the first four riders going into show jumping; Oliver is just 0.6 penalties behind Tim with his defending champion, Ballaghmore Class, who was one of just four combinations to come home under the 11 minute, 11 second optimal time.
Andrew Nicholson has two in the top 10. He was inside the time with the classy Swallow Springs, and moved from equal 16th to fifth, 4.8pen behind the leader. His first ride, Jet Set IV, added just 2.4 time penalties to move from 29th to 8th.
The Kiwi veteran was most pleased with his efforts. About Swallow Springs, he says: “He might be young, but I rode him like he’s a four-star professional. He’s a proper horse. You’ve got to ride him like you stole him. If I ride him more delicately, he’ll dangle his legs and offer to run out — he likes you to be in charge and he’s been naughty in the past. He bucked me off in the warm-up once.”
He was full of praise for Mark Phillips’ course design: “I loved that there were no hidden traps — for example, I jumped in big to the Trout Hatchery and changed my plan, and it was great that I could do that and still be clear. Mark has got the measure of the flag rule — there were no questions about 50 penalties today, because the horses could always see the flags. Then they either jumped or they didn’t.”
It wasn’t such a great day for Sir Mark Todd, who’d led the dressage with Kiltrubrid Rhapdsody. After pulling off the save of the day at the Leaf Pit, the relatively innocuous fence 10 tipped them up. Fortunately, both walked away.
He was clear with NZB Campino, but added 15 seconds to their time to drop to 19th place.
Caroline Powell and On the Brash were clear but had a frightening moment when the horse jumped over the string into the crowd at one combination; he managed to disentangle himself and continue, but the hold up left them with 35.6 time faults; they are now in 36th place.
Ginny Thompson had a run-out on Star Nouveau, and added 20.4 time faults, for 40th place, but were thrilled to add a Burghley cross-country completion to their resume.
Dan Jocelyn broke a frangible pin for 11 penalties, plus 14.8 time, to sit 32nd.
Of the 68 combinations to tackle the imposing course, 45 made it home. Of those 45, seven had jumping penalties.