By Lynne Lomax
Australia’s Christopher Burton and Nobilis 18 maintained their lead throughout The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials to take this year’s title, although by an agonisingly tight margin.
The 11 year-old Hanoverian gelding had an uncharacteristic four down, including the final oxer, in the final show jumping round but the pair still managed to snatch victory thanks to the lead they had built up in the dressage and cross country phases. The second, third and fourth places were taken by New Zealanders, as were places eighth and ninth, making this one of the most successful ever challenges by Antipodean riders.
A relieved Christopher, who finished on 49.4, said of Nobilis 18: “He warmed up ok. He was a bit flat but he’s basically careful, so I was expecting him to go well. But in the end he got a bit tired and had a few down.”
The rider, who had won his first British 4 star event, added that even in his wildest dreams he had never expected to lead the competition throughout. “I walked up Winners’ Avenue and saw all those old boys’ names and thought how amazing it would be to have your name on a plaque one day,” he said. “It has been a wonderful competition for me and I can’t praise the organisers and their teams of volunteers enough.”
Christopher, who part owns the horse with Sue Lawson and Carolyn Townsend, had four fences in hand when he went into the showjumping phase thanks to an outstanding 30.2 dressage score and a clear cross country round with just 3.2 time penalties.
Admitting to be very nervous before the cross country, which saw 28 clears from 68 starters, he said: “I sat in the rider’s tent and watched a heap of horses and riders and that didn’t help! Then I went back to the truck and said to my wife, ‘Shall we just curl up in bed and have the afternoon off?”
But the combination proved more than a match for Captain Mark Phillips’ influential course, attacking the fences and opting for the straight route through the Land Rover Trout Hatchery despite earlier plans to take the long route at the final element.
A total of 40 competitors completed the cross country, and while Captain Phillips had hoped for more clears, he pointed out that riders had encountered problems throughout and that the ground had held up despite persistent rain.
“It was harder work for the riders than I thought it was going to be,” he admitted. “The combinations required forward riding and the leading three riders did that better than anybody else.”
In fact the first 26 places after cross country went to combinations who had jumped clear, although none managed to return within the time limit. A strong challenge from New Zealand saw Tim Price move up from 7th to 2nd with Ringwood Sky Boy, followed closely by Andrew Nicholson in third place with Nereo and Tim’s wife Jonelle, fourth with Classic Moet. Jonelle and the attractive black thoroughbred mare recorded the fastest cross country time with just 1.6 penalties, a result which moved them up from 22nd place after dressage.
Tim Price eventually had to settle for a final 4th placing after an expensive four down in the showjumping dropped him two places. This allowed Andrew Nicholson and Nereo to claim second place on a total of 53.2 after one down and two time faults in the showjumping. This is the third time Nereo has finished second at Burghley.
Jonelle and Classic Moet took third place with one fence down showjumping, followed by (4th), Cedric Lyard from France with Cadeau du Roi (5th) and Bettina Hoy for Germany with Designer 10 (6th).
Shropshire’s Oliver Townend was the highest placed British rider at seventh with Samuel Thomas II. The combination rose 32 places to 10th after a clear cross country round and distinguished themselves further by being one of just five competitors to go clear and within the time show jumping.
The Irish 12 year-old was one of three rides for Oliver, the others being Dromgurrihy Blue (23rd) who also went clear cross country but had a less sparkling performance showjumping, and MHS King Joules, who was retired towards the end of the country course after a run out at Discovery Valley.
Cheshire rider Paul Sims and Glengarnock showed good form by standing best placed British rider in third place after the first day of dressage, although their score of 46.6 eventually dropped them to 17th place at the end of day two. Paul, the second rider into the arena for the second year running, felt that the early start may have been to his advantage as Glengarnock seemed relaxed.
The combination were also the first to complete the cross country course but had an unfortunate run out at fence 26, a missable skinny triple bar after the FEI Classics leaf pit. This mistake moved them down the order to 29th after cross country but they moved up to a final 26th placing despite two down showjumping.
Nantwich based Paul, who has recently had a baby son with partner and fellow eventer Hannah Bate, was completing his third Burghley. He said: “I’d had a fantastic round cross country until the leaf pit, although the course rode really big.”
Catch up with Paul after his cross country round here https://youtu.be/QDezfjnI6cU
Kristina Cook’s thoughts on the cross country https://youtu.be/mh4wvM6exqE
Ben Hobday, who runs Shadow Sports Horses from Somerford Park and was formerly a working pupil with Hannah Bate, attacked the cross country with his usual vigour but was parted from Ramilo at Fence 14, The Land Rover Dairy Farm, a difficult combination of two corners and a big feeder set on a mound.
Ben was diagnosed with cancer in 2015 but has returned to four star eventing and enjoys a lot of support via his social media channels. He was placed 48th after dressage with a score of 54.6.
Another local combination, Emily Gilruth and Topwood Beau, also fell foul of the cross country and chose to retire at fence 6, the Lakeside Hedges, after a difference of opinion. The pair were equal 23rd after dressage, scoring a respectable 49.1.
The highest ranking first timer was Becky Woolven, 17th, with Charlton Down Riverdance.
The final showjumping phase proved as influential as the cross country, with only five combinations jumping clear and within the time. Course builder Richard Jeffery’s technical track, with its rolling terrain, was made even more of a challenge by holding ground which was drying out from the previous day’s rain.
Richard’s thoughts on the course;
RESULTS The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials Stamford, Lincolnshire 1 – 4 September 2016
1st Christopher Burton (Nobilis 18) AUS
2nd Andrew Nicholson (Nereo) NZ
3rd Jonelle Price (Classic Moet) NZ
4th Tim Price (Ringwood Sky Boy) NZ
5th Cedric Lyard (Cadeau du Roi) FRA
6th Bettina Hoy (Designer 10) GER
7th Oliver Townend (Samuel Thomas ll) GB
8th Caroline Powell (Onwards and Upwards) NZ
9th Mark Todd (NZB Campino) NZ
10th Kristina Cook (Star Witness) GB
Be there next year: Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials August 31st – September 3rd 2017
For more info visit www.burghley-horse.co.uk