With only 6 points separating the top 10, and a much needed clear run over tomorrow’s Land Rover Burghley cross country course, the current leader Simone Deitermann, has quite a task ahead of her if she is to maintain her lead. A fast clear round, even with a few time faults should still aid her primary aim of gaining an olympic qualification after a few disappointing runs at 3 & 4 star recently.
This pair were so impressive at Badminton in 2010, only to have an unfortunate tumble, crashing literally into the last fence at the WEG in Kentucky last autumn.
The next 5 horses in the pecking order are all ridden by previous Burghley winners, with William Fox-Pitt less than a point behind the leader, and no doubt eager to make an historic 6th win to equal Lucinda Green’s record at Badminton. Andrew Nicholson, Mary King and William all have two chances in the top ten, and last year’s popular winner, Caroline Powell with Lenamore is poised in equal fifth. It is possibly these riders who know Burghley like the back of their hand and where to shave that vital second or two that will own this competition.
The size and fright factor of the cross country course has been the subject of much discussion, and many of the riders seem to be playing this down more than the media are, or might like. The few riders I have managed to speak to (mainly Aussies & New Zealanders) are more concerned with judging the pace than jumping the jumps as it seems there are fewer places to make up time. There is no doubt the course is big, and stretching the envelope of the rules in some places, with both height and depth of fences.
Mark Phillips has used even the slightest changes in terrain to make riders sit up and concentrate, and if you ever get the chance to hear him talk at length about course design, you’ll notice he puts a lot of thought into what, and how, horses see the world, and he uses that information in the design of his courses, more than most. I’ll be interested to see whether any fences ride differently, at different times of the day, due to the proximity of many of them to large trees that could put them in shade or bright sunlight depending on the hour.
There isn’t really much more I can say about the dressage or the cross country course that hasn’t already been said, but the Burghley website is uploading plenty of good audio interviews so I’d recommend listening to those as they give plenty of insight. Also check out a few snaps from today. Burghley House is like a fairytale castle, picturesque from every angle, and the tranquillity of the house was matched in the dressage arena, but the real action was in the trade stands where money and goods were changing hands at an alarming rate. Tomorrow should hopefully provide more thrilling and dramatic pictures from the cross country.