Day One of Dressage complete at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, and one of the three people to have won the event 5 times, William Fox-Pitt, is in the lead with the decent chance of getting his second ride, Neuf De Coeurs, in front or close to the leading score of 39.7. In a what might almost seem like a re-run from last year, Fox-Pitt had an error of course, in an otherwise exemplary test to sit 3 point clear of Andrew Nicholson on Avebury.
Another Burghley 5-time winner, Mark Todd, is also in the field, only a lot further down the pecking order on 56.5. When I asked Mark back in the beginning of August, about his chances of making it 6 Burghleys, he said ” Realistically No. Last year he [Major Milestone] was there and he finished 11th, and we were really pleased with it. He’s a very good cross country horse, and he’s normally a pretty reliable showjumper, but he struggles a bit in the dressage, and although I think he’s going better than ever at this stage it depends on what the track is like and what effect that has on it [the competition], but with the sport today you really need to be in the top five after the dressage to have a realistic chance of winning, I don’t think we’re going to be doing that.” (but he is Mark Todd, and anything can happen, can’t it?)
Burghley is still a favourite event for Mark, as he says “We’ve had a lot of fun at Burghley over the years, it’s one of the the nicest, if not the nicest 3 day event, the setting and everything else, it’s got a relaxed friendly atmosphere, maybe because it’s towards the end of the season and everybody’s just starting to relax and wind down, but it’s always a great event to go to, and I always enjoy driving in to the gates at Burghley knowing I’m going to be there for the next week”.
Both William Fox-Pitt & Andrew Nicholson have a second ace up their sleeve that will perform their dressage tests tomorrow afternoon, and with both men right at the top of their game, with exceptional form this season, it is hard to imagine either without both their horses in the top ten by the end of play tomorrow. Given a top ten placing after cross country can fall into lap of anyone on an early 50s score, there are still plenty of riders capable of forcing a re-order of the ranks to grab some prize money. One rider I sincerely hope manages to maintain a top ten placing is James Robinson on Comache, currently lying 10th. This horse is such an old trooper, and has been a fantastic partner for James, who is a practicing vet, and one of the nicest people I’ve ever met on the circuit.
Expect plenty of reshuffle in the leaderboard tomorrow, and even more on Saturday, for what promises to be probably the best Burghley for years, and the course looks one of the toughest yet!
If you can get there, GO! If you really can’t make it, stay glued to the Horse & Hound, Eventing Nation, and all the social media channels, not forgetting the Official Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials website. And here’s a twitter list of people competing at Burghley (that also includes a few prolific tweeters that are in attendance). You might also find a few more posts on this blog too of course!
Oh, in case you’re wondering, Ginny Leng is the 3rd rider to have won Burghley 5 times.