It’s been an extraordinary summer of sport for Britain-the Ashes, the Lions’ Tour, Andy Murray at Wimbledon, and the show jumpers taking European gold-but will the Kiwis spoil the party at Burghley? New Zealanders have won 11 of the last 25 Burghleys, where the challenging nature of the cross-country course tends to bring out the best in these brilliant horsemen.
Jock Paget, who won Badminton in May on Clifton Promise, is strongly tipped to join five-time winner Sir Mark Todd, Blyth Tait, Andrew Nicholson and Caroline Powell in New Zealand’s role of honour.
His closest rival is likely to be his Olympic team mate Andrew Nicholson, the world number one, who has three great chances on last year’s winner, Avebury, Nereo and Mr Cruise Control, all of which have won at the highest (four-star) level.
Britain has long relied on the talents of William Fox-Pitt, another rider who always shines at Burghley. He has won it a record six times and could easily make it seven, with 2011 winner Parklane Hawk or Neuf des Coeurs. William’s long-time team mates and friends, Kristina Cook and Pippa Funnell, would be hugely popular winners.
Tina, who has won numerous gold medals, has never won a four-star before – she rides De Novo News, a horse of which she thinks a great deal. Pippa triumphed here in 2003 as part of the Rolex Grand Slam; this time she brings the magnificent Redesigned, a talented horse but with a chequered history.
Oliver Townend, the 2009 winner, also has strong winning credentials on Armada, a horse guaranteed to make the imposing cross-country fences look like straw bales.
It’s not entirely about Britain versus New Zealand though: Australians Sam Griffiths and Kevin McNab have both got winning potential, as have the talented Germans Ingrid Klimke and Bettina Hoy, and up-and-coming Canadian Rebecca Howard.
Whatever happens, a thrilling contest is in store, and it all kicks off on Thursday, September 5 at 9am with the dressage phase. Gate admission starts at £16 with £12 car parking (www.burghley-horse.co.uk).
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