Kate Green shares her tips for this weekend’s Burghley Horse Trials 2014
William Fox-Pitt, who last weekend missed out on the world eventing title by an agonisingly tiny margin, represents the best hope of a British win at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials at Stamford, Lincolnshire, this weekend.
The world number 1 in eventing has already won at Burghley a record six times; he will perform his dressage test tomorrow (Friday) at 1549 on Bay My Hero, a lovely stamp of horse on which he won the four-star competition at Kentucky, USA, in April.
Izzy Taylor, Sarah Bullimore, Oliver Townend, Piggy French and Nicola Wilson also have strong chances of being in the prizes, but Fox-Pitt’s main rivals are a talented group of British-based antipodeans. Andrew Nicholson, a four-time winner of Burghley, is drawn last to go (at 1621 tomorrow) on Avebury, on whom he is bidding for a historic hat-trick of victories.
The appealing grey gelding, a horse the brilliant Kiwi rider bred himself, is the only horse to have won Burghley back-to-back (Virginia Eliot’s Priceless won in 1983 and 1985). History and statistics are against a third victory, but their combined talent could be enough to pull it off.
Nicholson’s team mates, husband and wife Tim and Jonelle Price, also have good chances on Ringwood Sky Boy and The Deputy respectively, and much curiosity will surround Jock Paget on Clifton Promise.
Paget, who has been one of the phenomenons of the sport in recent years, was disqualified after finishing first at Burghley last year when the horse tested positive for the prohibited substance reserpine. Paget was only exonerated last month after the manufacturer of a calming product accepted responsibility for the contamination.
The pair have had minimal runs but scored highly in the dressage at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy last weekend before incurring an early run-out on the cross-country, after which Paget pulled up and re-routed to Burghley.
Australian rider Sam Griffiths, who lives on the Somerset/Dorset borders, heads the dressage leaderboard today (Thursday) on the veteran four-star campaigner Happy Times.
Griffiths won a challenging Badminton in May and is therefore in line to challenge for the Rolex Grand Slam worth $350,000 to the rider who can win Badminton, Burghley and Kentucky in succession. The only rider ever to have achieved this is Britain’s Pippa Funnell in 2003.
Griffiths’ fellow Aussie Andrew Hoy, a triple Olympic gold medalist, was only just behind him on the leaderboard, on Rutherglen.
Eight nations are represented in the 68-strong field, with anticipation building for Mark Phillips’s always exciting cross-country track on Saturday. Follow all the action with live results on www.burghley-horse.co.uk and BBC’s Red Button.