September 1—Stamford, England
Sinead Halpin rode the cross-country round of her life to give herself a great chance of becoming the first U.S. rider in 19 years to win the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials CCI****.
Halpin, Oldwick, N.J., was immensely proud of Manoir de Carneville, who is making a return trip to the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials after finishing 15th in 2011. She also believes "Tate's" natural way of going was essential to her making the time on Saturday.
"He's a super horse. He's wonderful to have here because he doesn't pull ever. Every fence you're saving yourself 2 seconds instead of over-preparing and then going as fast as you can; I just think about keeping everything smooth and making sure I still have a horse underneath me," said Halpin, 30. "He was with me the whole time, which is a good feeling."
There were plenty of unexpected dramas over Mark Phillips’ bold, challenging course, but Halpin and Tate presented a picture of perfect harmony, and the gelding was one of only four horses inside the optimum time of 11:30. Tate is a 12-year-old Selle Francais (Gaub—Carneville, Matador du Bois) owned by Carrig LLC, and he will head into show jumping on his dressage score of 36.3 penalties.
“It was the best round of my life,” said Halpin. “It felt great, but you have to be careful not to get caught up in the feeling or the next thing is that you’re on the ground looking up at your horse!”
Last year’s runners-up, New Zealand's Andrew Nicholson and Avebury, added only 0.8 time penalties and moved up two places to be within 5.5 penalties of Halpin.
Nicholson has no leeway over William Fox-Pitt, riding for Great Britain on Parklane Hawk and currently sitting on 43.4 penalties. Great Britain's Oliver Townend on Nicholson’s former ride, Armada, moved up six places to fourth (43.5) with nothing to add on cross-country.
Fox-Pitt, who said his 2011 winner Parklane Hawk is “made for Burghley,” was full of praise, saying: “I watched Sinead’s round, and it was amazing. She set the standard.”
So far, only two U.S. riders have won Burghley in its 51 years: Bruce Davidson in 1974 and Stephen Bradley in 1993.
Only 16 of the 55 finishers achieved time penalties in single figures. Nicholson was masterful on his first ride, the 10-year-old Calico Joe, to come home 7 seconds inside the time and leap from 42nd to eighth. He commented: “This horse is known for being very fast, but the ground actually rides softer than expected.”
The time factor dropped dressage runners-up Allison Springer, Marshall, Va., and Arthur to seventh (49.2). Fourth-placed Kai Ruder, riding for Germany, and Le Prince des Bois dropped to 12th, but the time also enabled others to make meteoric rises. New Zealand's Mark Todd shot up from 64th to 15th with a clean sheet on Major Milestone.
Both Fox-Pitt and Townend, the only British riders in the top 10, pulled up their first horses on cross-country, neither of which were enjoying the holding ground, prompting Fox-Pitt to say: “Shall we have another go later?”
Several other high-profile riders departed the fray too, the highest-placed being Australia's Clayton Fredericks, third after dressage, when Waltersdown Don failed to clear the vast spread at the Cottesmore Leap (fence 21), which is thought to be the biggest fence in the world. The horse fell back into the ditch, sending Fredericks over the brush fence on his own, but neither was hurt.
Riders were most concerned about the new Rolex combination (16AB, 17), a triple brush to a big corner at a difficult angle followed by another narrow brush, but this generally jumped well, and it was two familiar questions that caused the most problems.
Mary King, eighth after dressage, was one of many to suffer early disappointment at the Discovery Valley (6, 7) when Kings Temptress failed to make the sharp left-handed turn to the final brush element, and King opted to call it a day. Lucy Jackson, seventh on Animator ll, also faulted here and Emily Parker, 19th after dressage on Treefers, incurred the second of her refusals here and retired.
Townend, 20th on ODT Sonas Rovatio, and Paul Tapner, 12th on Inonothing, both retired after grinding to a halt in the water at the Land Rover Trout Hatchery (10, 11), where Capt. Phillips said momentum was needed to get over the combination of hedges in the water. Australia's Megan Jones came to an abrupt halt at the first element on Kirby Park Allofasudden but went on to complete. New Zealand's Jonathan Paget performed the save of the day here when an awkward jump by Clifton Lush nearly fired him out of the side door, but he managed to stop the horse and haul himself back into the saddle, allowing himself time for a wry smile.
“It was a very close call!” said Paget. “The fence came up quicker than I thought, and he didn’t really see it at the last stride. I thought I was going.” The mishap caused Paget to incur 2 time penalties, but he has risen from 16th to sixth.
California's Kristi Nunnink had a good trip around her first Burghley with the 11-year-old Holsteiner mare R-Star, and they currently stand 32nd. A circle between elements in the Rolex combination accounted for some of their 30.4 time faults but allowed them to finish without any jumping penalties.
Also riding in her first Burghley, Kate Hicks completed a tactfully clear jumping round with her 17-year-old Thoroughbred cross gelding, Belmont. They head into the show jumping in 49th on a score of 102.4 after collecting 52.4 time faults.
Erin Sylvester was the first U.S. rider of the day and collected 20 penalties for a run-out at the Rolex combination but finished without further incident on her own 12-year-old Thoroughbred/Dutch Warmblood gelding, No Boundaries. They stand 55th on 114.2.
Will Faudree was the only U.S. rider not to complete the course as a result of parting company with Jennifer Mosing's 11-year-old Irish Thoroughbred mare Andromaque at fence 19, the Land Rover Dairy Farm. "Missie" misjudged the takeoff, ejecting Faudree as she stumbled up the bank. Both horse and rider were unhurt.
The final horse inspection will begin at 9:00 a.m. BST with the show jumping phase beginning at 10:30 a.m.
Watch the competition unfold on Burghley TV with video on demand posted shortly after the completion of each ride.