Stamford, England—Sept. 3
It was a British 1, 2, 3 at this year’s Land Rover Burghley CCI****, with Oliver Townend taking the coveted title riding Karyn Shuter, Angela Hislop and Val Ryan’s 10-year-old gelding Ballaghmor Class.
Carrying immense pressure, having sat in pole position overnight and being the last to go in the show jumping, Townend went into the final phase with a fence in hand, which he used up when a miscommunication at the gate (Fence 5) resulted in 4 faults. He also picked up 1 time fault, but it mattered not as he stayed 1.3 points ahead of runner up, Piggy French.
“It’s very, very special,” smiled an emotional Townend, who last won a four-star in 2009—at Burghley. “It’s felt like a long time. We’ve got some unbelievable horses coming through the yard; we’re trying to cut the numbers a bit and siphon it down so I’m riding more top-class horses. It’s a bit of a numbers game and there have been events at this level where horses maybe shouldn’t have gotten to that level. But I’ve got so much faith in this horse.
“We’ve had Ballaghmor Class from the word go and he’s a top class horse. I looked around the collecting ring and I honestly wouldn’t swap him for any other horse in there. It’s been a long time since I said that. It’s the biggest and most difficult four-star to win and it means the world to me.”
French, who returned to competition this spring after a year off having her son Max, pulled off a faultless clear round aboard Vanir Kamira, to climb up the leaderboard from fifth overnight into the runner-up spot.
“She was fabulous,” said French of Trevor Dickens’ 12-year-old mare. “I came here hoping for a top-10 finish—I’ve not managed to achieve that before and have more often eaten the Burghley dirt—so it’s great to be back at this level and up the leader board. Burghley is the toughest four-star and it’s always been a dream to do well. What a difference a year makes.”
Lying in second overnight, the pressure was on Gemma Tattersall and Arctic Soul for whom a clear round would have resulted in a win, but they hit the penultimate fence to drop down to third. “So close yet so far. A stupid little touch of an upright cost us, but we’re still third at Burghley and he’s an incredible horse who doesn’t owe me anything,” Tattersall concluded.
Tom McEwen’s immaculate clear round riding Toledo De Kerser pulled him up from seventh overnight into fourth—and gave Great Britain a clean sweep of the top placings. “What a horse, he was magnificent,” said McEwan. “It was his third double clear at four-star level and he jumped his socks off. I’m so happy with him and excited for the future.”
New Zealand’s Tim Price filled fifth place riding Ringwood Sky Boy after a fence and a time fault showjumping added 5 penalties to his overnight score. “Although we had one down, that was like a clear round for him,” Price said. “I reckon he’s got a win in him one day, just not today.”
The USA’s Lynn Symansky and Donner picked up 4 faults to finish sixth. “He actually jumped really well,” Symansky said. “I was just a little bit soft to the gate and left a little bit too much of a gap for his concentration there. I’m kicking myself—he tried his heart out for me. He felt great today—just as good as he did going into the competition. I’m thrilled him him. I left points on the table everywhere, really, with an error in dressage and taking a long way on cross-country and one down in show jumping, so there’s much to be improved upon still. But I’m really happy with how he came out of it.”
Boyd Martin and Steady Eddie had two poles to finish 10th. “I always want to do a little bit better,” Martin said. “He’s a good old guy and I’m very proud of him. I think this took a lot out of him and he’ll have a good break now. He tried his heart out yesterday and he was feeling a bit tired and a bit wound-up today. But to finish in the top 10 is a great achievement. This is by far the biggest, toughest four-star in the world, and it takes a specific horse and a brave rider who is precise to do well.”
Lauren Kieffer had just 1 time fault to finish jst out of the top 10 with Veronica II, placing 11th. “She was great,” Kieffer said of the mare. “She always wants to be careful. It was a very fair course—if you rode well, you got there well. She came out of the weekend great and jumped her socks off.”
Burghley first-timer Mackenna Shea finished her weekend with Landioso in 24th place after two rails in the show jumping. “I’m just so happy I finished and that he was so good—so rideable. He can be so feisty, but Burghley has finally backed him off a bit,” she said. “It went so smoothly—I don’t know if I will ever really believe it happened. It could be a once in a lifetime experience, but I hope it’s not!”
Savannah “Woodge” Fulton withdrew before the final vet inspection because Captain Jack got a cut on cross-country that needed veterinary attention.
Important links: Dressage ride times | live results | Cross-country course map, fence photos and course description | live streaming (on Burghley Facebook page) | Land Rover Burghley CCI**** website