Burghley, First Class Performance from a 4 Star Debutant

Burghley 2017. Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class. Image credit Mike Bain Photography
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Burghley, First Class Performance from a 4 Star Debutant

  • British riders take top four placings on home turf
  • Oliver Townend takes first CCI4* win in eight years
  • Piggy French makes a strong comeback

Written by Amy Powell

On the final day of The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, it is Great Britain’s Oliver Townend once again taking the title after an eight year hiatus on board a brilliant young horse, Ballaghmor Class.

Ballaghmor Class. Image credit Mike Bain Photography
Ballaghmor Class. Image credit Mike Bain Photography

Having led overnight after the cross county phase, Oliver and the Irish bred gelding were the last to jump in today’s show jumping phase and went into the arena with one fence in hand over Piggy French riding Vanir Kamira, who’d climbed steadily up the leaderboard following the day’s performances.

Oliver couldn't be prouder of the grey's performance this weekend. Image credit Mike Bain Photography
Oliver couldn’t be prouder of the grey’s performance this weekend. Image credit Mike Bain Photography

Oliver, and the 10 year old grey, were travelling well and giving the fences plenty of room until they turned to fence five – the upright Burghley gate – where the horse misread the jump and they had the top half of it down, “apart from the obvious fence he’s a good jumper, just very babyish with the crowds,” Oliver said of the round, “when he comes towards a fence with a crowd behind it he can often loose concentration but I couldn’t be happier with him.”

A well earned 4* win for Oliver Townend. Image credit Mike Bain Photography
A well earned 4* win for Oliver Townend. Image credit Mike Bain Photography

Not only has it been eight years since Oliver last won Burghley, it’s been the same duration since his last CCI4* win. His best result at Burghley was 7th last year, with Samuel Thomas, a horse he also finished 21st with this year. The GB rider’s most recent highest placed result, before Burghley, was 2nd at Badminton in 2014 with the now retired chestnut, Armada. It’s not gone unnoticed that his last 4* win was also with a quirky grey gelding (Carousel Quest). Oliver now hopes to focus more on his top horses, “I’ve been saying it for so long, I’m desperate to reduce the numbers,” Oliver said of his current string of horses. “Hopefully now after this win people will start sending me some more [top class horses]”.

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It is fair to assess that this exceptionally talented young horse exceeded all expectations for his jockey this week, “With being such a young horse a lot can go wrong, he’s only just learnt a lot of things, so everything had to go 100% his way,” Oliver said of the 4* debutant, “but in the dressage he gave his absolute best that he’s got at this stage, cross country I gave him as much time as I could before I pressed go and he was just fantastic – a different talent to what I’m used to sitting on for a long, long time.”

Climbing from 9th after dressage to 5th overnight, was Great Britain’s Piggy French, riding the 12 year old Irish Sport Horse, Vanir Kamira. The pair rode a strong round today and finished eventually, less than a penatly behind Oliver to take home a respectful second.

Piggy French, riding the 12 year old Irish Sport Horse, Vanir Kamira.
Piggy French, riding the 12 year old Irish Sport Horse, Vanir Kamira.  Image credit Mike Bain Photography

Having had a year out from the sport, after becoming a mother, Piggy has since erupted back onto the scene; “I didn’t actually find it that difficult to return as soon as the competition started, I’m actually still naturally competitive, so I find the drive to do this quite easy,” Piggy said of her comeback. “We had a personal trainer once a week which was hell, but it actually made quite a big difference to me getting back into the sport – both physically and mentally.”

Completing the British first, second and third placing’ stronghold was Gemma Tattersall, riding her 4* campaigner Arctic Soul. Entering the arena with a strong position, Gemma unfortunately jumped herself out of contention when the 14 year old thoroughbred took down a pole, dropping them to 3rd. Had the combination jumped clear, they would have won the Burghley title, but unfortunately luck just was not on their side today.

Gemma Tattersall, riding her 4* campaigner Arctic Soul. Image credit Mike Bain Photography
Gemma Tattersall, riding her 4* campaigner Arctic Soul. Image credit Mike Bain Photography

Adding to the British victory was fourth placed Tom McEwan riding a seriously promising young horse, 10 year old Selle Francais, Toledo De Kerser. This combination certainly further add to the depth of amazing talent we have coming up through the ranks, something that Gemma Tattersall wholeheartedly agrees with, “We’re all sat here [in the final three] and there’s plenty behind us as well – Tom McEwan and Izzy Taylor, and there’s plenty of us well up there with some lovely young horses, its very exciting.”

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To conclude the top 10

5th, Tim Price (NZL) riding Ringwood Sky Boy

6th, Lyn Symansky (USA) riding Donner

7th, Tina Cook (GBR) riding Star Witness

8th, Andrew Nicholson (NZL) riding Nereo

9th Izzy Taylor (GBR) riding Trevidden

10th Boyd Martin (USA) riding Steady Eddie finihing in 10th

With record crowds here at The Land Rover Burghley Horse trials 2017, it has certainly been a whitewash of British success, proving what an extremely exciting pool of talent we have to select from ahead of next year’s World Equestrian Games. Here’s looking forward to another 12 months of exciting sport ahead!

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