Class by Name, Class by Nature
Written by Amy Powell
It took until the last rider on cross country day to decide the overnight leader of The Landrover Burghley Horse Trials 2017 and it came in the guise of a seasoned Burghly rider, piloting a talented young horse around it’s first four star track.
Great Britain secured a 1,2,3 in the overnight placings and leading the field is Oliver Townend riding the 10 year old Irish Sports Horse, Ballaghmor Class. “We’ve had him from 4 coming 5 years old, he was very sharp as a young horse – he used to bolt a little bit and we’ve all had our turn of falling off him at home,” Oli joked about the quirky grey.
“He’s always been tricky as a character but when you ask him to do his job, he’s always been very very beautiful at doing it, and he’s very nice to ride so I’ve become very fond of him – if I wasn’t then he’d have been got rid of one way or another because he was fairly wild as a young one!” he laughed.
The grey has a chequered show jumping record – jumping six clear rounds from his 10 outings this year, the rest of the rounds usually resulting in just the one pole down. With less than a fence in hand over second placed Gemma Tattersall and Arctic Soul, its not something he can afford this time, but it wouldn’t be the first time Oliver Townend has won Burghley on a quirky grey gelding if we cast our minds back to his debut in 2009!
Gemma has been suffering from a cold all week but handled the enthusiastic, Arctic Soul, with pure class to produce one of only three clear rounds within the time today, despite taking a longer option at fences 22 and 23(abcd). “Arctic Soul was very feisty today so by the end I certainly felt it,” she said of her round. “Originally I was going to go straight at the Trout Hatchery but when I came down the hill to, I was a good 10 seconds up on my clock and I actually felt not physically strong enough to turn him in the water as I knew he was going to fly in over that log. So I made the decision then that I was going to go long.”
Bringing up the rear of the leading British trio is seasoned four star rider and crowd favourite, Izzy Taylor riding another four star debutant, the 12 year old gelding, Trevidden. “He was fantastic across the country – he gave me a great spin,” Izzy said of the chestnut Trakehner. “he was green in places and I had to help him and I made the odd mistake and he had to help me but I was really pleased with him overall.”
Captain Mark Philips, once again the course designer here at Burghely, was pleased with the overall results from the course today – with 11 eliminations, four retiring on course and 45 completions, “We knew it was big before hand,” he said of the imposing maximum height fences dotted around the course, “but luckily we had perfect conditions. We got 29 clear rounds and if my daughter Zara hadn’t fallen off I’d have got 50% [rate]!”.
Completing the rest of the top five is New Zealands Tim Price riding his four star campaigner Ringwood Sky Boy, who is unlikely to trouble the top three with is weak show jumping record, followed by Piggy French on a ride she recently re-acquired – Vanir Kamira.
Bringing up the last five in the top ten is Andrew Nicholson on his seasoned championship and four star partner, Nereo but this might be slightly too far for him to climb to make his attempt at clinching the second leg of the Rolex Grandslam of Eventing. Behind him sits Tom McEwan riding a very promising young horse, Toldeo De Kerser (definitely one to watch in the future), America’s Lyn Symansky riding her four star mount Donner and her team compatriot Boyd Martin riding Steady Eddie, and then a final Brit taking the tenth spot overnight is recent European Team Gold Medalist, Tina Cook riding Star Witness – a four star horse used to gracing the final top ten of a four star.
So with less than a fence between the top two, and another fence separating Gemma from the next three riders in the top five, it will certainly be a clash of the Titans. But could it be too much to predict another British winner again this year?! With predicted record crowds set to turn out tomorrow find out, it’ll definitely keep spectators on the edge of their seats…
Images Mike Bain Photography