Class by Name, Class by Nature.

Oliver Townend with Ballaghmor Class for GBR winners of the Defender Burghley Horse Trials, in the parkland of Burghley House near Stamford in Lincolnshire in the UK on the 30th August to 3 September 2023.
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Under the beaming sunshine, the Defender Burghley Horse Trials arena once more witnessed a historic afternoon as Great Britain’s Oliver Townend is crowned the winner for his third time on board Ballaghmor Class.

The 16-year-old Irish Sports Horse is no stranger to the hallowed turf of Burghley, having won here in 2017 as a fresh faced 10-year-old at his first five star, as well as notable results in 2018 and 2019, finishing second and third respectively. “He jumped as good as he’s ever jumped, what can I say about him? He’s a freak of nature, he feels better than he’s ever felt and he’s performed amazingly.” Oliver said about his Olympic gold medal partner.

He jumped as good as he’s ever jumped, what can I say about him? He’s a freak of nature, he feels better than he’s ever felt and he’s performed amazingly

oliver townend

Coming into the final line of show jumps in front of a packed crowd, Oliver and “Thomas” had kept a clean score sheet but as the final fence fell, they added 4 penalties to their overnight score, to finish on 33, just 0.7 penalties ahead of his closest rival this afternoon. “I got to the second to last and thought “Christ! Still Clear, go on!” Oliver said with a grin as he gave his first thoughts on his show jumping round. But just the one fence down was enough to secure Ballaghmor Class his second win at Burghley, and confirm his place in the history books as one of Britain’s best event horses of modern times.

Oliver Townend with Ballaghmor Class for GBR winners of the Defender Burghley Horse Trials, in the parkland of Burghley House near Stamford in Lincolnshire in the UK on the 30th August to 3 September 2023.

Chasing Oliver to the wire was Great Britain’s David Doel riding Galileo Nieuwmoed, who climbed up one extra place to take second with an incredible clear show jumping round and finishing on their dressage score (33.7 penalties), becoming just the 9th combination to do so at Burghley.

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The 29-year-old rider from Wiltshire also recorded his best ever 5* result here with the 12-year-old Dutch warmblood, and has his sights set on clinching the title next, “I knew I had a class horse underneath me and I have a lot of belief in his jumping. But to be sat beside Oliver and Harry, it’s great to be up here with them and now I just have to make sure I keep up with them and hopefully get one up on them!” He said with a smile.

David Doel riding Galileo Nieuwmoed for GBR winners of the Defender Burghley Horse Trials, in the parkland of Burghley House near Stamford in Lincolnshire in the UK on the 30th August to 3 September 2023.

it was an afternoon to forget for overnight leader, New Zealand’s Tim Price who had four fences down in the show jumping to drop out of contention and finish in eventual fourth place. “It’s super disappointing and the gravity of that will hit in the following hours. This phase is his achilleas heel, I was just desperate for the worm to turn and for us to have his first really good result in the show jumping department, but it’s back to the drawing board. He’s a funny little fish and I’ve just got to figure him out. I’ve never been good at Rubix Cubes but I’ll get there in the end, I’m sure.” Tim said ruefully.

“He’s [Vitali] a funny little fish and I’ve just got to figure him out. I’ve never been good at Rubix Cubes but I’ll get there in the end, I’m sure.”

tim price

But Tim’s loss had to be someone else’s gain and so jumping a clear round and propelling himself into third place, and thus completing a British top three, was Harry Meade on the 13-year-old mare, Cavalier Crystal. After starting their Burghley campaign off in 27th place after dressage and 6th place overnight after cross country, the combination completed on a score of 37.4 to record Harry’s best ever Burghley result.

With it being the mare’s first ever 5*, the result certainly exceeded expectations for Harry, “the biggest question for be was how she’d cope with the atmosphere generally and the speed and the distance of the cross country. She thoroughly proved [yesterday] that she’s a 5* horse through and through, and if I could choose a horse to be sitting on today, I’m delighted it was her, I was just able to get on her and really enjoy it. She’s definitely over-delivered so I’m thrilled.”

Harry Meade riding Cavalier Crystal for GBR winners of the Defender Burghley Horse Trials, in the parkland of Burghley House near Stamford in Lincolnshire in the UK on the 30th August to 3 September 2023.

But the story of the day goes to Ballaghmor Class, a horse that in any period of eventing history, over any format, would come out on top, according to his rider, “he’s a proper event horse, his pedigree helps massively, as does his mentality, and whatever era you put this horse in, he would win.”

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Amy Powell

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