Piggy March Reclaims the Lead after Cross Country Day at The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.

Piggy March Burghley Horse Trials 2022
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After a three year hiatus, the parklands of Burghley House once more saw a thrilling day of cross country at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials. Thursday’s dressage leader, Great Britain’s Piggy March, reclaimed the top spot on board Vanir Kamira after a shakeup of the leader board, Amy Powell reports.

Stopping the clock just one second over the optimum time of 11 minutes 20 seconds, March gave a cross country masterclass on board the 17-year-old mare. Eating up the undulating terrain, the challenging course never looked to trouble the Burghley stalwarts, “She knows her job, it’s just me not doing something stupid and keeping her believing, like she does”, Piggy said of Tilly (the mare’s stable name). “She’s been a true Burghley horse in her life, she rose to the occasion coming to the start box, I could feel that she knew what she was about to do and was very excited to get on and do it, so that’s a great feeling as a rider.” Going into the show jumping phase tomorrow, Piggy is hopeful that the additional 0.4 penalties to give her an overnight score of 23.0 won’t damage her chances of staying on the top of the leader board “She started off the first 3 minutes on fire, but I was 12 seconds down by the next minute. I did my usual one second over, but it’s not been too expensive [in potentially moving her down the leader board]…at the minute!”.

Riding his Tokyo Olympics mount, Vitali, New Zealand’s Tim Price cruised round the course adding 5.2 seconds to their dressage score to finish on an overnight total of 26.5 penalties, maintaining their second place. “He’s an inexperienced horse, so I didn’t know what to expect, especially at Burghley” Tim said of the 12-year-old gelding. “I was really happy with they way he handled the jumps and the terrain, and was able to come home really pushing. It was a lovely, pleasant surprise. I knew it was in him but it came out today and I was thrilled.”

Making it a marital affair, Tim’s wife Jonelle trails just 5.7 penalty points behind him riding her long term partner, the evergreen Classic Moet. The only pair to remain on their dressage score after the cross country phase and rising from a dressage phase position of 25th to overnight third after cross country, the indomitable duo managed to finish inside the time without the aid of a customary stop watch. “I guess flat batteries happen, but you hope they don’t happen as you leave the start box at Burghley” Jonelle laughed, “it was a bit of a shock when I looked at my watch and there was nothing to be seen, so I was going blind…I know she’s a quick horse but I had absolutely no idea when I crossed the line whether I achieved something or nothing.”

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At 19 years old, “Molly” (Classic Moet’s stable name) showed no signs of struggling with the tough Derek di Grazia designed track, “she lives for the Saturday really, the rest is an unnecessary evil in her life,” Jonelle smiled. “She showed her class today and it felt like a tough endurance test, maybe it’s because she’s getting on in years, but she kept jumping and fighting, and most of all she kept galloping, and that’s what you really need around a track like Burghley.”

When questioned about his design of the cross country course, Derek reflected that, although overall the outcome was positive, there were learnings to take away from his first year in office as course designer, “when you first start doing this is you try and put a course out there that’s to the level, and obvs there’s a lot of work that goes into it and today.” He said, “for me, it was great early on when we had some good rounds, but it also became clear early on that the time was going to be difficult. I take my hat off to the first timers who had some great rounds and there was also some great riding from very experienced riders out there today too.”

And for 2023? “It’s time to wipe the slate clean in my brain so that I can start over and not have anything dictating that I have to do something specific, but can do something new and create new challenges for the riders.”

Dropping down the leader board from top spot after the dressage phase after a breaking a frangible pin at fence 19 on board Vendredi Biats, Kitty King added 11 penalties to her score to head into the show jumping tomorrow in sixth place on a score of 38.2 penalties. Third placed after dressage, Great Britain’s Sarah Bullimore onboard Corouet retired on course after the small but mighty 15.2hh gelding ran out at the third element – a right handed corner – at the Holland & Cooper Leaf Pit at fence 7.

Having found themselves in the runner up spot in 2017 and 2019 (and fifth in 2018), will this be Piggy and Tilly’s year to shine? It’s all to play for in tomorrow’s show jumping with less than a fence separating the top two riders. We may just see the third ever time in Burghley’s history that we see a mare take the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials title once more.

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