Oliver Townend tops the leaderboard at the Burghley Horse Trials in Stamford

Burghley comp
Burghley comp

Britain’s Oliver Townend tops the leaderboard at the end of the cross country at the Burghley Horse Trials today (September 2) after coaxing a beautiful round out of his relatively inexperienced Ballaghmor Class.

And course director ELizabeth Inman revealed at a post event press conference she believes there was a record crowd at the event today, with the previous record standing at around 150,000.

Oliver’s 40.6 score sits him 2.4 points clear at this stage, while Brits Gemma Tattersall and Izzy Taylor are second and third respectively.

“We lost a few seconds in the air over a few fences, but he’s different to what I’ve sat on in a long time, and he’s come here and proved it,” said an emotional Oliver. “He was fairly wild as a youngster and has done lots of things in life that he shouldn’t – but then again, so have I, Oliver joked.

“I had to convince myself more than anyone that it was the right thing to bring him here, but I know what he can cope with. Tomorrow’s another day but what he’s learnt out there and how he’ll come on from today makes him very exciting.”

Gemma said Arctic Soul her horse was seriously aggressive today and wanting to get the job done, adding: “he is such a genuine, honest horse and knows he has to go through the flags.”

“I’ve had a horrendous cold this week and I didn’t feel physically strong enough at certain points so had to rely on him, but he didn’t let me down.”

Izzy said: “Trevidden [her horse] was super out there. I’ve only had the ride for a year and while we clicked straight away it takes time to build a partnership. [A horse like that] makes you get up in the morning.”

New Zealand’s Tim Price put his fall on first ride Xavier Faer behind him to finish with 5.2 time penalties on Ringwood Sky Boy for fourth place. “It was a bit hairy but his experience played a part here,” said Tim. “He’s one to throw his heart over and then figure out how to land at times, but he always tries and did really well today.”

Piggy French had a super ride aboard Vanir Kamira to finish just a few seconds over the optimum time and sit in fifth.“She was absolutely brilliant, the best she’s ever been by a country mile,” said Piggy. “She doesn’t feel that scopey at one-day events and tends to run with her head a bit low so I feel the need to balance her. She finished full of running so I’m kicking myself for not going faster at the start. It’s great to have a horse of that calibre, you don’t get many like that.”

After a heavy fall from first ride Qwanza, Andrew Nicholson’s reliable Nereo finished with 7.6 time penalties, leaving him in sixth. “When you have a horse like Nereo you’d have to be in a very bad way not to go [cross country] again,” he said. “I’d have liked to make the time, but Nereo hasn’t got the pace he used to have. I just hope to show jump clear and put the pressure on the others above me.”

Leading the field after dressage, New Zealand’s Mark Todd had an unfortunate fall in Discovery Valley when Leonidas launched into orbit over the first element and pitched on landing, throwing Toddy over the front.

The day ended miserably for Zara Phillips who was riding the cross-country course on her horse High Kingdom when the Olympian slipped from the saddle and fell head-first into the water at Land Rover Trout Hatchery after a speedy start to the course.

The accident is thought to have taken place at fence 23, the Land Rover Trout Hatchery.

The USA’s Lauren Keiffer, in second after dressage, went clear but added 28 time penalties to drop down to 13th, and a very unusual run-out resulted in retirement for Germany’s Michael Jung on La Biosthetique Sam, third after dressage.

The course designed by Captain Mark Phillip’s proved just as bold and influential as promised before the event, with errors occurring around the track. “We knew it was big but the conditions were perfect,” said Captain Phillips. “We had 29 clear rounds, 3 inside the time – if my daughter (Zara Phillips hadn’t fallen off I’d have had a 50% clear round rate. I was surprised more didn’t go long in Discovery Valley after last year, but in general the course rode very much as I expected.”