One of the biggest events in the world of equestrianism kicks-off at Burghley Park as eventing’s elite riders and the many thousands of fans descend on the town.
Last year’s Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials finished in controversy as winner Jock Paget was stripped of his 2013 crown after his horse Clifton Promise tested positive for the banned substance reserpine.
Earlier this month New Zealand eventer Paget was cleared of any wrong doing by the Fédération Equestre Internationale however his disqualification stands.
That meant Andrew Nicholson riding Avebury who was second behind Paget was then named the 2013 winner creating a piece of history, becoming the first partnership ever to win the event two years in succession.
Now New Zealand’s Nicholson is looking for an unprecedented three-in-a- row on Avebury in this year’s competition, a feat never before achieved at Burghley, which runs from Thursday through to Sunday.
Leading the star studded list of riders looking to beat him to the title at Burghley this year is British riding legend William Fox-Pitt with the experienced trio of Bay My Hero, Chilli Morning and Parkland Hawk. He is out to extend his own record of six wins.
Coming hot on the heels of the 2014 World Equestrian Games which in taking place in France some riders may have to decide which championships to compete in.
However this year’s Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials looks set to be an international affair with 100 horses from 11 nations spanning Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, US and the UK will be competing for the substantial £62,000 first prize.
As always there will be a strong Antipodean presence led by Sir Mark Todd and Oloa. Australia’s Andrew Hoy is another former Burghley champion who has recently relocated to nearby Leicestershire and this year brings Rutherglen.
While popular Badminton winner Australia’s Sam Griffiths will be striving to secure his place on the podium in his quest to achieve the Rolex Grand Slam.
The event also sees 27 first time combinations. Young British riders include Lincolnshire-based Gina Ruck, a former British Pony team member, who’ll be competing on home-produced 12yr old Rehy Too and Kirsty Short from Hertfordshire who brings her U25s partner Cossan Lad.
They’ll face strong competition from established combinations including Izzy Taylor and the diminutive Briarlands Matilda, East Midlands rider Piggy French and Jakarta who hasn’t competed at 4* level since 2011 and Francis Whittington who this year brings Hasty Imp.
A strong European entry includes five-time Olympian Karin Donkers of Belgium with Lamicell Unique, France’s Karim Laghouag and his 2012 Olympic reserve horse, Punch de L’Esques and Kai Ruder of Germany and his Blenheim 2013 partner Gryffindor.