This weekend’s Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (GBR) (August 30 – September 2) looks set to provide a thrilling climax to the HSBC FEI Classics™ 2012 series, with a bumper international entry and a surge in ticket sales following the huge success of the equestrian events at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Britain’s Eventing summer has been something of a washout and both riders and spectators are clearly looking forward to some high-quality sport in the beautiful park at Burghley. The organisers have received a record entry and will run up to 90 horses representing 11 nations.
Olympians in the field include team gold medallist Dirk Schrade (GER) on Hop And Skip, plus silver medallists William Fox-Pitt (GBR) with last year’s winner Parklane Hawk and Seacookie, and Mary King (GBR) on her home-bred mare Kings Temptress, third last year.
Four members of New Zealand’s bronze medal team will also be competing: Andrew Nicholson, who brings Avebury, the runner-up in 2011, plus either Calico Joe or Mr Cruise Control, Mark Todd (Major Milestone), Jonathan Paget (Clifton Lush) and Caroline Powell (Boston Two Tip).
William Fox-Pitt, twice a winner of the HSBC FEI Classics™, is out in front again, having triumphed at both Pau in 2011, on Oslo, and Kentucky in April of this year on Parklane Hawk. He has six points in hand over Andrew Nicholson, current leader of the HSBC Rider Rankings, but that may not be enough as the rivalry is sure to be intense. If the New Zealander can earn a top placing – and finish clear of Fox-Pitt – he will take home the US150,000 first prize for the first time.
Another rider to watch is the Kentucky runner-up Alison Springer (Arthur), who heads a strong US contingent. If she finishes seventh or better, she will overtake Michael Jung (GER) and Stuart Tinney (AUS), currently third and fourth in the HSBC FEI Classics™, as neither is at Burghley to defend their place in the standings.
Mary King, last year’s HSBC FEI Classics™ winner, will also be doing the maths. She already has eight points and could spring into the money prizes with a high placing, as could Clayton Fredericks (AUS), who rides Waltersdown Don, and another former HSBC FEI Classics™ winner, Oliver Townend (GBR), who has excellent chances with Armada and Sonas Rovatio.
There will also be strong competition from the group of Olympic reserves who will be looking forward to their chance to grab some glory. Lucy Wiegersma (GBR) with Simon Porloe and Granntevka Prince, Sam Watson (IRL) riding Horseware Bushman, Megan Jones (AUS) on Kirby Park Allofasudden and former World Champion Jean Teulere (Matelot du Grand Val) are all expected to feature in the final shake-up.
The inclusion of three of the beautifully constructed Cross Country fences from Greenwich Park will maintain the Olympic flavour: the ‘Planets’, ‘Sundials’ and the carved ‘Olympic Games Horses’ will form a three-element complex in the main arena.
“The park looks in the best condition I can remember and the footing is perfect,” says Course Designer Mark Phillips (GBR). “The course is still at the longer distance of around 11.5 minutes used last year and the big fences are still there. The technical fences may be a touch easier, but this is a true CCI4* track and I’m excited about it. With Olympic fever still in the air, this could be a very special Burghley.”
The Dressage phase starts tomorrow morning (Thursday). Follow the action on www.burghley-horse.co.uk
HSBC FEI Classics™ 2012 Leaderboard (after 4 out of 5 events, due to cancellation of Badminton):
1 William Fox-Pitt (GBR) 30
2 Andrew Nicholson (NZL) 24
3 Michael Jung (GER) 15
4 Stuart Tinney (AUS) 15
5 Alison Springer (USA) 12
6 Lucinda Fredericks (AUS) 12
7 Sonja Johnson (AUS) 12
8 Boyd Martin (USA) 10
9 Andreas Dibowski (GER) 10
10 Emma Mason (AUS) 10
Full leaderboard can be viewed here.