Jonathan ‘Jock’ Paget and his fellow New Zealand riders showed the way with their brilliant Cross Country riding at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, final leg of the HSBC FEI Classics™, and they now hold seven of the top 10 places.
Paget is in first and second on Clifton Promise and Clifton Lush; last year’s winner Andrew Nicholson is third, fifth and eighth on Avebury, Nereo and Calico Joe; Jonelle Richards is sixth on The Deputy; and five-time Burghley winner Mark Todd gave a masterclass of horsemanship on his inexperienced new ride Oloa to rise eight places to 10th.
Paget (on Clifton Lush) and Nicholson (on Calico Joe and Avebury) were the only riders to achieve the 11 minute 34 second optimum time; William Fox-Pitt (GBR), riding a New Zealand Thoroughbred, Parklane Hawk, was foot perfect and only two seconds over time. He is now in fourth place, on the same score as Nicholson on Avebury.
Dual Olympic gold medallists Ingrid Klimke (GER) and FRH Butts Abraxxas dropped from second after Dressage to seventh after incurring 9.2 time penalties and Nicola Wilson (GBR) has maintained ninth place on Opposition Buzz.
Paget had a strange day because he was held on the course with both horses while they were checked by officials for minor injuries. Clifton Lush had bumped his nose after pecking at the Elephant Trap [fence 6], which caused it to bleed, and Clifton Promise bit his tongue at some point on the middle of the course and had blood in his mouth. Neither horse was affected by the incidents.
“It was a bit weird,” admitted Paget. “The hold definitely worked in my favour with Lush, but Promise [who finished just one second over the optimum time] was a little bit surprised to find himself going again.
“The course was challenging even though I was riding two exceptional horses. The fences were big, angled and skinny and you were behind time when you got to the Land Rover Dairy Mount [fence 19].”
Course Designer Mark Phillips (GBR) had set a true four-star test, which was acclaimed by riders, and Klimke said she considered her debut performance at Burghley to be one of the great achievements of her career.
“It was as challenging as I expected,” she said. “I had a scary moment at the Trout Hatchery [fence 14] when we sat on the hedge after doing too big a jump over the fence before. But he is only a little horse and he did so many other good things.
“The rest felt wonderful. It’s certainly the hardest course I have done with him. He goes like a little rabbit over the European courses but it’s been my dream to finish a real English course on him!”
Nicholson, whose round on Avebury in the middle of the day was beautiful to watch, said: “The course wasn’t as big as in some years but it was cleverly done. You had to sit on your backside and ride right from the start rather than gliding around, and that is as it should be.”
Describing the performances of his three horses, he said: “Calico Joe is fast and has lots of stamina but he isn’t a very big jump. I thought once that he wouldn’t progress beyond novice, so I’m very pleased with him.
“Avebury felt pretty perfect, but it was a difficult course for Nereo because he tries to jump all the little mounds and undulations. However, he dealt with it very well and kept digging deeper.”
Phillips said he felt his track had achieved the right statistics: there were 39 clear rounds and 46 of the 62 Cross Country starters completed.
Andreas Dibowski (GER), equal fifth after Dressage, was the most high-profile departure from the leader board. He retired FRH Butts Leon after a run-out at an angled hedge at the influential Discovery Valley (fence 8).
Oliver Townend (GBR), 10th after Dressage, was frustrated to have a run-out with Armada at the second triple brush at the Land Rover Dairy Farm (fence 19). “He didn’t clock what I was asking him to do,” said Townend. “There are no excuses. It’s just frustrating because he’s a class horse.”
Another to have a disappointing day was Piggy French (GBR), who tipped off Westwood Mariner when he left a leg in the ditch at fence 8. Tom McEwen (GBR), riding Dry Old Party, clung on valiantly after being unshipped from the saddle at the Olympic Planet fence at 5, but eventually had to let go.
Pascal Leroy (FRA) fell from Minos de Petra at this fence; Buck Davidson, the sole American rider, had a fall from Park Trader at Keeper’s Cottage (fence 20) where William Fox-Pitt retired Neuf des Coeurs because the horse had lost a shoe.
Lucy Jackson was the only New Zealander to have a bad day; she found herself sitting on the hut at the Trout Hatchery when Willy Do stopped abruptly.
Alex Postolowsky (GBR) is currently the highest placed of the candidates for the HSBC Training Bursary for the best CCI4* finisher; she is 39th on Islanmore Ginger after a slow but clear Cross Country round.
Paget, currently third in the HSBC FEI Classics™, now has a fence in hand with Clifton Promise over himself on Clifton Lush. He also has a fence in hand over last year’s winners, Nicholson and Avebury.
“Andrew is a hero of mine,” said Paget. “He has been very generous with his advice and without him I wouldn’t be here. Of course I’ll be trying to beat him tomorrow, but I really appreciate all he’s done for me.”
Two of Paget’s compatriots have achieved the Burghley one-two before: Mark Todd on Wilton Fair and Charisma in 1987 and Blyth Tait on Chesterfield and Aspyring in 1998. More recently, William Fox-Pitt was first and second in 2008 on Tamarillo and Ballincoola. We are on the brink of seeing Eventing history made.
Results after Cross Country
1 Jock Paget/Clifton Promise (NZL) 36.7 + 0.4 = 37.1
2 Jock Paget/Clifton Lush (NZL) 42.0 + 0 = 42.0
3 Andrew Nicholson/Avebury (NZL) 42.3 + 0 = 42.3
4 William Fox-Pitt/Parklane Hawk (GBR) 41.5 + 0.8 = 42.3
5 Andrew Nicholson/Nereo (NZL) 41.3 + 2 = 43.3
6 Jonelle Richards/The Deputy (NZL) 46.2 + 1.2 = 47.4
7 Ingrid Klimke/FRH Butts Abraxxas (GER) 39.0 + 9.2 = 48.2
8 Andrew Nicholson/Calico Joe (GBR) 48.3 + 0 = 48.3
9 Nicola Wilson/Opposition Buzz (GBR) 43.3 + 7.6 = 50.9
10 Mark Todd/Oloa (NZL) 48.3 + 7.2 = 55.5
Full results here.