Saturday, September 04, 2010 10:00 BST
JUST ONE HOUR TO GO BEFORE CROSS COUNTRY
Spectators are currently arriving in their thousands anticipating an exciting day of action at The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials. The early morning mist is clearing and another fine and clear day is forecast.
Seventy three riders are currently making their last minute preparations down at the stables, twenty four of them for the first time at Burghley. Three horses have been withdrawn this morning; Star Quality (no. 21) Julia Crowson (GBR), Kilpatrick River (no. 77) Elizabeth Power (IRL) and Ballyvooney (no. 83) Angus Smales (GBR).
Twenty-three year-old Angus Smales will be the trailblazer with Cornsay Grouse. Angus has the experience of four CCI**** starts under his belt, three of which have been with Cornsay Grouse. The combination has previously jumped clear here three times and last year Angus, who runs his own yard in nearby Rutland, won the prize for the highest placed rider under 25 – a prize he is still eligible for this year.
Another win for title holders Oliver Townend and Carousel Quest would put them in the record books as the first combination ever to win Burghley two years in a row, while another win for William Fox-Pitt would also see him set a new record as the first rider to achieve six Burghley victories. There are also plenty of fans who would like to see New Zealander Mark Todd back in the frame. The double Olympic gold medallist also has five previous wins here under his belt – the last was thirteen years ago in 1997 with Broadcast News. His compatriot Andrew Nicholson is also one of the favourites for the Land Rover perpetual trophy. The New Zealand veteran has two previous Burghley wins the last ten years ago with Mr Smiffy. British favourite Mary King also has a good chance of success this year. The Devon based rider who will be competing as part of the British team in the World Equestrian Games later in the month scored her, as yet, only victory here in 1996 with Star Appeal.
There is however a cross-country course of 6220 metres (3.8 miles) and 30 fences to be jumped first. The optimum time for the course is 10min and 30 sec. And the leader board is tight at the top – with no margin for error and just 10 penalties separating the top 13 riders.