Australia’s Chris Burton set the Land Rover Burghley arena alight this afternoon with a superlative display of dressage on Sue Lawson, Carolyn Townsend and his own elegant 11-year-old Nobilis 18.
Dressage scores in the low 30s are as rare as hens’ teeth at four-star level, so the duo’s final mark of 30.2 was proof of something special.
“He’s a beautiful mover and today he was really relaxed, which meant I could ride forward and attack the movements,” said Chris, who was poised for a top finish at Badminton with this horse earlier in the year before suffering an unlucky tip-up across country.
He added: “It’s not easy to feel confident about the course at Burghley, but Nobilis is a blood horse and should cope with the trip.”
Germany’s Bettina Hoy, who was crowned European Champion at Burghley in 1997, slipped to second aboard Designer 10 on a score of 34.5.
“I always expected ‘Burto’ to go ahead of me today,” she laughed. “He rode a beautiful test and the mark was well deserved.”
Five-times Land Rover Burghley winner Andrew Nicholson (NZL) and his wonderful campaigner Nereo achieved a lifetime best CCI4* score of 35.2, which included a flurry of nines towards the end of their test and left them in third place overnight.
“I’m very pleased; that was as good as it could have been,” said Andrew, who this time last year was recovering from a serious accident that left him with a broken neck. “I’ve deliberately not brought him up here [to the arena area] since the trot-up because I trust him to behave and concentrate 100%.”
Riders have labelled Mark Phillips’ cross-country track, which follows a similar route to last year but with plenty of new challenges, as a “proper four-star, Burghley track”. Rain is forecast for tomorrow afternoon, which will only add to the challenge.
Tina Cook, who finished eighth here last year with Star Witness and lies X at the end of dressage said: “Some fences, like Capability’s Cutting [fences 8 and 9] are softer than last year, but then the Land Rover Dairy Farm [fence 14] and the Trout Hatchery [fences 20 and 21] have more elements to them and are probably more difficult than 12 months ago,” she said.
Andrew Nicholson added: “I think Mark Phillips has got the hang of how to make the time impossible. With the early fences coming thick and fast it becomes hard to make up seconds and that’s when people make mistakes. I’d be surprised if anyone makes the time.”
Tomorrow’s cross-country action begins at 11am when the first out on course will be Tom Crisp and Cooleys Luxury.
For full dressage results, click here.