It may not have been the most conventional way to win a CCI4*, but such was Christopher Burton’s superiority in the first two phases that he still lifted the Land Rover Burghley title despite lowering four fences in the final showjumping phase.
The Australian star had four rails in hand as he cantered into the arena on Sue Lawson and Carolyn Townsend’s Nobilis 18, and he needed every single one of them as the 11-year-old clouted fence after heart-stopping fence.
“I thought I’d keep it interesting for everyone by making it as close as possible,” joked the ultra-cool 34-year-old, who paused before adding more seriously: “He’s basically a careful showjumper and he warmed up well, but in the end he got a bit tired and had a few down.”
In taking the title, Christopher became the first Australian rider to win Burghley for more than a decade and also ticked the important personal box of scoring his first four-star win on British soil.
“On Wednesday morning I walked along Winners’ Avenue looking at all the plaques with the names of all the old boys on them. I thought then how good it would be to add my name to the line,” he said.
One of the biggest cheers of the afternoon was reserved for runner-up Andrew Nicholson, who has bounced back from a serious neck injury to add yet another page to his Burghley biography.
His ride, Nereo, who has been bridesmaid at Burghley twice before, added six penalties to his score – one fence down and two time – to finish on a final tally of 53.2, a little over three marks behind the winners.
“I’m very proud of him. He’s getting on a bit and this is one of the few cross-country courses he doesn’t really enjoy going around because of the hills,” said Andrew. “But he does what he’s got to do whether he enjoys it or not – that’s the sort of horse he is.”
Continuing the Antipodean theme, New Zealander Jonelle Price and the brilliant mare Classic Moet took third spot after benefiting from her husband Tim’s misfortune when he lowered three fences and dropped to fourth with Ringwood Sky Boy.
“I feel like I’ve been digging myself out of a hole all week,” smiled Jonelle. “I wasn’t happy with my dressage, then I took an unplanned long route at the Dairy Farm, but I’ve managed to claw my way back and this horse makes my life easy.”
Clear showjumping rounds were few and far between – there were only five all day – but France’s Cedric Lyard and Cadeau Du Roi reaped the rewards of a penalty-free trip and jumped up to fifth place.
Showjumping course-designer Richard Jeffery explained that he had deliberately not built a lot of the fences to maximum width and had made the optimum time on the lenient side in deference to yesterday’s energy-sapping cross-country test.
“The ground was also on the soft side when we built the track last night, so I kept that in mind,” he said.
Bettina Hoy (GER) and Designer 10 lowered two rails to drop one place to sixth, while seventh-placed Oliver Townend’s clear round on Samuel Thomas II elevated him from 10th to seventh and ensured he finished the best-placed of the British riders.
Caroline Powell (Onwards And Upwards), Mark Todd (NZB Campino) and Tina Cook (Star Witness) completed the top 10.
Click here for the full results.
Find out who won the special prizes here.
• Next year’s event will take place from 31 August – 3 September 2017.