Today’s pathfinder, Tina Cook riding Star Witness, might have lulled spectators and competitors alike into a false sense of security. She flew around Mark Phillips’s challenging track clear and four seconds inside the time, making it look straightforward.
“I’m welling up,” she admitted after finishing. “I had the most amazing ride round there. Star Witness has engine and scope and can jump from any stride – if I ride positively he finds that extra stretch. It wasn’t easy but he tried his hardest.”
Second out, Oliver Townend and Samuel Thomas II, were also making the course look very jumpable when, on the run towards home the horse napped at the top of the Leaf Pit, incuring 20 penalties. Despite that, he still came home just 3.2 seconds over the optimum time.
“It’s a fantastic course to ride around – the best I’ve seen anywhere in the world in years,” said a disappointed Oliver. “Samuel Thomas was fantastic all the way up to that point. He can be a bit ungenuine and I think he was shocked by the steepness of the hill – plus the [Leaf Pit] is near the stables. I didn’t see it coming and usually I’m prepared for anything. The time is definitely gettable.”
Harry Dzenis and Xam were clear, adding 4.8 time penalties – then the trouble started. Simon Grieve and Drumbilla Metro picked up 20 penalties at fence 19, the corner element of the Rolex Combination and Andrew Nicholson’s Quanza suffered a horse fall at the huge corner element of Storm Doris (11) when trying to jump on one stride not two after the first element.
Clare Abbott and Euro Prince were clear but collected 15.2 time penalties, Clare explaining, “I think he was a bit shocked by the size of the fences. In hindsight you have to ride what you have got on the day – I got a rocky one today.”
Willa Newton and Chance Remark faulted in Discovery Valley (27) and at the Leaf Pit (29) before Harry Meade settled everyone’s nerves with a steady clear from Burghley first timer Away Cruising.
The leaderboard is sure to be shaken up by the end of today.