After the first 20 starters only four horses have come home clear, none anywhere close to the optimum time. The first home unscathed was Oliver Townend (GBR) on the first of his three rides, Dromgurrihy Blue, who picked up 25.2 time penalties and headed the leaderboard for much of the morning.
Oliver admitted: “That didn’t go to plan at all. Right from the start he wasn’t travelling the way he usually does, I think I had to work as hard as he did out there. It just shows how genuine he is, a real hunter and an unbelievable horse. He kept throwing himself at whatever I pointed him at.
“It’s as tough as it’s ever been out there, but the course rode good. You had to ride with your brain every step of the way.”
Unusually, the four jumping clears cover the whole spectrum of experience. Joining Oliver with a clear, and currently the leader with 23.6 time penalties, is Andrew Hoy (AUS) riding Rutherglen – both Oliver and Andrew are previous winners here. However the other two clears came from Land Rover Burghley first timers Elisa Wallace (USA) and Arthur Duffort (FRA), who added 30.4 and 50.8 time penalties respectively to their scores.
Problems have been spread around the track. Errors started at fence five, the Anniversary Splash, where Abigail Boulton (GBR) picked up a refusal when she did well not to be jumped out of the saddle at the first element. Apart from that one error Tilston Tic Toc jumped clear.
Angus Smales (GBR) retired Master Crisp after a stop at the Lakeside Hedges (fence 6), while Austin O’Connor (IRL) and Vicky Brake (GBR) both pulled up at Capability’s Cutting (fence 8).
The Land Rover Dairy Farm (fence 14) has been ridden every which way, with a variety of routes through the three elements but at this early review only two horses have faulted here, Bronze Flight and Allstar B.
Roo Fox and Fleet Street suffered a horse fall (unharmed) at the usually straightforward Maltings Village Green (fence 16), while further round the course, Land Rover Burghley first timers Alexander Bragg and Katie Barber both parted company from their horses in Discovery Valley.
Three horses have faulted so far at the FEI Classics Leaf Pit, both Bango (Tim Price) and Galley Light (Ben Way) wanted to take a peek down the drop before jumping. As Tim Price said, “For a young horse like Bango it looks like you are jumping off a cliff as well as coming where you are turning away from the stables. For me it’s an excusable hesitation for him.”
Andrew Hoy’s comment after his ride rings very true. “You should never underestimate Burghley. It’s a good and a fair course, but there are big jumping efforts all the way round. I took my time to jump every fence and give Rutherglen a good experience, and had made the call to take my two long routes [at the Dairy Mound and the Rolex Combination] before I set off.”
With rain now falling, the course is only going to become more influential as the afternoon goes on.