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Saturday, September 03, 2011  •  18:07 BST

William Fox-Pitt riding PARKLANE HAWK  in the lead after cross country

William Fox-Pitt riding PARKLANE HAWK in the lead after cross country

A CLOSE FINISH TO CROSS-COUNTRY DAY

It is close at the top. A mere 3.7 penalties, less than the value of one show jump down, divides the top four after the cross-country at The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.

Just a clear round of show jumping now separates leader William Fox-Pitt from a record sixth Burghley victory. William and the New Zealand-bred Thoroughbred Parklane Hawk, for who it was the first four-star course, put in a clear round inside the time and moved to the top of the leader board when dressage leader Simone Deitermann was eliminated after a fall from Free Easy NRW. “It was a big attacking track this year and we all knew we had our work cut out,” said William who is also in ninth place with Neuf Des Coeurs. “Parklane Hawk is a horse I rate highly but you never know and it is always a relief to come home clear. And he came home full of running and is one who is very exciting for the future.”

Andrew Nicholson also put in an early clear round with his first ride Rosemary Barlow’s Avebury to move up three places to second but added 2.8 time penalties to his dressage score with Deborah Sellers Nereo. The penalties resulted in a drop of one place to fifth. “The course rode very big and the first half was intense albeit the second half gave you a chance to catch up a bit more but over some very big single fences. Avebury was very good and while Nereo would have been quicker at the halfway stage he began to tire in the second half.”

Last year’s winners Caroline Powell and Lenamore gave yet another sparkling display of cross-country riding to complete on a clean sheet and move up to third. If the eighteen-year-old Lenmore can win again he will be the first horse to win the event two year’s in a row and most certainly the oldest. “He is an amazing horse,” said Caroline who is based in the Scottish borders. “As soon as he arrived here on Tuesday he knew exactly where he was and was even trying to tell me which way to go on the cross-country course. Yet again he gave me an amazing ride.”

Mary King and Kings Temptress dropped one place from third to fourth and is not far behind with her first ride Apache Sauce who is in seventh.

From the 78 starters 10 combinations came home clear inside the time. The one to benefit most was New Zealander Craig Nicolai, whose fast clear with Just Ironic moved him up 45 places, from 77th to 32nd, while local rider Angus Smales from Rutland jumped 39 places up the leader board with Ballyvooney.

Fifty three of the 58 finishers jumped clear rounds a result that pleased course designer Captain Mark Phillips. “I was relieved to see 53 clear rounds but I think the reason that few finished with penalties is that if you had a stop early on then this course drained the confidence out of the rider. But in general riders respected the course and it rode well.”

Burghley Director Elizabeth Inman was happy with the outcome of the day. “I came in this morning worried by potential traffic problems (caused by the closure of the A1) but in fact as well as an increase of advanced sales of 30%, the figures on the gate also went up by 4% and I couldn’t be more pleased.”

The final horse inspection takes place in the main arena at 09.00hrs and show jumping for the lower placed riders at 10.30hrs.

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