The most exciting day in the eventing calendar is here: it’s cross-country Saturday at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials. But who will shine over the toughest cross-country track in the world? Whose faces will we see at the top of the leaderboard at the end of today? And who will most likely lift the coveted Land Rover trophy tomorrow?
We assess the form and the chances of the top 10 after dressage:
Christopher Burton and Nobilis 18 (AUS): Yesterday, the pair scored the best ever dressage mark [30.2] seen at Burghley and Christopher has a good record at this autumn four-star. Last year he finished third and fourth here and he and Nobilis have won four of their nine international starts. They were second last year at Blenheim CCI3* and started at Badminton this year, but were eliminated after a fall. A win here would give Christopher a much-deserved first British four-star title.
Bettina Hoy and Designer 10 (GER): Bettina was crowned European Champion here in 1997 and has had two four-star wins to her name since – at Luhmuhlen in 2005 and Pau 2008 on Ringwood Cockatoo. With Designer 10 she came fifth at Badminton in 2015 and 20th at the same event a year later.
Andrew Nicholson and Nereo (NZL): The Kiwi maestro has won the Land Rover Burghley title five times, including three years running between 2012 and 2014 with the wonderful grey Avebury. Nereo is a tough, seasoned four-star campaigner and it would be a brave man to bet against him adding to his tally. Nero was an individual bronze medal winner at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in 2010 and was placed second here in 2013 and third at Badminton in the same year. Ones to watch…
Caroline Powell and Onwards And Upwards (NZL): A winner here in 2010 on crowd favourite Lenamore, Caroline would be a popular winner. She’s not been to Burghley since 2012 and her best four-star result with Onwards And Upwards was eighth at Pau in 2012.
Oliver Townend and MHS King Joules (GBR): The last British rider to win Badminton was William Fox-Pitt in 2011, but could Oliver, who won this title in 2009 with Carousel Quest, turn this around? MHS King Joules is the best-placed of his three rides this year, but it is the gelding’s first four-star outing so he is a bit of an unknown quantity. The horse was previously ridden by Mary King and Andrew Nicholson.
Andrew Hoy and The Blue Frontier (AUS): Has good form at this event, winning here in 1979 on Davy and 25 years later in 2004 on Moon Fleet. Last year he retired with Rutherglen, who he is also riding this time. It is a first four-star for The Blue Frontier, who was fourth at Tattersalls CCI3* earlier this year.
Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy (NZL): Would be a well-deserved winner and has good form here, finishing second last year with this horse, who sometimes struggles in the showjumping phase but is a consistent cross-country performer. Tim, who won Luhmuhlen CCI4* in 2014, was a member of the member of the New Zealand team in Rio, but had an unlucky slip up on the flat on the cross-country, which ruled him out of the competition. A win this weekend would certainly make amends.
Sam Griffiths and Happy Times (AUS): Would be an extremely popular winner. This is Happy Times’ seventh Burghley and is likely to be his swansong at the highest level, so a win would be the perfect swansong. The pair’s best results were third in 2009 and 2014. Sam also won Badminton in 2014 on Paulank Brockagh.
Blyth Tait and Bear Necessity V (NZL): The former Olympic gold medallist “retired” from the sport in 2004 before making a comeback in 2011. He has won Burghley twice before – in 1998 with Chesterfield and 2001 with Ready Teddy. Bear Necessity was previously a hunter for his owner Ronnie Bartlett, but he already has four-star form having finished 13th at Badminton earlier this year. This is the horse’s Burghley debut, but don’t discount him.
Mark Todd and NZB Campino (NZL): Can the two-times Olympic champion gain his sixth Land Rover Burghley title? If so, he will equal William Fox-Pitt’s impressive record. With Campino Mark won team bronze in London 2012, finished seventh and 10th at Luhmuhlen and Pau in 2015 and was seventh in Kentucky earlier this year.