What began as a very pleasant afternoon’s show jumping on this final day of the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials turned into an exciting climax as Polly Stockton (pictured), who at 2.25pm this afternoon was lying in sixth place and appeared to be going home with a possible £6,000 prize-money, edged her way up the scoreboard to second place, behind Oliver Townend’s first.
To say that this was a surprise would be an understatement. Not as a reflection on Polly’s abilities but with Sam Griffiths, Caroline Powell, Phillip Dutton and Clayton Fredericks sitting in descending order between Oli and Polly, the crowd were prepared for a British/Australian tussle at the end — it was hardly going to be a battle as Oli had two fences in hand.
Polly edged her way through fourth and third places and the audience were with her all the way. Then suddenly the metaphorical British flags were flying: Sam Griffiths had a fence down, Polly was in second place and all — huh, all! — Oli had to do was keep 14 of the 16 jumps up and we had a British one-two. It was magical!
This was followed by a parade of hounds from the Fitzwilliam (Milton) hunt and a Sunday fly past of a World War II Spitfire and Hurricane (particularly appropriate as this year marks the 70th anniversary of the beginning of World War II) and everyone was feeling particularly jingoistic.
The atmosphere was fantastic; particularly poignant when compared to last weekend’s dressage and show jumping Europeans. This is the spirit that we need to capture and bottle for 2012 if we’re going to put on a show to be proud of.
Back to Oliver Townend, his next three-day event will be Blenheim, then it’s on to the eventing Europeans at Fontainebleau, France, before the finale of the HSBC FEI Classics at Pau. Will he be able to finish his 2009 season by becoming the first person to win three four-stars in one year?
Having to pay off that huge new mortgage that he keeps telling us about is obviously proving a great incentive.
Don’t forget to buy H&H next week (10 September) for our 10-page Burghley special report including colour pictures, comment from course-designer Mark Phillips and full analysis.