When Oliver Townend soared to victory at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials last weekend (31 August-3 September 2017) you may have found yourself wondering about his relatively unknown ride Ballaghmor Class. Here’s all you need to know about this exciting 10-year-old...

Ballaghmor Class’s key stats

Stable name: Thomas
Height: 16.2hh
Sex: Gelding
Foaled: 2007
Sire: Courage II
Dam: Kilderry Place
BE points: 531

All you need to know about Oliver Townend’s Ballaghmor Class

1. Burghley was Ballaghmor Class’s four-star debut…

…And what a debut it was. Oliver and the grey gelding were lying in sixth place after the dressage on Friday on a score of 40.2, but shot to the top of the leader board after going clear around Mark Phillips’ testing cross-country track. The pair held their nerve in the showjumping to clinch the title in front of a packed crowd on Sunday, despite having one fence down.

2. Oliver isn’t short of praise for the sport’s latest four-legged star

“I was walking him around the collecting ring [for the showjumping] when I was warming up and I thought, whatever happens, I wouldn’t swap him for any other horse here,” said the tearful Yorkshireman following his victory. “Ballaghmor Class is different to what I’ve sat on for a lot of years, I think he’s probably one of the best horses I’ve ever had or had for a very long time anyway.”

3. But not everyone was convinced Ballaghmor Class should be at Burghley this year

There were some raised eyebrows when Oliver decided to bring Ballaghmor Class to the four-star this year — he is after all, in eventing terms, something of a spring chicken at just 10-years-old. “A few people told me I shouldn’t have brought him here, and I just thought what am I listening to these people for, because I know horses and I know what he can cope with,” said Oliver.

4. Even with Oliver’s confidence in the horse, the grey exceeded expectations

For a Burghley winner, his CV looks pretty sparse. “He’s a young horse who’s not established at this level,” said Oliver. “He’s a 10-year-old and it’s probably very early for him to be here, but we have no worry ability-wise, and we have no worry with his jumping confidence, so we thought, why not? He’s still weak, he’s still babyish, but I couldn’t be happier with him.”

The horse’s final run before Burghley was in the advanced at The Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe, where he was withdrawn before the cross-country. But the pair were selected for the Nations Cup team in Aachen in July where they finished in 16th place individually, and they finished fourth in the CCI3* at Tattersalls in May.

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5. Oliver recognises the horse’s strengths and weaknesses

“His dressage is probably the greenest phase — he’s only just learning about flying changes and things,” said Oliver. “With the cross-country I gave him time to warm into the course, but when I said ‘go’ he responded fantastically. He jumps a little bit too big, he’s a bit babyish in places, but at the same time I just had a fantastic time on him out there. I think he warmed into the course, and I gave him the time in the first few minutes to have a look at the crowd and see what’s going on. And then with the showjumping you’d be more worried about the crowds, but he’s a very good jumper and he’s proved how good he is today.”

6. What doesn’t kill you…

“He’s always been very sharp and he’s had us all on the floor at home,” admitted Oliver. “He had a girl off going up the gallops just two weeks ago and he’s gone through arena mirrors and out of the school through the fence in the past. But I’ve always liked him and we’ve probably got a stronger relationship as a result.”

7. All eyes on the future

“What he’s learnt out there and how he’ll come on for being at Burghley is going to be very exciting,” said Oliver. And we couldn’t agree more — it looks like this grey won’t be slipping under anyone’s radar in future…

Don’t miss this Thursday’s issue of Horse & Hound magazine (7 September 2017), with our full report and analysis from Burghley Horse Trials