Is it sacrilege to say this? I really want Sinead Halpin to win the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials this afternoon.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m a British journalist, working for a British-based magazine with a broad policy of supporting British riders first and foremost. I’m proud to wear my British Equestrian Federation bracelet and one of my favourite things about reporting at championships is the way it’s fine to be more overtly patriotic.
But when someone said to me last night that “we” didn’t have much chance of victory unless Sinead’s horse didn’t pass the trot-up, I didn’t feel like that. I wanted to say I’d be crossing my fingers for her at the trot-up and even more so in this afternoon’s showjumping.
William Fox-Pitt has the best chance of a British win as he’s currently third. William winning is never a bad result. He’s a truly likeable person and he’s a journalist’s dream – he’s a quote-spouting machine, he can give you a soundbite or real in-depth analysis, he’s funny, he’s intelligent, he’s articulate. And thank god, as without doing any sums I’m sure he’s won more three-day events than anyone else in the nine years I’ve been working as an equestrian journalist.
Just last year I reported for H&H on William’s amazing three three-day wins at one event at Tattersalls, his record-breaking sixth Burghley victory and his 10th four-star triumph at Pau. And every time it was a pleasure to report on those wonderful stories.
But this time… I want something different. I want someone new. I’m at my ninth consecutive Burghley and William has won four of those. Just two have gone to riders collecting their first four-star win – Lucinda Fredericks in 2006 and Caroline Powell in 2010 – and I want to see the unparallelled joy of that moment this afternoon.
I’m paraphrasing, because I don’t have it here, but I’m pretty sure William wrote in his autobiography that when he won his first four-star (Burghley 1994) he felt a huge relief – it didn’t matter too much if he never won anything again.
I feel a four-star win puts you in an elite group forever and I want to see Sinead join that gang. This girl is no flash in the pan. Third at Kentucky and 15th at Burghley last year with Manoir De Carneville prove she’s worthy of playing with the big boys. Above all, she deserves to win because her cross-country round yesterday was the best – economical, skilful, at one with her horse.
Of course, between William and Sinead there’s the small matter of Mr Andrew Nicholson Esq, looking for a third Burghley win and his first since 2000. Don’t discount him – I certainly think Avebury has a four-star victory in him and it would be a popular one for the British-based Kiwi rider and the horse’s British owner, Rosemary Barlow.
But not today, please. Sorry Andrew, Rosemary, William and all your connections. Please don’t hate me.
Burghley 2012 is Sinead’s time. Fingers crossed.
Follow every phase of Burghley as it happens using H&H Live, our interactive written commentary supported by Baileys Horse Feeds. Review the dressage, cross-country and this morning’s showjumping and join in from 2.20pm at www.horseandhound.co.uk/burghley2012live.
Make sure you buy H&H this week (6 September) for our 10-page special Burghley report, with full analysis of every phase, comments from dressage expert Sally O’Connor and former winner Ginny Elliot and more.