I wouldn’t have been surprised if there were a few weary faces at the Burghley Horse Trials trot-up this morning. Last night Land Rover laid on an excellent party in one of the hospitality marquees, with free drinks and food, and a creditable number of riders made the journey up from the stables through the mud.
I was amused to see that with much of the park awash with mud there were three options for footwear. I was among those who wore wellies or Dubarrys to the door, left them there and changed into clean shoes. Others remained in their muddy footwear — understandable, but I feared for the cream carpet — while a third group partied in their socks, including Mary King, who opened the dancing with her son Freddie. Mary’s Olympic team-mate Tina Cook also showed some impressive moves later on, as did Hong Kong reserve Nicola Wilson, who went characteristically well across country with Opposition Buzz yesterday.
Also celebrating were first-timers Georgie Spence, 19, and Rachel Gough, 20. Rachel caught my eye yesterday — she obviously has a good partnership with her mare Bow House Mandalin, who she admitted last night can be difficult at home, but showed her value by jumping for fun across country.
It was great to see Rachel’s delight when she came through the finish. If there was an award for grin of the day, I reckon her only competition came from superb pathfinder Rosie Thomas — she smiled the whole way round — and Dee Kennedy, obviously over the moon with her first four-star cross-country clear on Big El.
This morning’s news of Philip Dutton’s withdrawal is disappointing, and exacerbates a situation which I always think is a shame — when a rider has more than one horse in the top 10, so they have to show jump their lower-placed horse out of order early.
Although it’s a huge credit to these riders, for the public it can break the momentum of the show jumping, and never more so than in this case, where William Fox-Pitt lies first and second and Mary King third and fourth. Potentially, if Ballincoola (lying second but jumping out of order early) goes clear we may know William is the winner, if not on which horse, with 12 horses still to jump.
It’s an unavoidable situation, and I’m sure the crowd will still enjoy this afternoon’s spectacle. If William pulls off a win, he’ll equal Ginny Elliot and Mark Todd’s record of five Burghley victories; if he manages the one-two, he’ll become the third person to do so here, following in the footsteps of Mark Todd (1987, Wilton Fair and Charisma) and Blyth Tait (1998, Chesterfield and Aspyring).
Log back onto www.horseandhound.co.uk/burghley08 later for a final update and competitor diaries from Burghley.
Don’t forget to buy Horse & Hound next Thursday (11 September) for 12-page special report, colour photographs and William Fox-Pitt’s comment.