People keep saying to me, “How was your day?” as I sit in the press tent at the close of cross-country day at Burghley Horse Trials.
“Good” I say, or “busy”, or “mad”. I haven’t seen any horses in the flesh today, because I’ve been in the press office doing our H&H Live service — an up-to-the-minute interactive written commentary of the action — with Carol Phillips, our website editor.
A few things came over loud and clear from the reader comments on H&H Live. One is how many eventing fans there are out there and how strongly they feel their sport should be on television. The fact that the BBC was not even showing the cross-country on the red button was not popular, and the fact the online delayed film at Burghley.tv didn’t seem to work for much of the day was greeted with horror.
H&H online was the only place to follow the action up-to-the-minute, and although the readers were grateful to us for it, they were obviously upset not to be able to see it for themselves. Come on BBC, can’t we have a change of policy on this for next year?
Another point is how much fans take a horse or rider to their hearts. The volume of reader comments went through the roof when we got to some combinations (sorry if we didn’t have time to publish your remark) — Caroline Powell (pictured) and the 16-year-old Lenamore were among the most popular ones.
And there was strong local support for readers from your area, or indeed country. By the end of the day, only about 74% of our readers were British, the rest were all over the world, from America to Beijing and South Africa.
Who stood out for me today on the cross-country? It’s easy to say the leading combinations, but looking a little further down there were a raft of impressive younger horses out there — the 10-year-olds Westwood Poser (Polly Stockton, sixth overnight), Seacookie (William Fox-Pitt, seventh) and Leprince Des Bois (12th with Germany’s Dirk Schrade), Mary King’s nine-year-old Kings Temptress (10th).
On the rider front, we’re lacking a stunning British first-time performance in the top raft — Kitty Boggis should have provided it but was so unlucky to fall in the arena after a superb round on Boondoggle — but there were plenty of heartening shows.
Aaron Millar (Stormstay, 29th) and Ginnie Turnbull (Instant Reaction (36th) both went clear on their debuts here, with Sarah Stretton (Lazy Acres Skip On, 46th) and Nicola Malcolm (McFly, 49th) both riding well too to come home with just 20 penalties on their jumping cards.
Looking ahead to tomorrow, Oliver Townend has a fence in hand to take the Burghley title, strengthen his hold on first place in the $150,000-to-the-winner HSBC FEI Classics race and line up the $350,000 Rolex grand slam title if he can also add Kentucky next year. Can he do it? I wouldn’t bet against it.
Follow the show jumping live with H&H online’s up-to-the-minute written commentary, starting again tomorrow at 10.15am. Visit www.horseandhound.co.uk/burghleylive to register for an email reminder and join in.
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.