Three former winners head the leaderboard for the Burghley Masterfoods Horse Trials after the first full day of dressage.
Andrew Hoy (pictured), who won on his first attempt, in 1979 on Davey, and is riding here for the first time since 1997, is in the lead on John and Anona Young’s Mr Pracatan.
He is followed by the 1996 winner Mary King, this time on King Solomon III , and the 1995 and 2000 victor Andrew Nicholson on Libby Sellars’s veteran New York.
Mr Pracatan is the horse who gave Andrew his currently squashed nose, an injury which required extensive stitching and which was sustained in a sprawling fall in the British Open at Gatcombe.
He describes the British-bred 10-year-old Mr Pracatan, seventh at Bramham, as “a genuine trier” and says that although he expects him to jump around the cross-country, “it will be hard work for him”.
In contrast, Mary’s ride King Solomon III has seen it all before, for he has been fourth twice, including last year.
“He’s a very experienced horse and knows what he is doing. It should be no problem for him – it’s just me!”
Mary, the last British winner and the last woman to do so before five years of Kiwi domination, was first reserve for the British squad for the World Games, having been denied a place due to the fact that King Solomon missed his Badminton run, due to a freak incident in which he showed an irregular heartbeat and which Mary has been assured was a one-off.
At 13, New York, also, has a brilliant cross-country record, with several superb Badminton runs under his belt and a fifth placing at the 1998 WEG.
Matt Ryan, who is extremely disappointed not to have made the Australian squad for the WEG, may have compensation on the 18-year-old Kibah Sandstone, another cracking cross-country horse, who is currently lying fourth.
Leslie Law, who has yet to score a really good result at Burghley, has the only other sub-50 mark, on his WEG reserve Shear L’Eau.
Acclaimed German maestro Wolfgang Feld is the first overseas designer to be given a job in Britain and takes over from Mark Phillips, his appointment having been delayed 12 months due to foot and mouth.
Feld attended the event last year and worked out his radical changes then, which include starting in a different direction and looping back to jump up rather than down the Leaf Pit, which is now fence 7 instead of 3.
Riders are most wary of the Burghley Bank at 16, where the distance to a palisade off the bank is long and could, according to Andrew Nicholson, “get messy”, and a substantial complex at the Pig Sties at 15 where the line to the third element is awkward.
The track is awash with Feld’s trademarks – big complexes and subtly introduced uprights to slow riders down.
“It’s noticeable that he is trying to slow us down,” said Mary. “There are uprights in places where we used to gallop on.”
“I feel for the less experienced riders who haven’t ridden Wolfgang’s tracks in Germany,” said Andrew Nicholson.
“It’s big and technical and a completely different way of designing to British courses. He uses very big verticals and just makes things look different. He uses the horse’s natural ability – I have a lot of faith in his course design and I think it’s great to see someone new.”
For more information on Burghley visit www.burghley-horse.co.uk
Results after first full day dressage:
1, Andrew Hoy, 44.81; 2, Mary King, 46.4; 3, Andrew Nicholson, 47.6; 4, Matt Ryan, 49.01; 5, Leslie Law, 49.2; 6, William Fox-Pitt (Moon Man, GBR) 52.01; 7, Lucy Henson (A Touch Of Frost, GBR) 53; 8, William Levett (Time Will Tell Vl, AUS) 53.4; 9, Lester Piggott (Holly Hepp, USA) 53,6; 10eq, Buck Davidson (Class Touch, USA) and Kristina Cook (Douce de Longvaut, GBR).
Keep in touch with the latest news with our daily online reports from Burghley, plus see full report with pictures in next week’s Horse & Hound (5 September)