We may have endured the driest Badminton ever and the wettest June and July on record, but conditions at Burghley, thankfully, were perfect.
Over the years, Burghley has invested in an irrigation system so that the whole course and the training gallop can be manicured. This helped me to build what was widely acclaimed as the biggest four-star track people had seen in years. I knew it was big — I’m not sure I thought it was that big!
I was thrilled to see good riding rewarded at the Leaf Pit and the Discovery Valley.
I was not so excited at the Invesco Options rail to ditch, where not enough of the old-fashioned “coffin canter” was on show. Far too many at Burghley came too fast and flat, so horses had no choice but to use their legs as airbrakes when they saw the ditch.
I was amazed how well horses read the lines at the Land Rover Trout Hatchery and the Rolex Corners. Never before have we asked horses to jump in and out of water at such angles and riders thought I had finally gone crazy when they saw the angle at which they had to jump the Rolex Corner. I still can’t believe, when I watch replays, how straight horses stayed.
The Coutts Curve mushrooms near the end felled four riders. I attribute this to a lack of concentration or tiredness because they were not difficult. Undoubtedly at a real four-star — and this was a real one — the accumulation of big jumping efforts takes its toll and riders have to keep focus.
Land Rover must be very pleased to see its money funding changes at Burghley that have attracted widespread praise.
Under the stewardship of former director Bill Henson and the current director Liz Inman, Burghley has always tried to lead the field in terms of facilities. Now, with Land Rover’s help, the training facilities match the excellence of the competition areas, with a specially prepared grass gallop put in this year in addition to the all-weather warm-up arena added in 2006.
Read Mark Phillips’ comment in full in the current issue of Horse & Hound (6 September, ’07)