Nicholson snatches lead at Burghley

  • Andrew Nicholson and New York heads the line-up after an action-packed cross-country day at Burghley

    Just one show jump (4 penalties) covers the first four riders after an action-packed cross-country day at the Masterfoods Burghley Horse Trials.

    Andrew Nicholson is in the lead for the third year running – New Zealanders have won the last five events and he took it in 2000 on Mr Smiffy – riding the veteran cross-country horse New York, now 13, who was one of only three to finish on or inside the optimum time.

    Polly Stockton is second after a magical round on Word For Word, a New Zealand-bred Thoroughbred, who last went across country at a three-day at Burghley in 1999 when he was fourth with Mark Todd.

    Neither of these two horses has the best show jumping record, especially the lazy Word For Word who whacked out four poles when in the lead in 1999.

    Leslie Law is extremely well-placed – and looks the likely winner of his first major competition – in third on Shear L’Eau, and William Fox-Pitt is fourth on four-star debutante Highland Lad. William also put in a class round on Moon Man, fifth.

    Designer Wolfgang Feld‘s aim of slowing riders down with upright fences on turns worked a treat, and Mary King, sixth on King Solomon, Andrew Hoy (seventh on Mr Pracatan) and Pippa Funnell (eighth on Primmore’s Pride have all slid down the order with time faults.

    Mary took a spectacular fall in the Trout Hatchery from her second ride Ryan, Andrew Hoy retired Printer’s Absolutely Primative after a stop on the influential Burghley Bank, Pippa Funnell withdrew Cornerman, possibly as a reserve for the WEG, and Polly Stockton retired a lame All Black after a stop going into the Trout Hatchery.

    Andrew Nicholson also took a soaking from his second ride, Climb The Heights, at the Lion Bridge water, the same point at which his girlfriend Wiggy Fox-Pitt descended into the drink.

    Andrew was, however, complimentary about the Feld course, which caused considerable attrition among the early and less experienced riders.

    “Horses jumped the fences very neatly and looked where they were going,” he said. “New York normally clouts a few – I’d have expected him to take a foot off the vertical wall – and he didn’t hit anything. I think it was a very good course.”

    Lorna Clarke, a former Burghley winner and now TV commentator, said it had been an exciting day.

    She congratulated Feld on his “bravery”

    “At last a designer has had the gutsto bring back big fences and uprights with no groundlines. If you can’t jump that sort of thing you shouldn’t be here.”

    The most unpopular fence was the Burghley Bank, which Andrew Hoy said was “almost a step too far” and would have been a different story had it been wet.

    Wolfgang responded that some riders needed to visit Ireland to learn how to ride a bank properly. “Some riders were thinking too much on the last five strides.”

    Wolfgang professed himself “veryhappy” with the day – apart from the “overture”, a reference to the tranche of less experienced riders at the start of the day who only yielded seven slow clears from the first 20.

    “We have to go back to just 80 starters,” said Wolfgang. “There were several combinations who were not qualified or suitable.”

    There were 42 clear rounds from the 84 starters on Phase D, with 17 retirements and nine eliminations for horse falls plus a further 12 withdrawals.

    Polly Stockton was a second inside the time, while Jeanette Brakewell finished on the button with the 12th-placed Plantaganet Of Rushall. She is also 10th on The Busker.

    On the injury list was the USA’s Buck Davidson, who broke a vertebrae on the steeplechase – his father Bruce is currently hospitalised in America after a serious fall – and Canadian Stuart Black, who was taken for observation after a crunching, though apparently harmless, fall at the bank.

    The USA-based Irish rider Hilda Hick-Donahue’s horse Ashmore’s Scribble had to be put down after completing the course due to his extensive tendon injuries.

    Results after cross-country

    :1, Andrew Nicholson (New York, GBR) 47.6; 2, Polly Stockton (Word For Word, GBR) 48.8; 3, Leslie Law (Shear L’Eau) 50.8; 4, William Fox-Pitt (Highland Lad) 51.81; 5, William Fox-Pitt (Moon Man) 52.41; 6, Mary King (King Solomon lll) 52.8; 7, Andrew Hoy (Mr Pracatan, AUS) 53.61; 8, Pippa Funnell (Primmore’s Pride) 55.01; 9, William Levett (Time Will Tell, AUS) 55.4; 10, Jeanette Brakewell (The Busker) 55.4; 11, James Robinson (Comanche) 61.6; 12, Jeanette Brakewell (Plantagenet Of Rushall) 63.41.

    To read Friday’sBurghley report click here

    To read Thursday’s Burghley report click here

    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), plus expert opinion and review of this great event in the October issue of Eventing magazine

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