Early Burghley cross-country day drama as top combinations encounter problems while others thrive

  • There has already been drama today during the Defender Burghley Horse Trials cross-country phase. Oliver Townend’s first ride, Tregilder, who is owned by the Hazeldines and the Mitchell Fox Group, had been going well until Oliver’s rein snapped after jumping through fence 17ab, the Irish Horse Board Bank, meaning he was forced to retire.

    Oliver, who has three rides in this year’s competition, was in 13th after the first phase.

    Wills Oakden, who was third out on course aboard Debbie Whalley and Liz Magennis’ Oughterard Cooley, put in an incredibly impressive round, finishing two seconds within the 11min6sec optimum time.

    “Last year I was out of control for six minutes and this year I was out of control for 11min6sec,” joked Wills. “I knew everywhere he was running on the bridle but I told myself not to use him until I was coming home. I gave him a squeeze after the Lion Bridge [fence 27] and he went off like a rocket.”

    Wills credited his horse’s supreme fitness to dual Grand National-winning trainer Lucinda Russell.

    “Lucinda has helped us this summer with advice for improving my horses’ fitness,” he explained. “We changed his work based on her help and it has transformed him.”

    Tom McEwen gave Luna Mist, a mare owned by Martin Belsham, a lovely first five-star ride. She was enthusiastic in her jumping and looked green at times, but ultimately came home clear with 18.8 time-faults having opted to take the long route at the Dairy Mound at fence 20abc.

    “I found out a lot about the course and the ground with her,” said Tom. “This mare did a super job. She is amazing and a true mare – she was game for it going over any fence, anywhere, at any point.”

    David Doel was the second rider on the Burghley Horse Trials cross-country course to come home within the optimum time. He stopped the clock with nine seconds to spare aboard Gillian Jonas’ Galileo Nieuwmoed.

    “He was lovely and flowing all the way round, if a little bit sapped of energy at the end,” said David, who is at the top of the leaderboard at this early stage of the day. “I had one or two little moments, like when he stood on top of the Irish Bank and I saw a bit of a flyer to the Pardubice and we went through the back of that, but he was still pulling me all the way.

    “I’m dead chuffed with him. It was a little bit twisty and fiddly, which sapped it out of him a little bit and I had some extra strides where I didn’t want to, but overall he was great.”

    Harry Meade looked to have to nurse the first of his three rides, Away Cruising, who is 16 and owned by Charlotte Opperman and Jane Dear, around the Burghley Horse Trials cross-country. They picked up 20 penalties when opting for the direct route at fence 22, a corner at Capabilities Cutting. They then took the long route and completed with 24 time-faults.

    “He’s a trooper, I’ve had him since he was four and I don’t think he’s ever had a cross-country jumping fault at five-star,” said Harry. “There‘s plenty to do out there and it’s an interesting course with questions throughout.

    “The Irish Bank was uncomfortable to jump,” said Harry, whose horse banked it. “Where we incurred our 20 penalties, he went down and up the crossing, pricked his ears at the decoration part of the log and went the wrong side of the flag.”

    End of day update: David Doel and Galileo Nieuwmoed end the cross-country phase in third, while Wills Oakden and Oughterard Cooley are just behind in fourth. Tom McEwen and Luna Mist are in 19th, and Harry Meade and Away Cruising are in 31st.

    Horse & Hound has a team of reporters covering all the Burghley action. To keep reading on our website after five articles, readers will need to buy a subscription. Visit horseandhound.co.uk/join to buy a Horse & Hound website unlimited subscription or, for great value, visit magazinesdirect.com for a combined magazine and website subscription. If you are already a magazine subscriber, the cost to upgrade your subscription to include full website access is minimal – call 0330 333 1113 to find out more.

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