Oliver Townend down to just one ride at Burghley Horse Trials

  • Oliver Townend opted to retire Swallow Springs, who was second after dressage, on Derek Di Grazia’s 2023 Defender Burghley Horse Trials cross-country course, which is providing plenty of challenges.

    The grey gelding dropped his back legs into the open oxer that formed the first part of the Dairy Mound at fence 20, breaking the frangible device. Swallow Springs had jumped clear up until that point, but looked to run out of petrol quite quickly at this point on the course.

    Oliver still has Ballaghmor Class to come and will be hoping to complete with his long-standing partner after a broken rein on his first ride on Tregilder forced him to retire.

    Harry Meade and Charlotte Opperman’s five-star first timer Cavalier Crystal, a former Burghley Young Event Horse winner, produced a nimble clear round to finish just outside of the time with 5.2 time penalties, to move them into third spot overall at that stage of the competition.

    “She’s a lovely mare who has been a slow burner, but she’s careful and brave, as well as a bit feisty,” said Harry. “My main aim was to keep my hands low. As long as she can see the fence, she’ll jump it.”

    Alice Casburn, 21, and her mother Caroline’s home-bred Topspin, fifth at Burghley in 2022, were textbook across-country once again, to finish clear with just 7.6 time faults.

    “I don’t think I could have sat on a horse that made it feel easier all the way. He’s absolutely phenomenal and a freak of nature,” Alice said.

    Full-time accountant Lauren Innes rode a blinder around the 2023 Burghley Horse Trials cross-country course to accelerate herself up the leaderboard on her own and The Innes Family Syndicate’s Global Fision M.

    Lauren and the 13-year-old were last after dressage, but their unbreakable bond paid dividends on the cross-country field. They went clear and finished with 24.8 time penalties.

    “I mean, I can’t really take much credit for that; I just steer him,” said Lauren. “I’ve never been around there and I went long at the Leaf Pit because I knew that that line would suit me and he can be so exuberant off a step so I wasn’t going to risk it so early on. He will just keep going until I say slow down. He’s one of those miracle horses, a unicorn, that is careful, but also extremely brave and you don’t get many of them.

    “We actually made the decision to withdraw before the cross-country and then I spoke to Jonelle Price, and she was said it’d be sacrilege to take him around a four-star as a re-route and that I should get out there today, and thank God she said that because otherwise I might not have been here right now.”

    Jennie Saville jumped clear round her first Burghley Horse Trials cross-country course riding Tim and Nina Gardner’s 13-year-old FE Lifestyle. They finished with 15.6 time penalties.

    “That was surreal,” said USA rider Jennie. “This is his sixth five-star, so a major shout out to him. He’s so fun to ride, though he can trip a bit, which made the dressage tricky, but he was awesome today.”

    Francis Whittington’s ride DHI Purple Rain, who is owned by Ro Audley, Amy, Andy and Belinda Drummond, also went clear to finish with just over 18 time penalties.

    After being a tad over-keen at some of the early fences, Jessica Phoenix regained her harmony with Jim Phillips’ ex-racehorse Wabbit to jump clear and finish with 10.8 time faults.

    On his final competitive appearance before he retires, The Jenning Syndicate’s 19-year-old Bradeley Law and Michael Owen started strong before bowing out at the Leaf Pit, as did Phil Brown and Harry Robinson.

    It wasn’t to be Austin O’Conner and the well-known cross-country star Colorado Blue’s day, either, as the pair retired at the third fence after a refusal.

    Tim Cheffings, who was celebrating his 40th birthday today, retired at fence 14B where his ride Gaston offered his second refusal of the day.

    End of day update: Harry Meade and Cavalier Crystal sit in 16th position, Alice Casburn and Topspin occupy 13th spot while Lauren Innes and Global Fision M are in 27th place. Jennie Saville and FE Lifestyle are now in 17th, Francis Whittington’s ride DHI Purple Rain sits in 21st and Jessica Phoenix and Wabbit come in 15th.

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