Cross-country speed proves key in battle for British Open at Festival of British Eventing

  • With two of eventing’s best speed demons on his tail in the British Open — and new Australian sponsors Magic Millions egging him on — Christopher Burton clinched his second British Open title with the fastest round of the day at the Festival of British Eventing on Trisha Rickards’ Polystar I.

    Once Oliver Townend marred his impressive dressage mark of 19pen on ERM specialist Cillnabradden Evo with two showjumps down, Burton snuck ahead with a jumping clear and had no intentions of giving way. Riding economical lines across country with his foot to the floor he finished easily ahead, 9 seconds quicker than the next fastest combination.

    “I just love that horse — he is a delight to ride,” said Christopher. “I find you ride better and faster when you run in reverse order like this.”

    Izzy Taylor’s £12,000 second place on her Blenheim ERM winner Be Touchable was some compensation for two previously sticky rides in the same class. She was then taken away to be dope tested before her final ride.

    “This weekend Burto just beat me comprehensively, but when I look back on it later, Be Touchable will be one of my horses of a lifetime,” she said. “He’s so consistent.”

    In third place was Ludwig Svennerstal with Stinger, his Wiesbarden three-star winner and reserve ride for WEG. They rose from 15th after dressage with a double clear and quick time.

    “It’s hard to ride fast here over a tough track and terrain, but they’ve done what they could with the ground — you have to be realistic this summer.”

    Emily King on the in-form Dargun — her under 25 winner at Bramham — also leapfrogged up the leader board, from 13th after dressage to finish fourth in her first British Open.

    ROR/NTF Retrained Racehorse Event Championship

    Andrew Downes clinched this valuable class by just 0.1pen on perhaps the most prolific ex-racehorse currently on the circuit, the aptly named Gold Nugget, owned by Jane Moss.

    “He’s a funny horse — he shows no interest in racing another horse, but he’s very quick cross-country,” said Andrew, who retrained him straight out of training. Crowned last year’s RoR Elite Eventing Champion, he is now advanced and aiming for Blair.

    Unusually, this class involves a second round of showjumping the day after the first showjumping and cross-country rounds.

    Fractionally behind him was Dream Big, who started eventing with New Zealand’s Lizzie Green before joining Tom McEwen’s yard when she moved back home. Her owner, Magda Gut, first came across the mare while working for Sheikh Fahad Al Thani, who had her in training.

    “She’s doing intermediates this year and is improving every time out with Tom,” said Magda.

    “At one stars she’s been caught out by water but she was very good here,” said Tom.

    TopSpec Challenge for the Corinthian Cup

    In the third running of the TopSpec Challenge for the Corinthian Cup, a novice championship for riders who have not competed at intermediate for at least five years, East Sussex’s Lucy Wheeler took the spoils on Graham Jack’s Belgian warmblood King Creole VD N Ranch.

    Lucy works in a hunting and racing yard and events in the summer months. She has ridden this horse since a youngster.

    “He’s quite arrogant — you cannot argue with him — he’s just had to grow up and this season he hasn’t been out of the top six,” she explained.

    Runner up was showjumper Morgan Kent, who is in her first season eventing, with Felda, who beat former Mitsubishi Cup finalist Harriet Ford and According To Archie on the same score by dint of her time being closest to the optimum.

    Continued below…

    Tom McEwen claims his first Festival of British Eventing title

    Cross-country time proved as influential as always in the novice and intermediate championships at Gatcombe

    The advanced class was taken by Ireland’s Elizabeth Power on her own and Kate Horgan’s Soladoun, albeit after nine others withdrew before cross-country including the two riders lying first and second.

    “He got a knock and missed the whole spring,” said Elizabeth. “He really needs all the corners and arrowheads today before Burghley.”

    Second was local rider Becky Wolven on DHI Babette K, who contested the intermediate championship here last year.

    “She’s small but nippy and has such a long stride — she’s the sweetest horse.”

    Full report from the Magic Millions Festival of British Eventing in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 9 August

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