Burghley first-timer storms into dressage lead: ‘it’s a dream’

Burghley first-timer Eliza Stoddart sprang into the lead with a cracking test aboard Priorspark Opposition Free.

The 26-year-old rider, who is based just 20 minutes from the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, produced a confident test aboard the British-bred gelding to score 28.7.

The pair were rewarded with a healthy smattering of 10s for their performance to edge ahead of defending Burghley title holder Tim Price on the first of his three rides, Bango, who scored 29.6.

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An emotional Eliza told H&H she was “over the moon” with the horse.

“It is a dream,” she said, thanking the horse’s owners, Anne and Bruce Staley, her groom Rebecca Williams and all those who have supported her. “I’ve always wanted to ride here. I’ve done the Pony Club hunter trial at Burghley, the Pony Club one-day-event, the Pony Club showjumping, the Burghley Young Event Horse and now I’m here — it’s so cool!”

Eliza added she “couldn’t believe” she scored 10s.

“I thought he would be quite spooky, but he did keep his cool and he did listen,” she said. “We rode for every movement. There were a couple of halts we didn’t quite get. I heard Nick Burton say at one point ‘nine’ then he changed it to ‘four’. It went very quickly and I’m just a bit overwhelmed.”

This was a personal best for Eliza and “Razor” (Fleetwater Opposition x Banks Fee Daniel) at any level and Burghley is the horse’s first CCI5*-L.

Tim added he was pleased with Bango and the mark was also a personal best for the 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse, owned by the Numero Uno Syndicate.

“It was fun to perform what we are able to perform and this is a nice place to start from for the rest of the weekend,” said Tim.

Pippa Funnell, winner here in 2003 aboard Supreme Rock and part of the silver medal-winning team at last week’s Longines FEI European Eventing Championships in Luhmullen, is in provisional third on a score of 29.9 with Barbara and Nicholas Walkinshaw’s Billy Walk On.

“I was very pleased with his brain — he is still a work in progress, he still has a lot of maturing to do, but I was very happy with a lot of it,” she said. “There could be more strength and push in his bigger trots, he had a bit of a fumble in his rein back and missed one of his changes, but on the whole I was happy. Except for the fact I was very dumb and had a ‘senior moment’ and halted in the wrong place, which was very frustrating! I’m going to go back and kick myself.”

There are seven British riders in the top-10 at this stage and less than five penalties between first and 10th place. There are also some big discrepancies between the judges, particularly within the top-six tests.

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Georgie Spence and WII Limbo are in provisional fourth on 31, with Will Furlong and Collien P 2 close behind on 31.2.

Gemma Tattersall and the former racehorse Arctic Soul, who finished fifth here in 2014 and third in 2017, are in seventh on 32.7. Becky Woolven (DHI Babette) and David Britnell (Continuity) are lying ninth and 10th on scores of 33 and 33.5 respectively.

The competition resumes at 2pm (BST) with Katie Preston and Templar Justice the first combination in front of judges Nick Burton, Christina Klingspor and Xavier Le Sauce after the lunch break.

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