Captain Mark Phillips is to design his last Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials cross-country course next year.
After some 30 years at the helm, the Olympic medallist, Burghley winner and Horse & Hound columnist is to hand over to Tokyo Olympic course-designer Derek di Grazia from 2021.
Mark said: “While I am still enjoying every moment of work with Burghley’s fabulous team, I’m not getting any younger and want to retire while I still feel at the cutting edge and on top of my game.”
Mark said in his early years of designing at the event, the then director Bill Henson told him to “make Burghley, Burghley”, something a spokesman for the CCI5* said he has done ever since.
“I am grateful to the event directors Bill and latterly Elizabeth Inman for all their support, which has helped me, to help them, make Burghley the event it is today,” Mark added.
The spokesman said Mark had “built an enduring partnership” with the event.
“His expertise and creativity continue to deliver epic competitions year after year; thrilling the crowds and challenging the world’s best riders to their limits,” she added, while Ms Inman said the 2020 event would be “particularly poignant” as Mark’s swansong.
“Mark knows how we wonder every year at his ability to keep ‘pulling it out of the bag’,” she said.
“Undoubtedly our cross-country track – acknowledged as probably the most technically challenging test of all the five-star events, both from a competitor’s and designer’s perspective – has benefited hugely from the superlative all-round experience and skill that Mark Phillips has brought to the event.
“So yes, difficult shoes to fill, but softened by the good news that we are appointing Derek di Grazia into the role of course-designer in 2021.”
Derek, who competes up to four-star level himself, has been course-designer at the CCI5* Kentucky Three Day Event since 2011 and was also behind the 2018 World Equestrian Games track.
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“It is a great honour to be appointed course-designer for this very special competition and I’m truly excited to have a chance to design the cross-country phase within Burghley Park’s very unique landscape,” he said. “It is a fantastic project to have in my sights following on from the 2020 Olympic Games.”
Ms Inman added: “We look forward with enthusiasm and confidence to this next chapter in the history of the event and to Derek continuing to ‘make Burghley, Burghley’.”
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