Mark Phillips: Adjusting your plan was key *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    I’ve worked at Burghley as course-designer every year since 1989 apart from three Wolfgang Feld and two Mike Tucker years. It’s a fun, if stressful, experience and a privilege to be part of this special team.

    Oliver Townend is the first Brit to win here since 2011. The fact that there were six Brits in the top 10 was even more exciting as I can’t remember how long ago that happened.

    With European team gold too, Chris Bartle must think he can walk on water, such is the resurgence of performance by the home team. The fact that winner Ballaghmor Class and Toledo De Kerser (Tom McEwen) are only 10 years old and Piggy French’s Vanir Kamira and Izzy Taylor’s Trevidden are only 12 strengthens the depth of talent we have for the World Equestrian Games (WEG) next year and the 2020 Olympics.

    It was strange to see Ian Stark wearing US clothing as the new cross-country coach over here. If the Americans listen to him, he will help them back up the ladder.

    Going to plan B

    The cross-country at Burghley is always a real four-star test. Many thought it was easier than last year, but I didn’t see that, except that I’d taken much of the intensity out of the first two minutes so horses got into the course better.

    My heart was in my mouth when Andrew Nicholson and Qwanza tried to take out a stride at the Storm Doris logs and had a horrible fall, but after that they rode surprisingly well.

    I didn’t understand why riders made their horses work really hard soon after Cottesmore Leap, jumping two square brush oxers at the Keeper’s Brushes when there were two forgiving triple brushes next door that took little energy out of the horses. Conserving energy is part of the skill of riding at four-star. Too many riders seemed to have missed that memo.

    Many riders will be kicking themselves about the Trout Hatchery. If you did not get the right jump in, it was very easy to divert to a not-so-long longer route. Michael Jung proved he is from this planet by not thinking quickly enough to do that.

    The round of the day was pathfinder Tina Cook on Star Witness. I felt sorry for her though when she was held on Calvino II at eight minutes. Sometimes that can work for you, but not this time as she had a glance-off just 200 yards after her restart, when she didn’t look fully back to speed.

    My biggest disappointment was Discovery Valley. Everyone knew that if they came freely they could get launched and it would be game over. If you thought that might happen, there was a quick longer route of one-star difficulty. It saddened me that more did not take advantage of that.

    The most influential fences were the Trout Hatchery after seven minutes, Discovery Valley after eight and the Leaf Pit after nine. That is when horses start to tire and you need to adjust your plan. To their credit, that’s exactly what Gemma Tattersall and Izzy Taylor did at the Trout Hatchery.

    As I start to think about Burghley and WEG next year, riders will see many more of those situations where they will need to think, ride the horse that’s under them and be prepared to go to plan B.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 7 September 2017