Burgham International eventing report: Townend’s triumphant four *H&H Plus*

  • All sorts of records are broken as international eventing restarts in Britain, with five packed days of sport in Northumberland

    Burgham, Northumberland, 19–23 August

    Oliver Townend was the dominant force at Britain’s first international horse trials of the restarted season, winning four of the seven international sections – the most ever won by one rider in one weekend.

    The AW Jenkinson CCI4*-S sections boasted huge, incredibly high-class fields. Records tumbled as fast as the rain showers started and ceased, with eight of the 10 best four-star dressage scores at Burgham recorded this year. Oliver’s 21.4 for a flawless test on Ballaghmor Class headed section L from the start.

    There were two favourites in this section, with 2018 winner Ballaghmor Class joined at the top of the billing by another grey in Kitty King’s 2019 victor Vendredi Biats. But a couple of mistakes in the dressage, among excellent work, put Kitty fourth, and with a rolled pole in the showjumping and three seconds over the cross-country time, she finished fifth.

    Meanwhile, Ballaghmor Class cruised to victory, accruing just a couple of penalised seconds in both jumping phases. At 13, Karyn Shuter, Angela Hislop and Val Ryan’s son of Courage continues to improve.

    “He’s been ridden on the flat maybe half a dozen times since March, he’s just been hacking about and under no pressure,” said Oliver. “He didn’t come here to win, just to remind him he’s not retired. Between fences one and two, I thought I wouldn’t go any faster and if it was good enough to win, so be it.”

    Oliver described the ground as “beautiful” and David Evans’ track as a “top, top job”. The courses were appropriate considering horses’ lack of runs, but with enough to create a decent test, and 84.6% jumped clear in the four-star.

    The last complex, the Voltaire Hay Rack (fence 19) and the Westgate Labs Final Test (fence 20abc), required adjustability late on with riders having to open up for the three strides to the bird at part c before closing down for the four to the last arrowhead. Padraig McCarthy was the only casualty when he fell from Leonidas II at element d.

    The other four-part combination was the Holme Dodsworth Metals Challenge at fence nine – a spread fence followed by two arrowheads and a corner, all on mounds and bending lines. This was the most influential fence on course, causing 10 problems. Laura Collett’s ride Dacapo was among those who ran out at part c.

    Laura had a successful weekend, though, headed by Mr Bass taking the runner-up position behind Oliver, continuing the horse’s comeback from injury. London 52 was also fourth in the other CCI4*-S, having been second after dressage and just taken the back rail off the downhill oxer at fence 11 in the showjumping.

    Mr Bass was one of only three horses to finish on his dressage score in his section, having tried hard for one of his best tests (25.8) despite the fact “he doesn’t find dressage easy or see the point of it”, while London 52 showed a new confidence across country.

    “London 52 had six weeks off at the start of lockdown – he’s a bit of a funny horse in his head so he wasn’t coping with not doing a huge amount,” explained Laura. “He’s strengthened physically and grown up mentally as well. He’s always been a worrier, but he’s felt far more confident in his last few runs.”

    Sarah Bullimore landed third behind Mr Bass on the experienced Reve Du Rouet.

    The showjumping time over Di Boddy’s four-star track was extremely tight and nearly two-thirds of starters fell foul of the clock. Piggy March’s ride Brookfield Quality – a triple three-star winner last year including here – was unlucky to slip badly turning back to the last line, having the final three fences down and so obliterating his second place after dressage.

    Piggy took second in the other four-star section, M, riding last year’s Blenheim CCI4*-L winner Brookfield Inocent, who finished on his dressage score. Izzy Taylor claimed third in this section with another up and-coming star, the 2017 world six-year-old champion Monkeying Around.

    “Huge pressure”

    Ahead of Piggy and Izzy in CCI4*-S section M was Ros Canter, on Caroline Moore’s and her own Allstar B, who delivered the best-ever dressage test at Burgham (and of the rider’s career) with a 19.7, as well as the event’s best-ever finishing score of 21.7.

    It seemed an unsurprising result for the world champions, but this belied the fact Ros had had a rollercoaster day and that the short format is not this pair’s strength.

    “To be honest, I’ve felt a huge amount of pressure this week and can’t say I’ve really enjoyed it,” Ros admitted candidly, pointing out this was her first time testing herself in top-class company since her world gold in September 2018 and the birth of her daughter Ziggy last July.

    “‘Alby’ is a bit of a lazy old man so lockdown has not been the best for getting a good feel from him, but he was on fire in every phase here. He’s really a three-day horse – he’s a big lad and it takes time for his body to get into shape for some of the jumps so it suits us better when there’s more space between fences – so I’m very proud of him.”

    Ros’s day started with a heavy fall when Pencos Crown Jewel was “a little over brave” at the Castle House Saddlery Table at eight.

    “I’m not the bravest cross-country rider, so I had to give myself a talking to afterwards,” she said. “I had to get straight on a first-time four-star horse [Rehy Royal Diamond] but he rose to the occasion and Chris Bartle didn’t give me a choice about going inside the time on Alby.”

    Hopefully Chris forgave her for finishing two seconds outside the target.

    Ros also won the weekend’s only long-format section, the Newton Hall CCI2*-L, after two-phase leaders Laura Collett and Moonlight Charmer had the final showjump down. Many of the contenders in this class were bagging qualifications for Le Lion d’Angers world young horse championships, including the winner, Alex Moody and Ros’s Izilot DHI, who was British six-year-old champion last year.

    “He’s pure class, one of the most talented horses I’ve ever sat on,” said Ros. “He’s been quite a sharp young horse – he’s an extravagant mover and jumper, but he can be a bit extravagant with extra movements too.”

    “Excellent stamina and a real fighter”

    Oliver Townend won both Howard Russell Construction CCI3*-S sections. Sally-Anne Egginton’s experienced five-star horse Cillnabradden Evo led throughout to take section J, while a newer face took section K in Miss Cooley. Owned by Paul Ridgeon and by one of Oliver’s favourite stallions in Ramiro B, the eight-year-old mare has been with the rider since she was four.

    “We like her a lot, but she’s taken a bit of time to come to hand,” he said. “She has a lot of blood and feels like a Burghley horse, she has excellent stamina and is a real fighter. She puts her head down and ears back across country, she’s keen and aggressive in the way she runs.”

    Oliver won section P of the Holme Dodsworth Metals CCI2*-S with another smart mare owned by Paul Ridgeon, the six-year-old Cooley Rosalent. Kitty was the runner-up on MHS Monbeg Junior, taking section Q at the same level on Adrian Sweet’s Monbeg Hendricks.

    New Zealander’s winning Burgham debut

    Samantha Lissington scored her first win at intermediate level since moving over to Britain in July last year when she took the open intermediate.

    The 29-year-old rider brought four horses from New Zealand with her, including Ricker Ridge Rui, with whom she completed Burghley last year, and her Burgham winner Ricker Ridge Sooty GNZ.

    She is also producing four horses for 2013 Badminton winner Jock Paget, who will come over and ride them in the bigger events in the future, Covid-19 permitting. Her connection with Jock goes back to winning a 10-day training scholarship with him when she was 18.

    Nine-year-old Ricker Ridge Sooty GNZ has been with Samantha since he was five, when she was sent him to produce and sell.

    “He’s a really nice person, very sweet and biddable – anyone would love to have him in their stable,” she said of the horse who is now jointly owned by his rider and Pip McCarroll in New Zealand.

    The two intermediate sections went to Tom Jackson (Ask For Manchier) and Will Murray (Crosstown Sir Lancelot).

    Ref Horse & Hound; 27 August 2020