and it’s HERE.
Although the course runs the same way around the park as last year, Course Designer Captain Mark Phillips said “all the combinations are different, so it’ll be a new experience for the riders.”
There are 32 fences, with 45 jumping efforts over 6500 metres, and it has a provisional optimum time of 11 mins 24 seconds.
There are the usual Burghley favourite ‘let up fences’ such as the Cottesmore Leap, Pardubice, and Stamford Station, but this year it really is all about the combinations, with questions coming early and riders being given lots of choices as to which lines they will take between elements, to shave seconds but possibly increase the risk of a run-out.
At fence 4 in the Arena, there’s a slalom of 3 fences, with flower beds and fountains to be stragetically placed to make riders’ lines more difficult.
The first trip through Discovery Valley at 5 looks softer than it has been for a few years, steeply uphill to the ‘bonnet’ of brush Land Rover, then a curving 5 strides to a triple brush skinny.
There’s no Leaf Pit Drop this year, but the Classic Constellation is positioned near the Leaf Pit: the Greenwich Planet fence to the Sickle Moon, then down the very steep slope to the right of the Leaf Pit drop, and a longish run uphill to the Sun keyhole. I can’t see this causing too many problems, unlike the second trip through Discovery Valley at Fence 9, which comprises another brush Land Rover Bonnet, with a drop landing. The direct route is over the ditch at an angle, then a curving line on 3 strides to a big brush corner. This is very difficult, since riders can’t always be sure exactly how their horse will jump the ditch and where they’ll land.
The V rails at fence 12, in the place of the old oxer, is an old-fashioned rider frightener, with the point away from the rider at the back of a huge ditch. Either arm can be jumped, or direct over the point. I haven’t seen one of these for a long while.
At the Trout hatchery, there’s a curving brush spread in the water, they run straight out up the bank, with a big drop log back into the water and turn sharp right up to a step, and uphill to another curving brush corner like element A. This will be a real test of control.
At the Maltings, the huge white Oxer is still there, then circle big uphill bounce (the first bounce at Burghley for about 10 years) then a sharply curving 4 or 5 strides to a gappy open corner. This is a huge question, if they are even slightly out of shape over the bounce, the direct route is not going to happen.
The Rolex Combination has the same first element as last year, an arm over a ditch, very similar to the Vicarage Vee, but then a curve to a very big brush corner. Another huge question. I suspect most riders will heave a sigh of relief when those two big questions are behind them, but they can’t relax yet.
The Cottesmore Leap is as imposing as ever, the biggest XC fence in the world, I think. Even the very best riders who have jumped it many times just walk by it on coursewalks, they don’t stop and look at the ditch!
Winners’ Avenue is the big opportunity to make up lost time, and CMP said he expects riders to go down there at 700 and even up to 800 mpm. There’s the big blue and cream Picnic Table and the
Pardubice to negotiate on that fast section, then set right back up for Capability’s Cutting, with a triple bar in, and a choice of oxers out.
The Anniversary Splash usually causes very few problems, and looks kind again this year: a drop in over a soft hedge top, the Owl Hole on the island, and then either the Goose or the Nest as the final element.
At the Lion Bridge there is a choice of approaches to the 2nd boat, leaving it entirely to the rider’s judgement, how short a line to take, either under one arch or the next, to give far more room.
In CMP’s words: “It’s big, it’s Burghley. but it’s fair” and “riders will have to think of how they’re going to strategise the course“, “it’s not a walk in the park, you can’t just go out and just blindly gallop round“… no kidding, it’s a huge test of bravery and especially accuracy this year, and I can’t wait to see it tackled by the best of the best!
If you haven’t got your tickets yet, there’s still time. There’s a real ‘end of term’ atmosphere to Burghley, it is not to be missed if you can possibly get there, and of course the shopping is always fantastic too!