This year Burghley feels pretty open to me, the reason why? its usually a tough course so not necessarily a dressage competition. Last year Andrew Nicholson was in 4th after dressage before he took the title after a masterclass of a cross country round which pulled him up the leader board. The showjumping on the final day is notoriously tough with clear rounds at a premium. Last year there were only 11 clear rounds out of the whole field. All in all what is required is a horse who will be among the leaders in the dressage, great cross country horse and who will come out on the final day with a good shout at going clear.
I have spent the last day or so crunching numbers around this trying to see if I can break down the field a bit more to see who the most likely chances are.
The outstanding horse in the field is La Biosthetique Sam. I looked at Sam’s record for the last several years at FEI level and its frankly superb. I doubt we will see a horse in a long time with such an impeccable record at 3* and 4*. Sam’s average time faults across 3 and 4* are 2.12 which is pretty amazing. Combine this with an incredible cross country record and an average of 1.86 sj faults and this horse looks pretty unbeatable. The ground will be a factor at Burghley but Michael Jung is experienced in tough conditions like WEG and is such a consummate horseman he wastes no time.
Sam Griffiths and Happy Times comes in next with a great 4* record. He is experienced, solid in the dressage phase and a great cross country horse. He has come 3rd at both Burghley and Badminton. His average time faults across country are 5.41 but the chink in his armour is the show jumping where he averages 9 faults.
Michael Jung appears with his next horse Fischerrocana FST. Not so experienced as her stable mate Sam, none the less this is a serious horse. This mares average finishing score across 3* and 4* is 46.98. Her average cross country time faults are 2.63 and she averages 3.55 faults showjumping. Fisherrocana FST was unlucky at Luhmuhlen but looked class at Kentucky so this is hardly a second string horse to Sam for Michael Jung.
Rutherglen is next on the list ridden by Andrew Hoy. They have not had the best season, having a big splash in the water at Badminton and falling at Gatcombe but this horse has massive amounts of experience behind him. He is capable of a great dressage test as shown recently at Haras du Pin gaining at 20 in the CIC3*. They average 5.84 time faults and 6.75 in the showjumping.
Armada is truly amazing, I don’t think I have ever seen him miss a season. He has done some great dressage tests with Oli Townend pulling a 33.5 recently at Gatcombe. With Oliver he has averaged 5. 85 time faults across country but the big chink in his armour is the showjumping where he averages 8 faults. Recently at Gatcombe he pulled himself up the rankings by virtue of his speed across country after a disappointing show jumping in the CIC3* where he had 4 fences down.
Other notable mentions are Chris Burton who is on fire at the moment. Both his horses are real possibles. TS Jamaimo has been unlucky but has the capability of doing well round Burghley and is currently coming to Burghley on the back of his CIC3* win round Gatcombe he comes with an average of 5.71 time faults and 1.71 showjumping penalties. Haruzac has the potential to be the dark horse of the competition. He has never made it to 4*but in his 3* runs he has averaged just 2.2 time faults and 5.6 showjumping penalties.
I feel that Burghley is a course made for Jonelle Price and Classic Moet. Their dressage is improving and they have proven themselves round tough cross country is a factor. They were the fastest combination round WEG and average 3.8 time faults. They are liable to have a pole showjumping and have an average of 4.4 showjumping faults. Jonelle is a seriously competitive rider and I expect her to be up among the leaders after cross country.
I also expect Nicola Wilson on Annie Clover, Paul Tapner on Kilronan and Mark Todd on Leonidas to be very competitive. Annie Clover comes off the back an 8th place at Kentucky as well as some good results at Bramham CIC3* and Burgham CIC3*. Annie Clover averages 8.98 time faults across their 3* and 4* runs with an average of 3 show jumping faults. Kilronan averages 10.85 faults cross country and 4.53 show jumping faults. This combination are capable of a very good dressage. Leonidas has very similar averages as Kilronan but has a slightly better showjumping average with just 1.75 faults.
Other horses to keep an eye on are Covert Rights, Donner, Minos De Petra and Mr Chunky. Out of the four mentioned, Mr Chunky is a first time 4* horse but with a very experienced jockey in Lucy Weigersma. I expect to see this pair thinking to the future. Covert Rights is fairly young and inexperienced but another with an experienced jockey in Colleen Rutledge. They had a very good dressage at Kentucky but their showjumping is a work in progress. Another with an eye to the future. Lynn Symansky has Donner. This pair seem to be a bit hit and miss with results but if they have all the luck then I expect to see them go well very capable. Finally Minos De Petra is another capable of filling a top ten result. Pascal Leroy is very experienced and Minos De Petra is a very good cross country horse capable who is also capable of a good dressage test. The showjumping can let them down as the pair average 8.75 faults in this phase.
Out of first time horses both Georgie Strang on Cooley Business Time and Emilie Chandler on Coopers Law are worth an outside bet to have a good run at their first 4*. Coopers Law has been averaging 50 dressage but his average time faults across country are 3 and his average showjumping faults are 3. In Emilie Chandler he has a tough and experienced cross country jockey who will go out to give it her best. I don’t expect to see these guys as potential winners but they have every chance at a strong finish maybe to sneak inside the top 15 and possibly the top 10.
Cooley Business Time has similar averages to Coopers Law. So again perfectly capable of sneaking in some really strong results.
There are several other combinations deserving of a mention including William Fox Pitt who is such a supreme act he can get incredible results from first time 4* horses but I feel Fernhill Pimms is on the greener side for a WFP horse and there will be an eye to the future because he only has one CCI3* result under his belt and picked up a 20 at Gatcombe CIC3* recently. Louise Harwood has two good horses at Burghley with Whitson probably being the better fancied and Joseph Murphy is capable of a very good showing with Sportsfield Othello. They were one of the quickest pairs round Pau 4* last year but sadly had 3 fences down on the final day.
It should be an exciting weekend of competition with many twists and turns especially with the rain and the challenging cross country ahead.