There have been some mutterings here about irregularities in the dressage marks, with the judge at C, Sue Baxter, in particular seeming to be quite far out of line with the other two at times, but things evened up towards the end of the second day of judging.
Sonja Johnson on Parkiarrup Illicit Liason was the first one who really caught my eye today, this super ponyish little chestnut with mega bling (a white blaze, white socks behind, and long white stockings in front) doing a very cute test, soft, relaxed and obedient, for 46.9.
Sir Mark Todd did a very pleasing test on NZB Campino, just the odd mistake like a slightly fluffed flying change dragging his marks down a little, for a final score of 42.2.
Cedric Lyard’s lovely grey Cadeau du Roi was relaxed, rhythmical and obedient, his changes being the only thing to mar what could have been a very high-scoring test.
Sarah Cohen and Treason were best of the Brits at this point on 42.3, with a very polished and secure performance, although there was a big percentage difference between the judges’ scores for her.
Sam Griffiths and his veteran Happy Times, bidding for a record 6th completion here this year, did a very pleasing test for a 39.6 to put them well in contention.
Andrew Nicholson on Nereo gave a masterclass in balance, obedience, impulsion. A slight mistake in the rein-back, and the horse getting a bit tight in the neck and behind the vertical at times, held his marks down slightly, preventing him from challenging Bettina for the very top spot. The flying changes were spot on, straight and perfectly on the centre line, for a 35.2.
It was great to see Blyth Tait right up there again, magicking a 40.0 score with Bear Necessity, scoring lots of 9s for perfect preparation for movements, and showing him off in lovely balance, even though this horse would not be the best mover in the world.
Caroline Powell on her always-impressive chestnut Onwards and Upwards (who I fell in love with when they were one of the guinea pig combinations at the Hartpury IEF a few years ago) did a lovely uphill test, very accurate and flowing. The judges all agreed on her marks (fairly unusual for this Burghley!) and she totally deserved her mark of 37.8 to slot into 3rd place.
We had to wait a long time until someone challenged Bettina Hoy at the top of the leaderboard. Third to go in the final session after Tea, Chris Burton presented Nobilis 18 in a beautiful uphill frame, with real energy and in a lovely swinging rhythm. The judges clearly approved and were happily giving many 8s and 9s. His final leading score of 30.2 was fully deserved.
Rodolphe Scherer’s test on the grey Makara de Montiege was interrupted when the judge at C, President of the Ground Jury Sue Baxter, seemed to see something during the trot work, ringing the bell. There followed a conversation between her and the rider, before she asked him to trot away down the arena on a loose rein, which he did. He was Eliminated. I am still rather scratching my head over this one, having previously seen horses which looked clearly unlevel (not to say Lame) being allowed to finish their tests before seeing a vet, which this one was not allowed to do. The official Press Statement said that “The Ground Jury unanimously considered the horse unlevel so unfortunately not fit to continue”. Perhaps they are really toughening up on this, for the horses’ sakes.
Paul Tapner’s beautifully presented Vanir Kamira improved through the test, showing that there’s hopefully a lot more to come from this exciting mare.
Last to go Oliver Townend cruised into 5th place as the top Brit, with 38.1 after a lovely test with MHS King Joules, which he looked very pleased with.
Full Dressage Results are HERE.
Chris Burton: “It’s always exciting to see a good score, but we don’t really think about that. He really let me ride him in the test.”
His views on the XC course:
“Burghley is always really nerve wracking for me, it’s a big tough relentless course… I can’t say I’m excited about it”. This course is clearly garnering a lot of respect from the riders.
Bettina Hoy: “You need to have very clear in your mind where you want to ride each individual fence, it’s certainly an attacking course. You need a serious jumper and obviously a very fit horse” and “the going is fantastic at the moment.”
When asked, Bettina said that she had expected Burto to go ahead of her,” it was a beautiful test.”
Andrew Nicholson, asked whether he was surprised to be riding here: “I was at home watching this on telly last year and I never thought I wouldn’t be back… and here we are.”
“Nereo is very nice to ride in the arena. He’s not a naturally gifted dressage horse, he’s a powerful galloper not meant to be crammed in the arena, he has to go in and focus on what he’s got to do, not focus on the flowers or crowds.”
In his opinion “the cross country is very nice, very demanding, pretty difficult all the way round. Captain Mark Phillips has been clever, he has the jumps close together at the very beginning” so the riders will have to “start chasing the clock to make up time, get to the big technical fences”. He added that “you’ve got to ride it properly for the whole course, not doze off anywhere”.
With heavy rain currently forecast for tomorrow afternoon, the perfect going could change dramatically, contributing to a total shake up of the leaderboard. There’s a lot to do out there on the XC so I don’t expect this to be a dressage competition!
If you are coming tomorrow, I would bring waterproofs and mud-proof footwear, just in case. And the shopping is amazing, the best I have ever seen here… you have been warned!
All photos copyright @Katie Neat Photography