It is New Zealand one and two at the end of the dressage at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials in the UK, with Sir Mark Todd sitting in first place at the prestigious CCI4* and Tim Price right behind him.
Mark, who at 62 is the oldest rider in the field, and his striking grey Kiltubrid Rhapsody scored 26.4 penalty points, with Tim aboard Ringwood Sky Boy right on his heels on 26.9.
For Mark, in his 39th year competing at Burghley, it was a near foot-perfect performance and a repeat of last year when he led at the end of the dressage aboard Leonidas II. “The horse was second after the dressage at Badminton and I think he has improved since then,” said Mark. “He went out and did a very solid test today.”
Kiltubrid Rhapsody, who finished sixth at Badminton this year, skipped just once in his extended trot but was otherwise very impressive. “I am delighted to be in the front at this stage but as we all know, it is still a long way to go.”
Yesterday Mark had a couple of course errors with NZB Campino – who sits in 12th place on 30.8 – and he was most determined not to make “another silly mistake”.
“But you can only do what you can do with a horse, and the horse tried his hardest today. He has a brilliant temperament and nothing fazes him.”They have been together a couple of years now and Mark says the horse is growing in confidence and continues to improve. “He can go into a dressage arena and just show off a little bit. He is a big impressive grey horse . . . he looks good and has some amazing movements. I think there is still more improvement in him to come.”
The horse is a good jumper too, and Mark, a five-time Burghley winner, is looking forward to the cross country – albeit with some caution.
“I think it is interesting this year,” he said. “We have never had so many changes of direction and there seems to be more uphill bits than other years. As long as I can remember, this is the first time we have hit Winners Avenue – a long up climb up a hill that will last about a minute – at about seven minutes on the course. I think that is going to really take its toll on the horses.”
With the dressage scores all so close, Mark felt it was going to be a very interesting day, on a course that would call for strong endurance and stamina from the horses. “There is a lot of up and down hills, a lot of big jumps, big combinations and questions and it’s tough from the beginning right to the end.”
Tim Price also felt the course would be very demanding. “I think it is bigger this year and possibility with a little less technicality in places. It keeps coming. All the way home there are big fences, whereas in the past sometimes you can get to eight or nine minutes and you just have to mind yourself coming home. This year there are still some big questions in that last bit that I think will be influential and in particular for people going for the clock.”
Tim was rapt to be sitting in second heading into the tough course. Ringwood Sky Boy had done a brilliant test in possibly the most atmosphere he had competed in. It was rewarding for the rider who had picked the now 15-year-old horse up “for a few quid as an unruly six-year-old”
“He was being fairly unmanageable. I tried to sell him for about four years but no one would buy him so I carried on. He always had the desire to do the right thing but doesn’t always do the right thing. Slowly over time he has matured and has learnt his craft. He has been a pleasure to have, is a character on the yard and I wouldn’t be without him.”
Tim is also in 16th equal aboard Bango on a score of 32.1 along with Andrew Nicholson and Swallow Springs who shares the same mark. Andrew is 29th aboard his second mount Jet Set IV on 33.8. Caroline Powell and On the Brash sit in in 37th equal on 35.1 with Burghley débutante Ginny Thompson and Star Nouveau in 48th on 36.5 and Dan Jocelyn aboard Dassett Cool Touch in 49th equal on 36.6.
Defending champion and world number one Oliver Townend is in third and fifth places, with just four penalty points covering the top 10.
HOW TO WATCH BURGHLEY
LIVE and Replay coverage will also be available on Sky Sport in NZ:
Saturday 1st September
Sky Sport 7
Cross Country – Replay
Sunday 2nd September
Sky Sport 6
Showjumping – LIVE
Monday 3rd September
Sky Sport 1
Showjumping – Replay
Monday 3rd September
Sky Sport 3
The horse details:
Star Nouveau – owned by Elaine Butterworth, Anthony Quirk and Ginny Thompson
Jet Set – owned by Libby Sellar
Swallow Springs – owned by Paul and Diana Ridgeon
NZB Campino – owned by New Zealand Bloodstock and Sir Mark Todd
Kiltubrid Rhapsody – owned by Niki Ryan and Dr Elizabeth Donald
Ringwood Sky Boy – owned by Verenna Allen and Tim Price
Bango – owned by The Numero Uno Syndicate
On the Brash – owned by Sarah Tobey and Sue Smiley
Dassett Cool Touch – owned by Therese Miller and Dan Jocelyn
By Diana Dobson – HP Media Liaison
Photos by Libby Law/ESNZ