HSBC FEI Classics™ 2012: Sun Shines on Halpin at Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials

Sinead Halpin (USA), who was first reserve for the US Olympic team, finally got her moment in the sun when she took a convincing lead after the Dressage phase at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (GBR), finale of the 2011-2012 HSBC FEI Classics™.  Halpin, 30, who won the HSBC Training Bursary when third on Manoir de Carneville at her CCI4* debut, Rolex Kentucky in 2011, was 15th at Burghley last year, but her test this time was 10 marks better – 36.5 – and she has a 3.7 penalty margin over the chasing pack.

“It felt good from the moment he went in there,” Halpin said, after earning the only sub-40 dressage mark with an exquisite display of elastic paces, smooth transitions and general showmanship. “The horse picked up straight away and did some fabulous work, especially the medium trot. I had high expectations, but to be in first place in this company in Britain is amazing. Insane even!”

The 12-year-old Manoir de Carneville, by Gaub, was bred in France by the Le Goupil family, who organise the international event at Haras du Pin (FRA), and Halpin has been riding him for four years. “We clicked straight away,” she said, revealing that her then employer William Fox-Pitt (GBR) advised her: “Buy a horse you love to ride rather than one you need to learn to ride.”   

In contrast to Thursday’s difficult conditions of chilly breezes and sudden squalls of rain, the sun shone brightly on the second day of Dressage, especially on the Americans. Halpin’s compatriot Alison Springer (USA) and Arthur, who are always reliable in this phase, are in second place on 40.0.

Both Halpin and Springer have been based for many years with the O’Connor family in Virginia, USA. Springer said: “I have learned a lot from my first visit to Burghley [in 2009, when she took was eliminated]. I used to be terrified when I saw the huge fences here, but now, looking at them, I know I’m happy to have a horse of this scope.”

Clayton Fredericks (AUS) might have his best chance yet of a CCI4* win on British soil. He is in third place on Walterstown Don, another horse with a Selle Francais sire, although the horse was bred in Ireland.  Fredericks has had a difficult season, having been hospitalised after a fall at Saumur in May and then suffering a fall at the Olympics when his horse Bendigo tripped on his over-reach boot. “I had no expectations when coming to Burghley,” he said. “You spend your whole life picking yourself up in this sport and perhaps this will be my turn again.”

Fredericks’ Olympic team mate, Sam Griffiths (AUS), who had a fall on the flat at the London Olympic Games, looks set for some better luck, too. He has brought the same horse, Happy Times, to Burghley and is in ninth place on a mark of 42.0.

The scoreboard is set for a tantalizing showdown tomorrow, as the good Dressage tests came thick and fast on the second day at Burghley and the horses placed from second to 27th are covered by just 10 penalties. Three riders are tied in fourth on 41 penalties: Germany’s Kai Rüder on yet another horse bred in France, Les Prince des Bois, the only stallion in the field, plus the two riders at the top of the HSBC FEI Classics™ leaderboard, William Fox-Pitt (Parklane Hawk, GBR) and Andrew Nicholson (Avebury, NZL).

These two combinations headed the Burghley leaderboard in 2011 and no-one would bet against them being there again, in whichever order, on Sunday. But first the field of 85 has to negotiate Mark Phillips’s imposing Cross Country and, as Springer said: “It’s not an original thing to say, but it’s huge!”

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Results after Dressage:
1 Sinead Halpin/Manoir de Carneville (USA) 36.3
2 Allison Springer/Arthur (USA) 40.0
3 Clayton Fredericks/Walterstown Don (AUS) 40.8
4 = Kai Ruder/Le Prince des Bois (GER) 41.0
4 = Andrew Nicholson/Avebury (NZL) 41.0
4 = William Fox-Pitt/Parklane Hawk (GBR) 41.0
7 Lucy Jackson/Animator ll (NZ) 41.7
8 Mary King/Kings Temptress (GBR) 41.8
9 Sam Griffiths/Happy Times (AUS) 42.0
10 Oliver Townend/Armada (GBR) 43.5

HSBC FEI Classics™ 2012 Leaderboard (after 4 out of 5 events, due to cancellation of Badminton):
1 William Fox-Pitt (GBR) 30
2 Andrew Nicholson (NZL) 24
3 Michael Jung (GER) 15
4 Stuart Tinney (AUS) 15
5 Alison Springer (USA) 12
6 Lucinda Fredericks (AUS) 12
7 Sonja Johnson (AUS) 12
8 Boyd Martin (USA) 10
9 Andreas Dibowski (GER) 10
10 Emma Mason (AUS) 10

Full leaderboard can be viewed here.

Photo caption: Sinead Halpin (USA) and Manoir de Carneville scored the only sub-40 Dressage mark at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, final leg of the 2011-2012 HSBC FEI Classics™, to take the overnight lead. (Photo: FEI/Kit Houghton)