Paul Tapner (AUS) and William Fox-Pitt (GBR) are the riders with most to gain from a big result at this weekend’s Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (GBR, September 2-5). It is the fourth leg of the 2010 HSBC FEI Classics™, which carries a prize-pot of US$333,000 to be shared by the five most successful riders across five CCI4* events.
The current standings leader, Andreas Dibowski (GER), who has a healthy 7-point lead over this year’s Badminton and Lexington winners, is an absentee from Burghley, and Tapner and Fox-Pitt are poised to pounce.
Tapner, who looks set to make his debut on the Australian squad at the forthcoming Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™, has two horses with useful CCI4* form: Kilfinnie, 15th last year, and Stormhill Michael, 10th at Badminton.
Fox-Pitt, bidding for a record sixth victory at Burghley, has the Argentine Thoroughbred Macchiato, a winner at Luhmühlen in 2008 and fifth at Badminton last year, plus the German-bred Seacookie, seventh at Burghley in 2009.
Two more riders handily placed in the top 10 of the HSBC FEI Classics™ rankings have rides at Burghley: the 1996 winner Mary King (GBR) with the veteran Apache Sauce, fourth here in 2008, and her home-bred mare Kings Temptress, and Andrew Nicholson (NZL), the victor in 1995 and 2000, with the brilliant jumper Armada and a choice of either Nereo or Avebury.
In reality, though, the HSBC FEI Classics™ is still wide open and any number of riders could make their mark this weekend. None will be more aware of that than the defending champion, Oliver Townend (GBR). If he recaptures the Land Rover trophy at Burghley on Carousel Quest, he will be the first rider in Burghley’s 49-year history to win it back-to-back on the same horse.
More than 80 horses from 13 nations are entered; the field ranges from the vast experience of double Olympic champion Mark Todd, 54, a five-times winner at Burghley who brings a new ride, Major Milestone, to 22-year-old Georgie Strang (GBR), who is lucky enough to have the ride on the wonderful 19-year-old Master Monarch, a CCI4* winner and third here in 2004 with Andrew Hoy.
Other Burghley debuts to watch are that of former Junior and Young Rider European Champion Laura Collett (GBR); Alex Hua Tian, who becomes the first Chinese representative to compete at Burghley, and Aistis Vitkauskas, who will be the first Lithuanian competitor.
Kai Rüder (GER), 10th last year, rides the only stallion in the field, Le Prince des Bois. There are two nine-year-old horses in the field: first-timer Kerry Varley’s (GBR) Bluestone Luke and Pascal Leroy’s (FRA) Minos de Petra; while Jean-Luc Goerens (FRA) and Marychope de Marast represent the senior combination – their combined ages add up to 73 years.
The Cross-Country Course Designer, Mark Phillips (GBR), has made several changes to his track and says that it will be a softer test than last year.
Riders will be delighted to hear that he has altered the line at the Discovery Valley (fence 6), which caused more than 25% of the field to fault last year, there’s a new option at the famous Trout Hatchery (fences 8, 9, 10) and the second corner at the influential Dairy Farm (17) has been re-sited onto flat ground.
However, riders familiar with Captain Phillips’ courses know that Burghley, with its undulating terrain, always offers a true Cross-Country challenge which never fails to produce a worthy winner and a thrilling competition.
Follow live results and coverage on www.burghley-horse.co.uk
HSBC FEI Classics™ Standings (after 3 of 5 events)
1 Andreas Dibowski (GER)22
2 William Fox-Pitt (GBR) 15
3 Paul Tapner (AUS) 15
4 Sharon Hunt (GBR) 15
5 Ingrid Klimke (GER) 12
6 Phillip Dutton (USA) 12
7 Mary King (GBR) 12
8 Becky Holder (USA) 10
9 Daisy Berkeley (GBR) 10
10 Andrew Nicholson (NZL) 8
HSBC FEI Classics™ Calendar of Events in 2010
1. 21-25 April - Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event (USA)
2. 30 April - 03 May - Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (GBR)
3. 17-20 June - Luhmühlen presented by E.ON Avacon (GER)
4. 2-5 September - Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (GBR)
5. 4-7 November- Les Etoiles de Pau (FRA)
HSBC will contribute US$ 1million to the series over the next three years. Prize-money is awarded, as follows, to the top five riders on the leaderboard after the fifth and final event:
WINNERS OF THE 2009 SEASON
1. Oliver Townend (GBR) - US$ 150,000 (Series champion);
2. Dirk Schrade (GER) - US$ 75,000;
3. Andreas Dibowski - (GER) US$ 50,000;
4. William Fox-Pitt (GBR) - US$ 33,000;
5. Sam Griffiths (AUS) - US$ 25,000
Photos: Paul Tapner and William Fox Pitt