Oliver Townend and Piggy March shared the honours in the feature classes at Burgham – the Holme Dodsworth Metals CCI4*-S sections – between them with a victory apiece in a thrilling finish to a day of top-class horse sport..
Oliver was scoring his sixth CCI4*-S win at Burgham, this time with the Hazeldines and Mitchell Fox Group’s Tregilder. The pair were fifth after dressage with a mark of 27.1, and added nothing to that in the jumping phases to nip ahead of dressage leaders Ros Canter and Izilot DHI and take the highly competitive class by less than a penalty.
Oliver said: “He’s a horse who has taken a long, long time to mature – he’s about 18hh – and he felt very good in all three phases here and I was very proud of him. I’m very happy for his owners, because they’ve been with me a long time, and for Vin and Liz Jones, who bred him. A nice British-bred winner of a big class, and he’s getting better and better still as he gets stronger – hopefully he’ll go to Burghley.”
Former world champion Ros won this class in 2022 with her own and Alex Moody’s 10-year-old Izilot DHI, but had to settle for silver spot this year after picking up two time-penalties across country for a finishing score of 28.
Third was Piggy March on Jayne McGivern’s grey stallion Halo, another 10-year-old. They collected four faults for a rail down in the showjumping and 4.8 cross-country time-faults for a final score of 35.
Piggy said: “I’m very pleased with him because I haven’t run him in mud very much; even though the ground is drying out all the time, it’s still quite soft. He’s a little horse going up the ladder and getting used to it all – he hasn’t got a lot of mileage. He tried very hard and jumped very well, and I knew I could run him at a good pace across country because Oliver and Ros were out in front, so I just rode him, rather than the clock.”
An hour later, she snatched what looked like almost certain victory in the second CCI4*-S section from Oliver, who was on top after dressage and showjumping with a mark of 24.4 aboard his great Burghley and Tokyo Olympics team gold medal winner Ballaghmor Class. Piggy and Coolparks Sarco, who is owned by Jo and James Lambert, had just added 1.2 cross-country time-faults to her dressage and showjumping score of 24.4, meaning Oliver set off round David Evans’s track on Karyn Shuter, Angela Hislop and Val Ryan’s 16-year-old fleabitten grey with three seconds in hand. But in fact Oliver and Ballaghmor Class crossed the finish line four seconds over the time allowed – and Piggy won by 0.2 of a penalty.
“That was really exciting!” said Piggy. “He’s a lovely horse – I’m lucky to have inherited the ride on him from Nicola Wilson [who retired from the sport after a fall at Badminton in 2022] but it’s starting to feel like he is more ‘my’ horse a year down the line. He moves really nicely, he’s a really good jumper – it’s all there. With every run I feel like we are getting closer to where I want to be with him. He’s a fast horse in a very different way to what I am used to – he’s got a massive stride. The cross-country track was great for them – some really good water jumps in particular, and Sarco felt like he had a really happy week and loved the ground here.”
Oliver said: “Ballaghmor Class’s performance here was fantastic. He’s never the quickest here; the fences come up a little bit too quickly for him so I end up having to mind him slightly between the fences, because he’s a horse who suits a very big, open course like Burghley.”
He added: “This is one of the best events in the country and the number and quality of the entries tell the story – that they put on an amazing show. From a competitor’s point of view, it couldn’t be better.”
Burgham continues on Sunday, 30 July with the Encon Technical Solutions Ltd and NIS Group Ltd CCI2*-S, and national BE100 and BE90 classes Visitors can enjoy a great variety of tradestands and locally produced food and drink while they are watching the sporting action – and there’s even a fun dog show on Sunday to raise money for Burgham’s supported charity, the British Eventing Support Trust (BEST).
To buy tickets and for more information, please visit www.burghaminternationalhorsetrials.co.uk. Tickets will also be available to purchase on the gate.
If you can’t make it to Burgham, Horse & Country TV will be streaming the cross-country on Sunday – horseandcountry.tv.
The attached pictures of Oliver Townend (Tregilder) and Piggy March (Coolparks Sarco) are courtesy of Peter Nixon.