Nearly 40 years after the legendary Sir Mark Todd (NZL) first rode at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials he is in the lead after dressage with Leonidas ll on a mark of 36.7. In a star-studded line-up, the double Olympic champion heads the USA’s Lauren Kieffer on Veronica ll by just 0.3 of a penalty, with world number one and FEI Classics™ leader Michael Jung now in third on La Biosthetique Sam.
The tall, lean New Zealander, 61, who last triumphed at Burghley in 1999, made an elegant picture on the German-bred 13-year-old, the bay gelding remaining obedient yet lively and light in his paces as well as beautifully supple.
"I may have won Burghley five times, but I haven’t won it this century!" said Todd. "Finally, this horse is starting to grow up. When I got him as a 6-year-old he was so impetuous, but now he knows what he’s meant to do and I’ve got every confidence in him."
Sir Mark Todd and Leonidas II. FEI/Libby Law Photo
Kieffer and Veronica, a 15-year-old KWPN mare (Pacific X Kimbel, by Ferro) owned by Team Rebecca have a second place at Kentucky 2016 and 17th at Badminton this year under their belt, but it is their first visit to Burghley.
"Most of the American riders are sitting on Thoroughbreds, so we’re pretty happy about tomorrow’s cross-country, but Burghley is something that’s in a class of its own and we have all studied it pretty carefully," said Kieffer.
Two more senior riders, Andrew Nicholson (NZL), 55, on Nereo and Britain’s Kristina Cook, 46, on Calvino ll, scored under 40 penalties and are in close contention in fourth and fifth places. Nicholson, currently fourth in the FEI Classics™, has also won Burghley five times, although never on the 17-year-old Nereo, his winning mount at Badminton this year.
Cook, a multiple winner of team medals, including at the recent FEI European Championships in Poland, is renowned for her skill as a cross-country rider but has never won a CCI4*, and her mark of 39.6 may give her the best chance yet.
"I don’t really do dressage in the 30s! So I’ll be going for it tomorrow. Calvino is only small-framed but he has the heart of a lion," said Cook.
Cook will be first out on the cross-country course tomorrow at 11.30 CEST on Star Witness, currently 40th after dressage.
Donner, a 14-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Gorky Park X Smart Jane, by Smarten) owned by the Donner Syndicate and ridden by Lynn Symansky are the next highest U.S. pair on the leaderboard. The pair scored a personal best four-star score, a 45.5 for 11th.
Boyd Martin also rode for the U.S. today aboard Steady Eddie, a 16-year-old New Zealand Thoroughbred gelding (Jetball X Tudnela) owned by George and Gretchen Wintersteen and Denise Lahey and Pierre Colin. They scored a 48.0 for an equal 21st heading into cross-country.
The final U.S. rider, Lillian Heard rode LCC Barnaby, an 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Guy Cavalier X Lady Tanjour, by Rafael) to a 58.0 for equal 49th.
Full results are available here.
Follow all the action tomorrow on the Burghley Facebook Page and cheer on the U.S. riders at:
Hannah Sue Burnett and Under Suspection (25th on 48.4) – 1:10 p.m. BST/8:10 a.m. EST
Andrea Baxter and Indy 500 (47th on 56.9) – 1:18 p.m. BST/8:18 a.m. EST
Mackenna Shea and Landioso (14th on 46.1) – 1:22 p.m. BST/8:22 a.m. EST
Woodge Fulton and Captain Jack (60th on 68.9) – 1:26 p.m. BST/8:26 a.m. EST
Boyd Martin and Steady Eddie (21st on 48.0) – 1:54 p.m. BST/8:54 a.m. EST
Lauren Kieffer and Veronica (2nd on 37.0) – 2:02 p.m. BST/9:02 a.m. EST
Lynn Symansky and Donner (11th on 45.5) – 2:18 p.m. BST/9:18 a.m. EST
Lillian Heard and LCC Barnaby (49th on 58.0) – 3:18 p.m. BST/10:18 a.m. EST