Chris Burton might have made hard work of it — but he proved a deserving winner of this year’s Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.
Burton, riding Nobilis 18, held a clear lead after Saturday’s cross-country phase, and he went into the showjumping finale knowing that he could have four fences down and still win.
But it proved a tense affair, as the combination collected 16 faults, finishing just ahead of Andrew Nicholson and Nereo — who were Burghley runners-up for a third time — with New Zealand’s Jonelle Price third aboard Classic Moet and her husband Tim fourth on Ringwood Sky Boy.
Shropshire-based Oliver Townend was the leading British finisher, taking seventh spot on Samuel Thomas II, while Tina Cook and Star Witness were 10th.
Burton said: “I thought I would keep it interesting for everyone by making it as close as possible! He is basically a careful showjumper and he warmed up well, but in the end he got a bit tired and had a few down.”
Burton’s £63,000 victory saw him become the first Australian to triumph at Burghley since Lucinda Fredericks 10 years ago: “On Wednesday morning, I walked along Winners’ Avenue looking at all the plaques with the names of all the old boys on them,” he said. “I thought then how good it would be to add my name to the line.”
One of the biggest cheers of the afternoon was reserved for runner-up Nicholson, who has bounced back from a serious neck injury to add yet another page to his Burghley biography.
“I am very proud of him,” Nicholson said. “He’s getting on a bit, and this is one of the few cross-country courses he doesn’t really enjoy going around because of the hills. But he does what he’s got to do, whether he enjoys it or not — that’s the sort of horse he is.”
And Jonelle Price added: “I feel like I’ve been digging myself out of a hole all week. I wasn’t happy with my dressage, then I took an unplanned long route at the Dairy Farm on cross-country, but I’ve managed to claw my way back and this horse makes my life easy.”
Clear showjumping rounds were few and far between — there were only five all day — but France’s Cedric Lyard and Cadeau Du Roi reaped the rewards of a penalty-free trip and jumped up to fifth place.
Showjumping course-designer Richard Jeffery explained that he had deliberately not built a lot of the fences to maximum width and had made the optimum time on the lenient side in deference to Saturday’s energy-sapping cross-country test.
“The ground was also on the soft side when we built the track last night, so I kept that in mind,” he said.
Christopher Burton and Nobilis 18 win the Burghley Horse Trials, by Trevor Meeks, courtesy of the FEi