Kiwi rider first up at Burghley Horse Trials

September 3, 2009

All of the Kiwi combinations taking part in the 2009 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials have passed the first horse inspection, and the very first rider through in today's dressage phase will be New Zealander Annabel Wigley riding Black Drum.

She will be second on the course, after "guinea pig" Sharon Hunt and Tankers Town at 9am, who have withdrawn from the competition. The last rider through today will be American Missy Ransenhousen and Critical Decision at 4.30pm.

Two British horses were eliminated during the veterinary inspection; Zin Zan III, the ride of Rodney Powell, and Birthday Night, the ride of Georgie Spence were held and eliminated after re-inspection. Spence, at 20 the youngest rider at Burghley, also has Running Brook in contention.

The ground jury comprised president David Lee (Ireland), Sue Baxter (GB) and Roeli Bril (The Netherlands).

Other than Wigley, five other New Zealanders will compete for the Land Rover Perpetual Challenge Trophy and £50,000 prize money. They are Olympians Caroline Powell (Lenamore) and 1. Andrew Nicholson (Armada and Nereo), and Dan Jocelyn and Special Attorney, Tim Price and Vortex, and Neil Spratt and Hugo's There III.

Kiwis have a successful history at Burghley, winning the title nine times, including a five-year winning streak between 1997 and 2001. Mark Todd, William Fox-Pitt (GB) and Ginny Elliott (GB) have each won Burghley five times, making them the competition's most successful riders. New Zealand's Blyth Tait and Andrew Nicholson have also each won Burghley twice.

This year nine riders have two horses including British European team member William Fox-Pitt, who will be vying for his third consecutive and record sixth victory at Burghley. This year he brings Macchiato, last year's Luhmuhlen winner who was fifth at Badminton in the spring, and the German-bred Seacookie. It will be a first time around Captain Mark Phillips Burghley course for both of them. A win or high placing would also give William more points in the HSBC FEI Classics standings before the final event in the series at Pau. Badminton winner Oliver Townend currently heads the standings - but is just one point ahead of Fox-Pitt. Townend, who is also a member of this year's British European team, is the last in the running order with the grey Carousel Quest, his only ride this year.

New Zealander Andrew Nicholson, also a former winner, has the Spanish-bred full brothers Armada and Nereo. While others have tried as yet no rider has managed to achieve the feat of completing on full-brothers in the same year. British rider Harry Meade also has two horses including the evergreen cross-country specialist Midnight Dazzler who at 19 is the oldest horse in the field.

It is 16 years since an American rider - Stephen Bradley in 1993 - last won Burghley. This year a contingent of nine riders have made the trip across the Atlantic - seven including experienced riders Phillip Dutton (Truluck) and Karen O'Connor (Mandiba) are representing the US and two first-timers, Kyle Carter (Madison Park) and Diana Burnett (Manny) Canada.

Burghley is a CCI**** (Concours Complet International), the highest level of eventing competitions - the same level as Olympic or the World Equestrian Games. There are only six annual CCI**** in the world, and the outcome of this competition will influence New Zealand selection for the upcoming World Equestrian Games to be held in Kentucky in September 2010.