Oliver Townend wins Burghley Horse Trials

September 7, 2009

Oliver Townend and Carousel Quest on the final leg.

Townend greets the crowd after his clear round and win. © Jan Milne

British eventer Oliver Townend was lost for words yesterday as he captured The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials with his smart grey Carousel Quest.

The win completes a rare double for the ever-ebullient Yorkshireman, who also won Badminton on Flint Curtis in May. He is now only the sixth rider in history to complete the double within 12 months, following fellow British riders Anneli Drummond Hay, Lucinda Green, Ginny Elliot, and Pippa Funnell, and Australia's Lucinda Fredericks. The Burghley win also extends his lead in the HSBC FEI Classics to 12 points over William Fox-Pitt with just Les Etoiles de Pau CCI**** in France to go.

Townend and Carousel Quest not only produced a clear round show jumping to add to their clear round cross-country. He was the only one of 80 starters to finish the three days of competition on his dressage score, and was a more than comfortable eight penalties ahead of the 49 who completed. Townend was quick to praise Cressida Clague-Reading who originally produced Carousel Quest and from who he took over the ride when Cressida decided to concentrate on show jumping.

"Cressy put all the buttons on him - all I had to do was press them - he is a class horse," said Oliver, who will take home the Land Rover Perpetual Challenge trophy and a cheque for £55,000.

"I was nervous in the morning, but by the time I went into the arena, I wasn't really feeling anything at all," Townend said. "I was riding a class horse that I knew if I placed him right he wouldn't boot out four fences, and that's a nice feeling," Townend said.

"To be honest I am still celebrating Badminton - to win Burghley as well is simply just amazing - there is no point in saying anything else. It hasn't sunk in yet, but I've got plenty of useful four-star horses and am really looking forward to consolidating for the future."

Carousel Quest's breeder Jim Hood collected a prize as the grey by Carousel was the highest placed British-bred horse.

After also winning Badminton, he is also in contention for the Rolex Grand Slam in Lexington, Kentucky next May, the first rider since Andrew Hoy attempted - but narrowly missed at Burghley in 2006.

Townend, 26, was brought up in Yorkshire, and trained with Paul Donovan, Kenneth Clawson, and even rode out racehorses for the Irish trainer Mouse Morris. He recently bought a farm near Ellesmere in Shropshire. He first rode for Britain at the 2005 FEI European Championships on Topping and in 2006 gained the ride on Flint Curtis, finishing 3rd at Badminton and 11th individually at the FEI World Equestrian Games in Aachen. He was 8th at the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event on Carousel Quest and won Badminton on Flint Curtis this year. He was a member of Britain's gold medal team at the 2007 FEI European Championships and will be in the team on Flint Curtis at the HSBC FEI European Championship at Fontainebleau this month.

A clear round over Richard Jeffery's tightly timed course brought former British team member Polly Stockton up from 6th place overnight, into second with Arthur Comyn's 10-year-old Irish-bred Westwood Poser. The Master Imp gelding, who began the competition in 13th after dressage, was contesting his first four-star event.

"I wasn't planning on bringing him here but after my main entry Regulus had to have colic surgery a few weeks ago I decided to re-route Poser - but I can't quite believe the outcome," said Polly, who rode Westwood Poser to fourth place in the World Cup Qualifiers at both Gatcombe and Tattersalls this year.

"I knew he had the ability to do well but I did wonder if Burghley was a big ask for him but he just got stuck in and I can't quite believe how far he came up."

Four faults dropped Sam Griffiths and Happy Times to third place - the same position they occupied at the horse's first four-star at Badminton. "I think he's proved his Badminton result was no fluke and I am very excited about his future. He now deserves a good rest and hopefully we might think about campaining him towards the World Equestrian Games next year," Griffiths said. "I'm now excited for the future. I'll be sitting down with the Australian selectors soon to talk about next year."

Mistakes by Phillips Dutton (USA) 4th on Truluck and Clayton Fredericks (AUS), 5th on Poilu, and Caroline Powell (NZL), 8th on Lenamore, gave Townend a two-rail breathing space, which he didn't need.

Lenamore's athletic style and experience suited Captain Mark Phillip's intense, accuracy-testing course that proved the downfall of many other horse and rider combinations.

"He gave me a lovely ride and I can't think of one place out on the course that he put a foot wrong," Powell said.

Eight faults in the show-jumping dropped Powell to 8th place in the final standings, just shy of the 5th place performance she achieved in 2005.

Kiwi Andrew Nicholson, one of the most experienced riders in the field and two-time Burghley winner, had mixed fortunes on full brothers Nereo (2nd after dressage) and Armada (69th after dressage). "As you saw, Armada is the more flamboyant one, which goes for jumping as well. Nereo has a much better mind and is smoother to ride across country," Nicholson said.

The two horses reversed their fortunes on the cross-country day: Nicholson and Armada stormed around the tough cross-country course, producing one of only five double-clears. They added eight faults in the show-jumping to finish 21st overall.

Nicholson had a fall on the less experienced Nereo who, at nine, was one of the youngest horses at Burghley and was competing for the first time at 4-star level. "It's a big step up for him," Nicholson said.

New Zealanders Dan Jocelyn, Neil Spratt and Annabel Wigley also put in solid performances, finishing 19th, 28th and 29th, respectively.

Jim Ellis, chief executive of Equestrian Sports NZ, said the event was generally positive for New Zealand. "It was pleasing to see some much improved four-star dressage performances which has been our target this season. With the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky just a year away there is a real feeling of improvement in our overall eventing performances with the cross-country still a Kiwi strength."

Germany's Kai Ruder, 10th on the stallion Leprince des Bois, who had the best first-time 4-star completion, wins the HSBC FEI Classics Training Bursary towards training with an accredited trainer.

British rider Harry Meade was awarded a red card and disqualified from the competition for his riding of Dunauger, who fell at fence 19. Meade was not allowed to ride his second horse, Midnight Dazzler. The Ground Jury, in consultation with the Appeal Committee, awarded the red card under Art 520 of the 2009 Rules of Eventing: "Abuse of Horse and Dangerous Riding", namely 'riding an exhausted horse' and 'excessive pressing of a tired horse'.

Dunauger became stuck in fence 19 and eventually had to be sedated to be removed from it. He was reportedly uninjured.

Paul Donovan (IRL) was given an FEI yellow warning card for failing to stop after incurring three refusals on Sportsfield Sandyman.

Ginnie Turnbull on Instant Reaction won the prize for the highest placed British first-timer.
British rider Angus Smales gained his third Burghley completion and the prize for the highest placed 'Under 25'. Smales, 23, moved up 40 places from 73rd position after the first day's dressage to a final 33rd with his and his father's Scottish-bred Cornsay Grouse who gave Smales his first Burghley completion two years ago.

Cornsay Grouse was found by former eventer and trainer Ian Stark who re-broke the quirky gelding by the coloured Scottish Sport Horse stallion Mr Todd. "No one was able to stay on him to see if he was any good," said Smales, who took him on at the age of 15. "He is still quirky - but the easiest horse to handle, until you want to clip or ride him. He was like a man possessed in the start box yesterday - he is the terrier of the horse world."

Smales, who was based with Oliver Townend, now runs his own yard in Leicestershire.

Ginnie Turnbull on Instant Reaction won the prize for the highest placed British first-timer. "It's been a long time coming but worth waiting for," said the 39-year-old. Ginnie and her husband Will's horse Instant Reaction jumped a clear round in the show jumping to end the three days with a double clear to add to the double clear they achieved at Badminton in May. "What a great way to finish," said Turnbull. "He couldn't have done more."

The stats

49 horses completed
3 withdrawn, including Anna Warnecke's Twinkle Bee (GER), lying 8th
11 Jumping clears (3 with time faults)
No rider finished on their dressage score