US Olympic team reserve Sinead Halpin finally got her moment in the sun when she took a convincing lead after the dressage phase at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials on Friday.
Burghley is the finale of the 2011-2012 HSBC FEI Classics series.
Halpin, 30, who won the HSBC Training Bursary when third on Manoir de Carneville at her CCI4* debut in Kentucky in 2011, was 15th at Burghley last year, but her test this time was 10 marks better – 36.5 – and she has a 3.7 penalty margin over the chasing pack.
“It felt good from the moment he went in there,” Halpin said, after earning the only sub-40 dressage mark with an exquisite display of elastic paces, smooth transitions and general showmanship.
“The horse picked up straight away and did some fabulous work, especially the medium trot. I had high expectations, but to be in first place in this company in Britain is amazing. Insane even!”
The 12-year-old Manoir de Carneville, by Gaub, was bred in France by the Le Goupil family, who organise the international event at Haras du Pin (FRA), and Halpin has been riding him for four years. “We clicked straight away,” she said, revealing that her then employer William Fox-Pitt advised her: “Buy a horse you love to ride rather than one you need to learn to ride.”
In contrast to Thursday’s difficult conditions of chilly breezes and sudden squalls of rain, the sun shone brightly on the second day of Dressage, especially on the US riders. Halpin’s compatriot Alison Springer and Arthur, who are always reliable in this phase, are in second place on 40.0.
“Arthur is a nervous type and the horse he was today would have put in a few spooks this time a few years ago,” Springer said.
“I knew what I could and couldn’t push for and I was happy to have ridden an accurate test.”
Both Halpin and Springer have been based for many years with the O’Connor family in Virginia, USA. Springer said: “I have learned a lot from my first visit to Burghley [in 2009, when she was eliminated]. I used to be terrified when I saw the huge fences here, but now, looking at them, I know I’m happy to have a horse of this scope.”
Clayton Fredericks (AUS) might have his best chance yet of a CCI4* win on British soil. He is in third place on Walterstown Don, another horse with a Selle Français sire, although the horse was bred in Ireland.
Fredericks has had a difficult season, having been hospitalised after a fall at Saumur in May and then suffering a fall at the Olympics when his horse Bendigo tripped on his over-reach boot. “I had no expectations when coming to Burghley,” he said. “You spend your whole life picking yourself up in this sport and perhaps this will be my turn again.
“We have been working really hard on the dressage to be in this position and to be starting in a good place and I hope to jump every fence, stay on our feet and go through the flags at the end,” Fredericks said.
He believes that the cross-country course will suit his horse. “He is a big striding, great galloping horse and the course is certainly quite big and bold although fairly straight forward – there are however places where we can all be disappointed.”
British Olympic team silver medallist Mary King and her mare Kings Temptress are in eighth place. “This is her fourth Burghley and she was very settled and although still improving that was her best test at this level and so I am thrilled,” said King, who bred the Primitive Rising mare.
“She been round here before, she’s capable fit and well – its up to me as a rider to do a good job.”
Fredericks’ Olympic team mate, Sam Griffiths (AUS), who had a fall on the flat at the Olympic Games, looks set for some better luck, too. He has brought the same horse, Happy Times, to Burghley and is in ninth place on a mark of 42.0.
The scoreboard is set for a tantalizing showdown on Satruday, as the good dressage tests came thick and fast on the second day at Burghley and the horses placed from second to 27th are covered by just 10 penalties. Three riders are tied in fourth on 41 penalties: Germany’s Kai Rüder on yet another horse bred in France, Les Prince des Bois, the only stallion in the field, plus the two riders at the top of the HSBC FEI Classics leaderboard, William Fox-Pitt (Parklane Hawk, GBR) and Andrew Nicholson (Avebury, NZL).
These two combinations headed the Burghley leaderboard in 2011 and no-one would bet against them being there again, in whichever order, on Sunday. But first the field of 85 has to negotiate Mark Phillips’s imposing cross-country and, as Springer said: “It’s not an original thing to say, but it’s huge!”
Both the USA’s Will Faudree and Australian Megan Jones rode good tests and currently stand 14th equal – both on 45.8. Faudree is riding Andromaque, another of the five mares on the start list this year with who he was 16th at the Lexington Kentucky four-star. “She is a good cross-country horse and I am excited and a little nervous, about tomorrow. The course is big but we’re both ready for it,” said Faudree, who was placed at Burghley in 2007 with Antigua.
Jones travelled to Britain with the Australian Olympic squad as reserve for the team with Kirby Park Allofasudden. After Shane Rose’s horse went lame they got called up but within a day had to drop out as Allofasudden developed a hoof infection. Jones then decided to stay on for Burghley, and is delighted with her dressage score.
“I am so excited that he scored well – it is the first time out of Australia for him and always difficult to know where you stand in big international competition,” said Jones, who last competed in Britain in 2004 at Badminton. This is her first Burghley. “It’s great to be here – we walked the course on Tuesday like a bunch of tourists taking pictures of everything.”
• Ceylor L.A.N. ridden by Kitty King is this year’s winner of the five-year-old section of the Dubarry Burghley Young Event Horse final.
The pair gained the top marks for jumping 38/40 from judges Alain Storme and Matthew Lanni and 9/10 for suitability and potential from former Irish Olympic team member Eric Horgan, and were convincing winners heading the class by four marks.
King, who has been in strong form this season with former young horse champions Zidante and Persimmon, found Ceylor almost by accident as she just happened to be in Sussex and looked to see if there were any young horses for sale in the area.
“He was too big and too expensive but I was in Sussex and so was he,” she said. The good-looking KWPN gelding is by Veron (deceased) a KWPN stallion by the Quidam de Revel son Quite Easy.
“He is not really my size as he is tall but he is a lovely quality horse and one to produce for the future,” said King who has sold three legs to a small syndicate of owners.
Second place went to Oliver Townend and the Irish-bred Cooley SRS, who is by the Holstein Ramiro B owned by Harthill Stud in Cheshire, and was also in the arena shortly after in the stallion parade. Cooley SRS, now owned by Angela Hislop, was bought from Richard Shane in Ireland a year ago. “We head-hunted and bought Ramiro B because we were impressed by his stock,” said Nina Barbour of Harthill Stud.
Frank Diamond, also Irish-bred, impressed with his gallop to gain 10/10 in the final section and moved up the ranks into a final third place. This lovely stamp of a bay is owned by George Ward but currently being produced out of Judy Bradwell’s ride and was ridden by her stable jockey Simon Grieve.
“I have simply got the pleasure of riding him,” said Grieve who is also competing in the senior CCI for the first time. Frank Diamond, by the well known sire Colin Diamond, has completed a couple of intro events. “He is a really brave cross country horse – he has so much power he is definitely a future four-star prospect,” Grieve said.
Fourth placed What a Puzzle by the coloured stallion Dexters Puzzzle and ridden by Kylie Roddy was the ‘best British-bred’ and Cekatinka last year’s four-year-old winner and also ridden by Simon Grieve was the highest placed mare in 6th place.
Results after Dressage
1 Sinead Halpin/Manoir de Carneville (USA) 36.3
2 Allison Springer/Arthur (USA) 40.0
3 Clayton Fredericks/Walterstown Don (AUS) 40.8
4 = Kai Ruder/Le Prince des Bois (GER) 41.0
4 = Andrew Nicholson/Avebury (NZL) 41.0
4 = William Fox-Pitt/Parklane Hawk (GBR) 41.0
7 Lucy Jackson/Animator ll (NZ) 41.7
8 Mary King/Kings Temptress (GBR) 41.8
9 Sam Griffiths/Happy Times (AUS) 42.0
10 Oliver Townend/Armada (GBR) 43.5
Young Event Horse results
1) Ceylor LAN by Veron (K King) 86; 2, Cooley SRS by Ramiro B (O Townend) 82; 3, Frank Diamond by Colin Diamond (S Grieve) 81; 4, What A Puzzle by Dexter’s Puzzle (K Roddy) 80; 5th Cecilio by Dutch Dormello-OLD (A Sandberg) 79; 6th Cekatinka by King Kolibri (S Grieve) 79.