Well that was a day to remember for sure as when around 50% of the field don’t come home that is not only 5 star but also a fairly attritional day which is not playing out so many great vibes for the sport.
On the positive side the horses and riders are all alive and will all fight to see another day. The ground was perfect, the weather was evening perfect ( cool for us sun lovers) and the scene was set for Burghley cross country which is billed, quite rightly, as the biggest 5 star in the world.
So the debrief. Tim and Bango ( Uno) set out as pathfinders and did a simply phenomenal job of showing the world that if you have power and scope you are made for 5 star. The fences were easy and with not a single moment of indrawn breath the course was negotiated by the equivalent of a Bugatti Veyron as Uno purred his way around the track. The difficulty for Tim was that it’s like driving the Veyron on a rally course so sometimes that power is a bit over the top and there were a few grappling moments when Tim struggled to gain hold of the front end which was why there were a few time penalties but it is testament to Uno’s ability and Tim’s class riding that they not only took the lead but held the top three for much of the day.
Next out was Xavier Faer ( Hugo) who is another power jumper and he set off at a cracking gallop with his huge stride eating up the ground. He was magnificent through his mothers nemesis, the Leaf Pit drop and galloped on through Discovery Valley in the form of his life. The open oxer at the top of the Trout Hatchery was something both he and much of the field misjudged and he mis read it to the extent he put down in the middle which activated the pin for an 11 penalty. Tim jumped the rest of the section but it was pretty inevitable Hugo was going to walk home. For the next few hours Hugo gazed out of his stable utterly convinced that this was the biggest but shortest track he has ever attempted and he is quite shocked at how hard his stable’s mates seem to have found it!
Next out for the Mere Farm crew were Jonelle and Maggie May. It was close to 3′ o clock, the scoreboard was shifting and all was for the taking. As they sped out of the start box it was clear that they were going to be held as the pin had been triggered in Discovery Valley and the red flag duly went up before the Leaf Pif Drop which is not the ideal place to be held!
On her way again and sublimely off the drop went our girls and sped through Discovery Valley. They hunted on down to the Lower Trout Hatchery which proved a step too far for a couple of brave souls that gave it all today. Maggie May sprung a pulled neck muscle bizarre injury on Wednesday which hasn’t improved all week so we have been a bit on the backfoot since then and Jonelle headed out today with the mantra of if anything goes wrong she would head home. Maggie May picked up an 11 for a dropped pin but she still has never ever picked up a 20 in her entire career which sums up her amazing record. She is back in the stables happy and sound with all her feed and water up off the ground and if ever were proof that The Princess is true to form, the girls handpick her grass when they graze her.
Tim set out on his third ride having not even seen Jonelle on her first. He and Ringwood Sky Boy ( Ozzie) set off on a journey that proved that Burghley winners are worthy of the challenge ahead and they had a blinding run. Admittedly Ozzie got a bit low at one or two of the brushes he knows he can plough through but it was a class fast round. The route home from the last water is pretty straightforward and we thought Ozzie was set to come home just a few seconds over time but Ozzie and Tim tripped a stride under the Lion Bridge and ultimately went down. A sad and totally undeserved end to Burghley for the current champion.
So we head into t Sunday with a depleted field but with our live hopes still with Uno and Tim.. lets roll it on!