Oliver Townend showed the world what a top class rider he is, taking the title in the 2017 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials riding a relatively inexperienced horse.
It was a thrilling competition, from start to finish, with the winner decided at the very last fence.
As the overnight leader, following an incredible cross-country performance, Oliver was last to ride in the showjumping – and had one fence in hand.
He overcame a nerve-racking moment when the 10-year-old Irish Sports Horse Ballaghmor Class crashed through the gate, but he held his nerve to jump the rest of the course clear.
“This is very, very special,” said Oliver, who last won at Burghley in 2009 riding Carousel Quest. “Such a lot can go wrong with a young horse – and he’s only just learned to do flying changes – but he’s in a different class to anything else I’ve ridden recently.”
“I looked around the collecting ring and I honestly wouldn’t swap him for any other horse in there. It’s been a long time since I said that. It’s the biggest and most difficult four star to win and it means the world to me.”
The 34-year-old’s final score of 45.6pen put him 1.3pen ahead of Piggy French in second place. Piggy rose up the leaderboard from fifth place after jumping clear on Vanir Kamira – who was previously ridden by Paul Tapner.
“She was fabulous,” said Piggy. “I came here hoping for a top 10 finish – I’ve not managed to achieve that here before, and have more often eaten the Burghley dirt – so it’s great to be back at this level and up the leader board.
“Burghley is the toughest four star and it’s always been a dream to do well. What a difference a year makes.”
Gemma Tattersall was third after having one pole down with Arctic Soul. The 14-year-old thoroughbred had been particularly feisty during the cross-country and Gemma did well to keep him settled in the showjumping.
Up-and-coming young rider Tom McEwen achieved a career-best with Toledo De Kerser to come fourth, which made an all-British top four.
New Zealand’s Tim Price was fifth on Ringwood Sky Boy, USA’s Lynn Symansky was sixth on Donner and Andrew Nicholson and the gallant 17-year-old Nereo were eighth, after having with two rails down.
Burghley was the final leg in the FEI Classics series. Although Michael Jung retired on the cross-country after a rare mistake with La Biosthetique Sam, he still secured the top prize, following a win at Kentucky and second places at Pau and Badminton.
French rider Maxime Livio, who didn’t compete at Burghley, was second and Nicola Wilson third.
“It’s been a brilliant season,” said Catrin Norinder head of FEI’s Eventing and Olympic department. “All six events have been thrilling and we’ve seen some fantastic performances from athletes and horses who have portrayed our sport in the very best light.”