British superstar rider Ros Canter has won Badminton and the European Championships this year - can she top off an exceptional 2023 with victory at the Defender Burghley Horse Trials as well?
Ros, fresh from winning individual and team gold on her Badminton champion Lordships Graffalo at the Europeans in Normandy earlier this month, will ride Annie Makin and Kate James’s Pencos Crown Jewel at Defender Burghley (31 August-3 September).
The Lincolnshire-based 37-year-old will face serious opposition from all four of Defender Burghley’s most recent winners, however. Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class, who reigned supreme in 2017 and added Olympic team gold for Britain to their accolades at Tokyo in 2021, return to Burghley once more. World number one Tim Price, who won in 2018, brings Vitali, third here last year, and will attempt to give New Zealand a 14th victory at the world’s greatest three-day event since 1990. The 2019 Burghley heroine Pippa Funnell - who won the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing here 20 years ago, in 2003 - will ride Majas Hope. And the 2023 Burghley champion Piggy March is back to defend her title, this time riding Brookfield Inocent.
Burghley had a royal winner when HRH the Princess Royal stormed to victory in the 1971 European Championships here. Her daughter Zara Tindall finished a very close second on her CCI5* at Burghley in 2003 - could this be the year of a second royal triumph? Zara will ride Class Affair, on whom she finished 15th at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event in the spring.
Two riders are planning to ride three horses apiece in the CCI5*. First to go in the competition will be Harry Meade - his three mounts will be chosen nearer the time from the quartet of Away Cruising, Red Kite, Cavalier Crystal and Tenareze. Oliver Townend will also compete three from the impressive foursome of Ballaghmor Class, Swallow Springs, Tregilder and Cooley Rosalent.
An American rider hasn’t won Burghley since 1993, when Stephen Bradley was successful aboard Sassy Reason. But there could be a champion in this year’s US contingent, which includes Boyd Martin with both his Maryland CCI5* winner, the British-bred On Cue, and Tsetserleg TSF, on whom he won team silver at the 2022 World Championships.
It’s 60 years since an Irish rider won Burghley (Capt Harry Freeman-Jackson), but Austin O’Connor is bringing Colorado Blue, third at Badminton this year and acknowledged as one of the best cross-country horses in the world. They would be among the favourites in the 65-strong field to take home the Defender Burghley trophy.
And there are plenty of newer British faces vying for Burghley glory. David Doel (Galileo Nieuwmoed and Ferro Point) is edging closer and closer to a CCI5* podium place, while Emily King (Valmy Biats) has a chance of emulating her mother Mary, who took Defender Burghley in 1996.
Martyn Johnson, Burghley’s Event Director, said: “We are delighted to see such a strong British and international entry to Defender Burghley - this has all the hallmarks of a vintage year. The park and course are looking immaculate and we very much look forward to the very best riders in the world vying to come out on top, in front of our legendary Burghley crowd.”
Tickets for Defender Burghley can be purchased online at burghley-horse.co.uk and downloaded or printed out prior to your visit, or on the gate.
To watch every minute of the action, from the first horse inspection to the final prize-giving, plus in-depth interviews and behind-the-scenes features, plus the daily Today @ Burghley round-up show hosted by Nick Luck and Rosie Tapner, an annual subscription to Burghley TV costs just £20. Visit burghley-horse.co.uk/burghley-tv to subscribe.