Oliver Townend and his brilliant horse Ballaghmor Class lifted a second Defender Burghley Horse Trials trophy, plus eventing's biggest prize of £110,000, and in doing so joined the elite group of partnerships that have more than one plaque on Burghley’s Winners’ Avenue.
Karyn Shuter, Angela Hislop and Val Ryan's ultra-consistent 16-year-old grey gelding joins Priceless (the winner with Ginny Leng, nee Holgate) in 1983 and 1985) and Avebury (Andrew Nicholson, 2012-2104) as the only multiple equine winners of Defender Burghley.
In addition, the horse has been second and third at Defender Burghley with Oliver, has won the Kentucky CCI5* in the USA, had multiple placings at Badminton and was part of Britain's gold medal-winning team at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
"We're going to have a very big party tonight," said Oliver, 41, for whom this is a third Defender Burghley victory, his first being in 2009 on Carousel Quest and his second on Ballaghmor Class in 2017.
“I’m just so proud of ‘Thomas’ and the team behind him. Horses don’t lie and if you’re doing something wrong, they don’t turn up at five-stars doing what they do with a smile on their face. He is a true event horse.”
In a thrilling finale to the 2023 Defender Burghley Horse Trials, Oliver and Ballaghmor Class were clear until the very last showjumping fence. This gave breathing space to the overnight leaders, New Zealand’s Tim Price and Vitali, but the final phase once again proved this horse's Achilles heel and an unfortunate four rails down dropped them to fourth place.
David Doel rose a place to second with a flawless showjumping round on Gillian Jonas's Gallileo Nieuwmoed and was the only rider to finish the competition on his dressage score and record his best CCI5* result.
“He’s a mega horse to ride,” said David. “We’ve been fourth, sixth and eighth at our previous five-stars so it was either going to be second or 10th here, and fortunately it was the former!”
Harry Meade, whose father Richard won Burghley in 1964, also conjured a perfect round from Charlotte Opperman’s 10-year-old mare Cavalier Crystal. That elevated them two places to third, which is Harry’s best result at Defender Burghley.
“She’s a good jumper so I could just enjoy it,” he said. “I hoped it would be the right decision to bring her here. My biggest question was how well she would cope with the atmosphere and the cross-country, and she has shown herself to be a true five-star horse.”
Wills Oakden from Scotland ended a good weekend with two horses in the top 10, in fifth and eighth places with Arklow Puissance and Oughterard Cooley. Boyd Martin finished best of the US contingent in ninth and 10th places on Tsetserleg TSF and On Cue.
Pippa Funnell, the 2003 and 2019 Defender Burghley winner, was sixth on Majas Hope and Alice Casburn jumped a double clear with her home-bred Topspin to finish seventh.
Reflecting on a hugely successful Defender Burghley, Event Director Martyn Johnson, who is bidding to host the 2026 FEI World Eventing Championship here, said: “It’s been a great weekend and, importantly, a good weekend for the sport.”
All the action from Defender Burghley was shown exclusively on Burghley TV, which costs just £20 or an annual subscription. This week’s coverage is available to be watched on playback, and features all the sport, plus features, interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. Visit https://burghley-horse.co.uk/burghley-tv to subscribe.
The 2024 Defender Burghley Horse Trials will take place from 5-8 September.