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Caroline Powell wins Burghley horse trials

September 6, 2010

by Lulu Kyriacou

» Picture pages: Caroline Powell | Dressage | Cross-country

Kiwi eventer Caroline Powell joined the elite group of four-star winning New Zealand riders when she won the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials yesterday.

Caroline Powell and Lenamore on their lap of honour. © Lulu Kyriacou

© Mike Bain

L-R: Burghley Horse Trials president Amanda Rock, HSBC's Kate Fullam, Caroline Powell, and Anthony Bradbury, Marketing Director of Land Rover UK. © Mike Bain

Burghley's silverware. © Lulu Kyriacou

Powell and Lenamore had to negotiate 12 obstacles, designed by World Equestrian Games course designer Richard Jeffery, to win the £50,000 first prize. The pair could afford only one mistake, after Oliver Townend and Carousel Quest dropped two rail to allow William-Fox-Pitt in to second on Seacookie.

But no advantage was necessary for Lenamore. The 17-year-old grey did not as much as breathe on a pole and Powell took the Burghley title for New Zealand.

"When I came to England in 1988 I never dreamed this would happen," Powell said. "I started here as a groom but I took every door that was opened to me and this is what has happened. I am overwhelmed."

The win also saved Caroline a shopping expedition for a wedding present for owner Lexi Mckinnon (who originally campaigned the horse) and is getting married next Saturday.

"I said I didn't know what to buy on Wednesday and Lexi said that I could just win Burghley," laughed the rider afterwards.

Powell is taking Mac Macdonald to WEG, after Lenamore, who went to the Olympics in 2008, was retired from overseas competition in February. "He is 17 and we have to respect that and to be honest we have never got the same dressage result when we have travelled abroad. So we decided that while he still feels and acts like a four year old we would only take him to the events he likes in future, this being one of them, so the choice really made itself."

Richard Jeffery had built the show jumping course and for those competitors travelling to WEG this was a good opportunity to get into the mindset of the man who will be responsible for the phase in Lexington. Richard will also assisting Conrad Holmfeld with the show jumping proper. He is also a show jumping course adviser (eventing) for the United States Equestrian Federation and runs seminars to advise how the two sports differ.

"When I am building for an event, I have to remember that this is just one phase of three, I am not trying to find a winner as I would if I was building a Grand Prix course, where I might be aiming for seven or eight clear. Here it is a test to prove the horses are still fit enough to jump a normal course after their exertions the previous day. On the other hand, you have to be careful not to over compensate!"

Richard usually has the course planned out basically about a month in advance and then might make changes depending on the going and such. All that said, the course was the maximum 1.25 high nearly all round and included a tricky distance from three to four (vertical to vertical) which was slightly going uphill and a little short. There was also a triple bar as the first part of the combination followed by two verticals which would be very unusual in a pure show jumping test. By the time the top 24 came in to the arena, there had already been three completely clear rounds and one (Andrew Nicholson) with just two time penalties.

After the break many of the more experienced riders were due to jump and the clear rounds mounted up. Pippa Funnell on her first visit to Burghley in five years produced one with Mirage D'Elle to end up 15th. Pippa had originally been awarded a stop the day before at the Leaf Pit (Fence 4) but successfully appealed. "I went all the direct routes which I thought was very brave of me but I haven't done a 4* for a while and with WEG coming up, I thought I better get some practice in!"

Also jumping clean was Lauren Shannon who after the disappointment of the morning when Quixotic did not pass inspection, picked herself up to ride her other horse Zero Flight. Finishing 12th meant Lauren also won the awards for best U25 rider and best Burghley newcomer. Mark Todd, five times a winner, is hardly a newcomer but he has lost nothing of his ability and also produced a zero score to finish 11th on Major Milestone.

NZ Burghley winners

Mark Todd (1987, 1990, 1991, 1997, 1999)
Blyth Tait (1998, 2001)
Andrew Nicholson (1995, 2000)
Caroline Powell (2010)

But the top 10 was what it was all about. The ten riders who started in those envied positions were all still there after the cross-country but the tough show jump course had re-arranged the order somewhat by the time the last three entered the ring.

Francis Whittington with Sir Percival, William Fox-Pitt and first ride Macchiato along with both of Mary King's rides all dropped a rail and a place or two as a result. But Anna Warnecke (Twinklebee), recently qualified as a doctor, rose to 9th with her clear and Clea Phillipps (Lead the Way) jumped up a place to eighth.

But Clayton Fredericks on the spectacular jumping mare Be My Guest who he has only ridden three times in international competition was to make the biggest rise. By the time the last three jumped he was already fourth, and looked as if he might remain there as Fox-Pitt rode a faultless round on Seacookie. This put pressure on the two leaders - Powell and Townend - although his one time penalty did give Powell a fence in hand over him. As Oliver Townend rode in on Carousel Quest, he had no such advantage.

Townend's elegant grey dropped the sixth fence and then the second part of the double at seven, dropping the combination down to fourth.

Oliver Townend's Carousel Quest tips a rail.

William Fox-Pitt and Seacookie.

Clayton Fredericks and Be My Guest. © Lulu Kyriacou

William Fox-Pitt was delighted with both his horses and his second place means he still leads the HSBC Challenge but only by five points, so will be travelling to Pau in November with Navigator to try to make sure he wins the $150,000 purse.

Fox-Pitt missed a record sixth Burghley victory by 4 penalties, but he said it was "an honour" to finish second to such a popular, seasoned combination, and was pleased with form shown by both his horses.

Powell's win has propelled her into third place in the HSBC FEI Classics series, behind Fox-Pitt, the new leader, and Andreas Dibowski with one event left.

Clayton Fredericks explained that his riding the mare came about through a lucky connection with the Bockman family in Germany.

"Gilbert Bockman trains the Aussie team and he heard that their might be a possibility the mare would be moved on from Dirk Schrade and one thing led to another and here we are. She is extremely talented and a careful jumper so I have to confess when I saw the course and how difficult it was I was quietly confident of going clear and rising up a place or two. She is quite difficult and I have had to be open minded about the way I ride and train her because she has a mind of her own and prefers short hacks to being schooled, but it is all working out well so far!"

Powell, Fredericks, and Todd were the only three riders to finish on their dressage score.

Seven horses were either not presented or were withdrawn from the holding box at yesterday's vet inspection. The horses who did not come through to the show jumping phase were National Wish (Marco Savoini), Temple Bridge (Hannah Kirkhill), Stormstay (Aaron Millar), Quixotic (Lauren Shannon) Bit of a Barney (Louise Skelton), Murphy's Miracle (Louise Lyons) and Bluestone Luke (Kerry Varley).


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