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Burghley Horse Trials kick off today - video

September 1, 2011

Burghley's 50th anniversary kicks off today at the Burghley Estate in Lincolnshire, where New Zealand's Caroline Powell and Lenamore will be vying for a second consecutive victory.

Caroline Powell after her win on Lenamore last year. © Mike Bain

This year is the seventh under Land Rover sponsorship, and more than 60 vehicles will be supporting the event. Competition officials, fence judges, medical teams and competitors will benefit from Land Rover event vehicles which will also form part of the design of special feature fences on the Cross Country course.

It is a particularly special year for Burghley, as it is 50 years ago that the historic Lincolnshire estate hosted its first competition by invitation of the 1928 hurdling Olympic gold medallist, the Marquess of Exeter.

Since then, Burghley has hosted eight championships, including the first ever World Championships in 1966, and riders regularly vote it their favourite venue in L'Annee Hippique, the annual review of the equestrian year.

Not only does Burghley boast the beautiful backdrop of the magnificent Elizabethan house and deer park, but it is an event that has consistently been at the forefront of innovation, with its own irrigation system for the dedicated Cross Country track and all-weather warm-up arenas.

"Burghley has such charm," explains five-times winner Mark Todd. "It is a magical place and I always feel excited when I come in through the gates."

Burghley House itself is one of the stars of the show. The house is widely acknowledged to be the finest Elizabethan stately home in the country and provides the most spectacular backdrop for any Horse Trials in the world. Essentially the entire event takes place in the park with various structures purpose built for the occasion - the build up of which is likened to creating a small town on grass in only six weeks!

Former world and European champion Zara Phillips, one of the Queen's grand-daughters, was second in 2003 on Toytown, and this time she rides High Kingdom. That is not the only royal connection. Zara's mum, The Princess Royal will be attending and presenting the prizes to the winners of this year's competition.

In 1971, aged 21, the Princess won the individual European Championship title at Burghley with Doublet and subsequently was voted the BBC's Sports Personality of 1971.

She will be one of many former winners returning to Burghley this year, many of whom will be competing, such as William Fox-Pitt and Mark Todd, who are both looking for a record sixth win at the event. Besides Todd, eight other former Burghley winners are back for this year's golden jubilee, including Mary King, the current runaway leader of the HSBC FEI Classics.

King, none the worse for her fall at the HSBC FEI European Eventing Championships in Luhmühlen last weekend, had always declared the HSBC FEI Classics to be her major goal this year, and she is taking no chances. She brings her Rolex Kentucky winner, the home-bred mare Kings Temptress, plus the consistent Apache Sauce, eighth at the HSBC FEI Classics in Luhmühlen in June.

Although seven out of the top 10 in the current HSBC FEI Classics rankings are competing at Burghley, only one can depose King from the top of the leaderboard this weekend: Badminton winner Mark Todd. However, he will have to win on Major Milestone to achieve this, so it looks as if the series will go all the way to the wire at Pau in October.

Those who have already tasted Burghley glory include the defending champions Caroline Powell (NZ) on the sprightly 18-year-old Lenamore, plus her compatriots Andrew Nicholson, with Avebury and world bronze medallist Nereo, and Blyth Tait on Santos.

Particular interest will surround Tait, who scored a one-two in 1998 with Chesterfield and Aspyring as well as a win in 2001 with his Olympic and world champion Ready Teddy, as he is making a welcome return to Burghley after a seven-year absence.

Southern hemisphere riders have taken the honours at Burghley 11 times in the last 21 years, and Lucinda Fredericks (Aust), the 2006 winner on Headley Britannia, returns with the good mare Prada.

Former British winners entered are Oliver Townend (2009), who is entered with Imperial Master and Neo du Breuil; Pippa Funnell (2003) with Mirage d'Elle and Pure Addiction, and five-times winner William Fox-Pitt, who has entered Neuf des Couers and Parklane Hawk.

Zara Phillips' father, Captain Mark Phillips, says he has designed a "retro" Cross Country course in honour of Burghley's landmark birthday. His track certainly marks a return to the old days of big, bold hedges and ditches - Centaur's Leap (fence 21) at the far end of the course is a record 1.45m wide.


Best Memories:

Captain Mark Phillips on the cross-country:



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