Can William Fox-Pitt break his own record of six wins, will Andrew Nicholson make it two wins in a row or could Germany finally have a winner?
As always there will be four days of competition before these questions will be answered on Sunday (8 September) when The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials will reach their conclusion.
Leading rider William Fox-Pitt, is one of the British team hot-footing it to Stamford from the FEI European Championships in Malmo, Sweden. Once again he has a strong hand and this year will be bidding for a record seventh Land Rover Burghley win.
It would however be a first if his twice Bramham winner Chilli Morning – also fifth at Pau CCI4* last year – could top the leader board. No stallion has ever won a four-star event let alone Burghley.
His 2011 Rolex Kentucky and Land Rover Burghley winner Parklane Hawk has formidable four-star form and the New Zealand thoroughbred would have to be one of the favourites for the title.
It is not just New Zealand horses who are potential winners; as always their riders will present a strong challenge and none more so than world number one and Land Rover Burghley title holder Andrew Nicholson who has been invincible since winning here last year.
His wins include four-stars at Pau, Rolex Kentucky and Luhmuhlen and three-stars at Boekelo, Chatsworth and Barbury.
Nicholson’s four entries include Avebury who kicked off the run of success. Statistics prove however that winning again will be no mean feat for Avebury –or Parklane Hawk – only one horse has as yet won here on two occasions – Priceless (Ginny Leng) in 1983 and 1985.
New Zealander Jock Paget might be 22 younger than his vastly experienced Olympic team compatriot Andrew but lack of experience is not proving a hindrance to the young Olympic bronze medallist who has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the sport.
Not only does he have good form at Land Rover Burghley but against the odds he triumphed at The Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials this year and is now the new British Eventing Open Champion, having conquered a strong field at The Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe Park recently.
Either of his rides, Clifton Promise or Clifton Lush could come up with the goods here and set him on track for a Rolex Grand Slam at Kentucky next year.
Another New Zealand Olympic team member Jonelle Richards always a feisty competitor will also be giving her all with her Olympic ride Flintstar who went well in Luhmuhlen in June.
Australians have done well here previously. British-based Sam Griffiths and Happy Times with plenty of four-star experience between them are currently going well.
Kevin McNab is a quiet contender for the title riding another Clifton horse – Clifton Pinot and Swindon based former Badminton winner Paul Tapner (Kilronan) is never one to hang around.
Germany has yet to field a winner at Burghley and while the German entry is small in number it is large in experience and it would be no surprise to see one of her riders at the top of the dressage leader board on Friday night.
It may well be German team gold medallist – and Grand Prix dressage rider – Ingrid Klimke who is bringing her gold medal partner FRH Butts Abraxxas or perhaps former Olympian Bettina Hoy who is back at the top level with Lanfranco while Andreas Dibowski has been re-united with his former four-star ride FRH Butts Leon.
It has been 20-years since an American rider put their name on the Roll of Honour. Bruce Davidson Jnr is the sole representative this year and will be keen to emulate his father who won here in 1974 although his ride Park Trader might benefit from the experience and be one for to look out for next year.
As always there will be a strong representation from the home side. Crowd favourite Pippa Funnell has her 2010 WEG team horse Redesigned back on form and Oliver Townend – the new National Champion – is getting a great tune out of his entry and former Nicholson ride Armada.
He demonstrated this with a fast clear in the British Open at Gatcombe Park while Olympic team silver medallists Nicola Wilson and the flying Opposition Buzz won’t be hanging around on cross country day.
Tom McEwen and Izzy Taylor will also be in a hurry to get back from the Europeans in Malmo to Land Rover Burghley and both have strong entries, while Piggy French brings her new ride Westwood Mariner who has Burghley experience with former rider Polly Stockton.
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