Burghley spotlight on Hoy

Thousands of equestrian enthusiasts will over the next four days be heading to Stamford in Lincolnshire for the showpiece Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.

Thousands of equestrian enthusiasts will over the next four days be heading to Stamford in Lincolnshire for the showpiece Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials. The prestigious event, which carries £45,000 in prize money, starts today with the dressage phase.

There will be more dressage and Young Event Horse and Pony finals tomorrow, cross-country on Saturday and showjumping on Sunday. One highlight will be Andrew Hoy's attempt to win $250,000 by completing the Rolex Grand Slam, a feat only achieved once before, by Norfolk-trained Pippa Funnell. It was in 2003 that she became the first person to consecutively win the top three eventing contests in the world - the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials and Burghley.

The Burghley event changes this year to a short format, enabling the start and finish box to be moved to Ring 2 as a centrepiece to the showground. Spectators and shoppers can now enjoy the thrill of the action set against the magnificent backdrop of Burghley House.

The course features 32 fences, including the biggest challenges at Capability's Cutting, the Land Rover Dairy Farm, the new Rolex Corners and the Trout Hatchery.

Piggy French, who until recently lived in Norfolk at North Elmham, will return to the event for the fifth time with two Suffolk rides.

Lavinia Wells, who lives at Brundish near Laxfield, will see her own Boherdeel Champion making his debut at four star level.

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“He is a fabulous horse with a great future,” said French, now based in Leicestershire. “He would possibly lack experience at this level, but he is very talented and we shall do our very best.”

Her other ride is the experienced What A Performance, owned by Sir William and Lady Aldous, from near Hadleigh.

He has had eight runs this season and been placed at seven of them, including a fourth at Gatcombe.

“He was started by Charlotte Bathe and competed in the Young Event horse series before going on to Chris Hunnable, who did well with him and rode him at Burghley in 2002,” said Lady Aldous.

“He was then sent to Piggy, who is reaping the benefits of the hard work her colleagues have put in.”

Burley Wood, a 14-year-old thoroughbred , will be in action with Jeanette Brakewell, another former Norfolk-based rider, who now lives in Staffordshire.

Owned by Sarah Bulwer-Long from Heydon, Burley Wood was started in Novices by daughter Daisy and has had runs at Gatcombe and Knaptoft, as well as coming eighth at Bramham this season.

“He is quite a character who had his moments as a youngster, but he is lovely and Jeanette has done such a super job with him,” said Sarah.

Brakewell, who was based at Great Fransham for four years, said: “Burley Wood is a very talented horse. He is fit and raring to go and we will give it our best shot.”

Camilla Shepherd, who comes from Barrow near Bury St Edmunds, will be having her first appearance at Burghley, and her first run at four star level, aboard her own horse Cosmos.

“He is a good dressage horse and very brave cross-country, so I am very excited,” she said.

“But I am looking forward to a gin and tonic on Sunday night!”

Gates open at 7.30am each day, with the first events at 9am today and tomorrow, 11am on Saturday and 10.30am on Sunday, when the prizes will be presented at 4pm.

For further information, visit www.burghley-horse.co.uk, or call the box office on 01933 304744.