GLOUCESTERSHIRE eventer Zara Phillips proved that she is still one of the best riders in the world last weekend, when she took High Kingdom to tenth place at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials despite the torrential rain which put a real dampener on Sunday’s show jumping phase.
And it was a real family affair at the CCI4* event, which was this year celebrating its 50th anniversary as Zara’s mother Princess Anne - herself a former winner - was on hand to present the eventual winner, William Fox-Pitt, with his trophy for a record-breaking sixth time. Zara’s father, Captain Mark Phillips, had a more hands-on role, having designed Saturday’s demanding cross-country course.
Phillips, who officially retired her 2006 world championship-winning horse Toytown last month, hopes High Kingdom will continue his improvement now as she looks to qualify for next year’s London Olympics.
Heavy rain overnight and through the day meant that the top 24 riders faced difficult conditions and a clear round from Marlborough-based New Zealander Andrew Nicholson put pressure on the top placed riders who included Mary King and last year’s winner Caroline Powell.
“Both my horses have done well and Nereo did a good job but William’s horse jumped immaculately,” said Nicholson afterwards “It’s been one of the best finales to a major competition. The crowd has been great and I’ve enjoyed entertaining them.”
Tom McEwen, who also hails from Marlborogh, had a disappointing three poles down riding Dry Old Party but his final 19th place meant the 20-year-old won the prize for the highest placed British first-timer as well as the HSBC training bursary for what was an impressive Burghley and four-star debut by the youngest rider on the start list.
Other Gloucestershire riders who put in sterling performances included Chipping Sodbury’s Nick Gauntlett, was lying in 18th place before the start of the cross-county after an excellent dressage test on Friday morning.
Gauntlett was unable to improve his standing, however, and 21.6 time faults in the cross country followed by 16 faults in the showjumping ring meant that he was unable to hold onto his position near the top of the leaderboard with a total final score of 85.1.
Hinton-based South African rider Alexander Peternell failed to complete the cross country and exited the competition early, despite a good dressage score of 54.3.
Final Burghley Horse Trials 2011 results: 1. Parklane Hawk (William Fox-Pitt) 40.7; 2. Nereo (Andrew Nicholson) 45.1; 3. Kings Temptress (Mary King) 47.4; 4. Lenamore (Caroline Powell) 50.8; 5. Clifton Lush (Jonathan Paget) 52.7; 6. Lead The Way (Clea Phillipps) 53.6; 7. Neville Bardos (Boyd Martin) 53.7; 8. Avebury (Andrew Nicholson) 54.8; 9. Zero Flight (Lauren Shannon) 55.5; 10. High Kingdom (Zara Phillips) 55.7.