The brilliant Australian horseman Christopher Burton joined an elite group of riders to have twice won the prestigious SsangYong Blenheim Palace Horse Trials CCI4*-S class for eight- and nine-year-old horses.
On the last occasion, in 2017 on Cooley Lands, he won by a 10th of a second; this time Christopher was untouchable by a nearly seven-penalty margin, finishing exactly on the optimum cross-country time on a horse he was competing for the very first time.
He was quick to thank Dr and Mrs Geoffrey Guy who just a month ago purchased the nine-year-old Clever Louis by Cyrkon from Germany, where he had been produced by young rider Ben Leuwer in Dirk Schrade’s yard.
“I’m absolutely delighted to have the horse,” said Christopher, who is aiming to secure an Olympic qualification at Boekelo next month. “He’s got a lot of thoroughbred blood, which is why I wanted him, and he’s very honest across country.
“My good friend [New Zealand rider] Tim Price told me that, with the rain, I would need to add a few strides at some fences and that proved really useful advice.”
Gemma Tattersall, 23rd after the first two phases on Chilli Knight, was the only other rider to achieve the optimum time and headed the leaderboard for a long time before being eventually pushed into third place by Christopher and the runner-up, Tom McEwen on Dreamaway ll.
Tom, who had showjumped clear on the handsome grey, winner of the British Intermediate national title at the Festival of British Eventing last month, could afford 5.6 time penalties to slip just ahead of Gemma.
“I’m hugely excited about this horse,” he said. “He’s got all three phases in spades and has shown me he’s got the heart for the job. He now loves the cross-country, he looks for the flags and enjoys the crowds. Being runner-up in a competition like this is a real accolade.”
William Fox-Pitt, who has won this class twice before, was joint leader after the first two phases with Christopher Burton, but decided to withdraw Georgisaurous.
The competition, an innovation from 2009, has often been a pointer to great things: three former winners – Land Vision (Mark Todd), Oslo (William Fox-Pitt) and Quimbo (Andrew Nicholson) – have gone on to five-star victories.