The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials
Stamford, Lincs., England
by Rosemary Cooper
Photo: Anthony Trollope/RedBayStock.com
"Brit's never been just another horse to me," said Lucinda, who has had to sell good horses more often than she has been able to keep them. "She's a good friend and I was desperate to do well for her sake." Her victory just snatched the Rolex Grand Slam away from fellow-Australian Andrew Hoy.
Burghley 2006 was a wonderful place to be. The sun shone brightly, the huge crowds buzzed with anticipation and excitement, and the setting of course is superb. Is Burghley House the most beautiful stately home in England, in Europe, or in the whole world?
This year we had the added excitement of speculating on whether or not Andrew Hoy would become only the second rider in history to win eventing's ultimate prize, consisting of consecutive victories in the Kentucky Rolex, Badminton, and Burghley. In Thursday's dressage he soon took the lead on his faithful old friend Mr Pracatan.
"He's never won a four-star," said Andrew, "but he's got so much heart he's a joy to ride, and I love him dearly."
However this lead was brief. Along came Andrew's wife, Bettina, on her new horse, Peaceful Warrior, and snatched it off him with a dressage score of 37.2. Later that afternoon Lucinda Fredericks and Headley Britannia forged ahead with 35.7.
"I didn't know I'd scored 10 for a flying change until afterwards!" exclaimed a delighted Lucinda. "Jennie Loriston-Clarke (one of the judges) is still reeling from the shock of seeing the little pony she watched in yesterday's trot-up transformed into a dressage superstar!"
In Friday's dressage none came close to overtaking Lucinda and Brit, until husband Clayton entered the ring in the last session of the afternoon on Nullarbor and scored 38.3 in front of packed grandstands. Tension was mounting, because last to go was Andrew Hoy on his Badminton winner, Moonfleet. Their test was so fluent it looked unbeatable, and sure enough, Andrew regained the lead with one of the best scores ever, 31.7. That left a most interesting leader board. Andrew's German wife Bettina lay in third place, while Lucinda was in second place with her husband Clayton lying fourth.
"Is it a help or a hindrance to have your wife competing?" Clayton was asked. "It's never annoying, but..." he replied. "At times we really rely on each other. When I was warming up she and our trainer took turns in hurling abuse at me."
"How much extra tension is there with the Grand Slam at stake," was a question put to Andrew.
"I've given six minutes of enjoyment to the crowd," he replied. "Now the media of the world want to know my opinions, which is very humbling. I'd like to be in first place when we go into the show jumping." He was basically philosophical. "We all came on equal scores. If I don't win the Grand Slam, I haven't lost because I never had it. If I thought of it any other way, I would only put too much pressure on myself."
"Moonfleet can be very nervous when the crowd applauded. On the way to the arena he stopped, and I thought he was going to turn round and go back, until I persuaded him. He's a personality you have to have a pleasant discussion with."
Captain Mark Phillips had prepared a demanding track for Saturday's cross-country. With the roads, track and steeplechase phases gone in the first short-format Burghley, the first three fences, now in front of Burghley House, were relatively small, but by Fence 5 the problems began. However nothing stopped Andrew and Mr Pracatan, who went clear inside the time, a lead that they retained for most of the day.
"I can't say which of my horses the course will suit best until afterwards," Andrew had said the previous evening. "Both are very experienced four-star horses, but I have to ride then quite differently to achieve the same goal."
Bettina followed Andrew soon afterwards, but Peaceful Warrior's bid to become the first skewbald with Appaloosa spots to win this event ended when he hit the huge grey goose at the Land Rover Splash, dunking both himself and Bettina in the water.
Lucinda and Brit had a dramatic time. Going clear in a good time, they approached the Pedigree Poser, which consisted of a set of sloping rails followed by two corners, all set at angles to each other on steep mounds. This turned out to be the most difficult fence on the course. The previous rider was Tor Brewer on Highleadon, who was taking the alternative route before she fell off at the last element. In Lucinda's words: "The crowd on the left was shouting. I looked left and thought I had to stop. Then there were more screams on the right, and I saw a rider on the ground. No-one waved a flag at me and there was no-one there to direct me. I was talking to the crowds, but thinking: 'Who's got my time?' "
"Lucinda was catching up, but the people in control were diverted by the need for a doctor and ambulance. She should have been stopped earlier," said Mark Phillips afterwards. "There will be an inquest to get it right next year."
Clayton Fredericks withdrew Nullarbor before cross-country, but Moonfleet, the last to go, maintained his lead, so, with Mr Pracatan still in second place, Andrew's chances of the Grand Slam looked very good indeed. However, after the cross-country, officials were able to check the master tape, which records every round with the time on the screen. Lucinda's time faults were amended to 1.6, which raised her to second place, in front of Mr Pracatan.
In came Andrew and Moonfleet for the Grand Slam. After Moonfleet hit the planks, with one fence in hand, Andrew's dream was still achievable. But Moonfleet rattled fences, and two more fell to put the Grand Slam out of reach. An astounded Lucinda was the winner, on only the second mare ever to win Burghley. Tears glinted in Lucinda's eyes when she was photographed with her trophy.
"This is the third time the Australian National Anthem has been played for me, but the first time ever that I've appeared in press conferences on all four days," she said. "Mark Phillips and Lucinda Green told me Brit should come here, when I didn't believe a win was possible."
"I've had a ride I'll always remember," said Lucinda. "I'm totally grateful to Brit."
Headley Britannia is a 13-year-old liver chestnut by Jumbo out of Alan's Bambi. "I've never measured Brit but I think she's 15.3, " said Lucinda. There is nothing in front of you when she jumps, but I've got used to that. She's a little girl, and chestnut, which everyone hates, but I love mares. I've had a lot of good mares, and I think we've nailed that prejudice!"
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