Burghley Horse Trials champion Oliver Townsend targets back-to-back titles

Yahoo Sport UK

Reigning champion Oliver Townend hailed Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials as his favourite event in the world as he prepares to defend his crown.The prestigious three-day international event will see many of the world’s finest horse and rider combinations descend on the Burghley Estate in Stamford, Lincolnshire, from August 30 to September 2.

Event riders will compete in dressage, cross-country and show jumping disciplines, looking to follow in the footsteps of 2017 winner Townend as well as six-time champion William Fox-Pitt.

And as one of only six four-star events in the calendar, Townend believes Burghley will continue to push the riders and their horses to the limit this year.

“It’s very exciting to be back,” he said. “It’s the most difficult event to win in the world I think because of the terrain, the size of the fences and it’s also my favourite event in the world.

“It’s a proper four-star event, it’s what four-stars should be about in my mind – it’s huge, the pressure is big, the atmosphere is fantastic and the crowd are very knowledgeable.

“You can come with the best horses in the world and things go can go wrong, it’s a little bit like a Grand National, you need a clear run.

“Things happen at this place that wouldn’t happen at any other event in the world because it is so high profile and such a challenge.

“If all three horses come home safe that’s the main thing and after that if any manage to come in the top few I’d be very happy.”

Burghley is one of the most technically challenging competitions in the world and attracts the top equestrians, as well as more than 160,000 visitors over the weekend.

Among those competing will be six-time Olympian and three-time medallist Andrew Nicholson, who has won the Burghley crown five times in total.

The 57-year-old entered the history books at the event in 2014 by becoming the first rider to have won a four-star event three years in a row on the same horse and he admitted he always looks forward to test that awaits the riders.

“I’ve had good days, bad days and all sorts of days here – I love coming here,” said the Marlborough-based rider. “It’s a beautiful place for a horse trial event.

“It quite undulating terrain around here – I think that’s what drew me to it. It was hard work, the first time I came here I fell off a few times, back in the old days when you could get on and have another go. It’s a real test.”

Burghley also holds a special place in the heart of three-time Olympic medallist Tina Cook, who has been competing at the event for more than two decades.

“I’ve been riding here since I was 22 years old – it was an aim for any rider to have horses which are good enough to be at Burghley,” she said. “I’ve had some amazing rides around here.

“It’s excites me every year to find out what horses I’ve got, what horses I’ve got coming through and I feel very privileged that the competition is so high here at Burghley.”

Elizabeth Inman, event director of Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, added that enthusiasm for the event has already reached new heights this year, with advanced sales up.

“This year’s event is going to be absolutely fabulous,” she said. “Seventy horses have come through the inspection and we have an amazing competition ahead.

“The cross country course has been redesigned and there are some really exciting features there. The weather forecast is superb, it’s a lovely backdrop, there are lots of lovely shops and there is so much going on this year.”

The multi-award-winning Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials from August 30 – September 2 has been established as a major international equestrian and social event in the Autumn Sporting Calendar for over 50 years. For more information visit burghley-horse.co.uk

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