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Burghley Horse Trials starts on Thursday with more than 170,000 expected as three-year wait ends





The long wait is over as the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials today (Thursday) welcomes spectators for the first time in three years.

The absence of the world-famous three-day eventing competition left a huge hole in the British sporting calendar for the last two years Covid-19 precautions forced organisers to cancel the 2020 and 2021 editions.

As well as sporting prestige, the global event provides a big economic boost to the town, with more than 173,000 visitors expected to attend over the next four days.

Burghley is among the UK's top 10 most attended sporting events
Burghley is among the UK's top 10 most attended sporting events

They come to see the world’s best horse and rider combinations in action who will be fighting for a Burghley record prize fund of £323,500, including £100,000 for the winners.

However, as much as its hotly-anticipated return, this year’s event is also noteworthy as the first under new event director Martyn Johnson, and the debut showcase for new course designer Derek di Grazia.

Derek, who designed the course for last year’s Tokyo Olympics, is just the seventh course designer in Burghley’s history and follows Captain Mark Phillips into the role.

Derek di Grazia became the seventh course designer in Burghley's history. Photo: Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (58716090)
Derek di Grazia became the seventh course designer in Burghley's history. Photo: Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (58716090)

Before riders negotiate the first cross country test laid on by the American designer, the competition opens at 9.30am today with two days of dressage.

The atmosphere is expected to reach fever pitch for Saturday’s cross country from 11am, before the winners of the coveted five-star event will be decided by the show jumping finale, beginning at 10am on Sunday.

HRH the Princess Royal will present the prizes, 51 years after winning the European Championships on the Burghley estate with Doublet, owned by HM The Queen.

New event director Martyn Johnson. Photo: Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials
New event director Martyn Johnson. Photo: Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials

Her daughter, Zara Tindall, will compete in the blue riband five-star event, having finished second here to Pippa Funnell in 2003, riding Toytown.

Pippa claimed her second title the last time the event was held in 2019 with MGH Grafton Street and returns, albeit with two different rides - Majas Hope and Billy Walk On.

The 2019 runners-up Piggy French and Vanir Kamira, who finished just 0.1 point adrift, will be looking to go one better.

Pippa Funnell was the winner of the last Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials in 2019 with MGH Grafton Street.
Pippa Funnell was the winner of the last Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials in 2019 with MGH Grafton Street.

Rutland rider Richard Jones has a top-five finish in his sights following his seventh-place finish in 2018 with Alfies Clover.

The South Luffenham-based rider, who begins his Burghley campaign today, expects to be up among the strongest cross country competitors.

Aside from the sport, which also includes the Young Event Horse class, Burghley is also a big social and shopping hub, with more than 600 exhibitors setting up.

Two-time Burghley winner Oliver Townend has five rides at this year's event. Photo: Lee Hellwing
Two-time Burghley winner Oliver Townend has five rides at this year's event. Photo: Lee Hellwing

The shops open daily from 9am to 5.30pm Thursday to Saturday, and 9am to 5pm on Sunday, while the Food Walk opens from 8.30am to 5.30pm Thursday to Saturday, and 8.30am to 5pm on Sunday.

The Household Cavalry Foundation is the official charity of this year’s event and visitors will be able to meet some of the Household Cavalry horses.



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