Oliver Townend swept the board yet again at the Barefoot Estates Burnham Market international horse trials over the weekend.
He made it ten wins in ten years in the headline class beating a class field which included fellow Olympians and some of the biggest names in the sport.
Townend had come to Norfolk meaning business, with four entries in the big class, and having secured the win on his third, Cooley Master Class – the same horse who took the title 12 months ago – was able to withdraw his final runner, Note Worthy, who could have given Oliver a one-two, saving the horse for another day.
Over the three days he won the Three Star, the Advanced, an Intermediate and a Novice section, making the drive over from Shropshire well worthwhile. He now also has his first of a necessary three out of five legs of the Shearwater Insurance Grand Slam in the bag, with its £50,000 bonus.
“Burnham Market is always the first event of the year where I really aim to be competitive. I trust the ground, I trust the course designer, I trust everything about the place. I think running here sets my horses up for what’s to come later in the season,” he said.
Event director Alec Lochore said: “Oliver Townend’s achievement, in light of the high calibre of competitors who come here every year, is astonishing. The question is, should we ban him coming next year to give everyone else a chance?”
Alec was (almost certainly) joking!
Norfolk-born Piggy French returned to competition in some style after a year off to have a baby. She finished runner up in the Three Star on Vanir Kamira,
New Zealand’s Andrew Nicholson made amends for an early dunking at the first water with third place on Byrnesgrove First Diamond, with Yorkshire’s Nicola Wilson fourth riding Annie Clover.
Another to fall foul of the water was Zara Tindall who tipped up in an earlier class on Friday.
She was checked over by medics but was unscathed.Sarah Cohen was the popular winner of the Two Star, riding Treason whose last run was at Burghley where the pair finished 12th.
She describes herself as a ‘one horse amateur rider and mum’. “I’m just down here having a fun weekend. I love Norfolk and tomorrow will be on the beach with the family.”
Sarah also shared victory in the East Anglian Air Ambulance Camel Racing Challenge which drew a huge crowd of spectators.
One notable presence was the number of Japanese riders competing. The next Olympic host nation is upping their game; with three riders in the top ten in the Two Star class and another two completing the Three Star.
Lochore summed up at the end of the three days: “We’ve had a great competition with many of the best eventing athletes in the world here in Norfolk – both human and equine.”
More on page 39.