Among the big guns of the eventing world who travelled to West Norfolk for Burnham Market international horse trials it was Oliver Townend who called the shots.
He had entered a total of 14 horses over the three days and dominated the higher level classes, finishing first and second in two sections. Over the three days, from Thursday through to Saturday, he chalked up three firsts, four seconds and a third.
Around 600 horses took part in the trials at Sussex Farm and 16 nations were represented.
Afterwards, course designer and organiser Alec Lochore said: “It was a tricky build-up to this year’s events, with the team having to deal with high winds and some really heavy rain while they were setting everything up.
“They did a fantastic job and we ended up with perfect going and great feedback from the riders about the new fences on the cross country courses.
“As usual we had the creme-de-la-creme of riders – eight past Badminton winners, and at least 14 gold medal winners. Burnham Market International really has grown to become a major sporting event, which is very gratifying for all of us.
“This year we also welcomed a great new title sponsor, Bacon.co.uk We are hugely grateful to them, and to our team of hard-working volunteers.”
Without question, Shropshire-based Townend was the man of the moment. He posted a one-two in the three-star section, defending his 2014 title and winning on new ride, Patsy Mason’s Mr Hiho, and finishing just 0.2 of a penalty behind in second place on last year’s winner, Paul Ridgeon’s Armada.
Mr Hiho had a narrow dressage advantage and both horses show-jumped clear, but Armada was faster across the country.
Had Oliver not had to take a pull coming into the rail-ditch-rail combination near the end of the course, the Badminton-bound Armada, who won last year, would almost certainly have avoided at least half of his 0.8 of a time fault.
Townend also took the two top spots in the two-star class. This time around, Angela Hislop’s Cooley SRS beat Andrew Cawthray’s Colonel Joe.
Both horses finished on their dressage scores, the only two to beat the clock home across country, with 1.1 penalties separating the stable mates.
Finishing third in this class was former Norfolk rider Piggy French with OBOS Cooley, while Tom Jackson completed the podium placings also winning the best Under 25 rider prize on Waltham Fiddlers Find.
Another winner on the final day was Olympic medallist, Tina Cook, on De Novo News, ahead of Andrew Hoy on Lanfranco.
Some of the other big names were less lucky. Mary King’s only entry was eliminated on the cross country, Mark Todd’s highest place was a sixth and William Fox-Pitt could manage no better than 21st.
About 8,000 spectators turned out to watch the action. Luckily, though there was the odd faller, the only dramatic one was Alex Hua Tian whose Harbour Pilot ‘missed’ at the veg box fence and both came down. Alex was knocked out briefly but is fine and his horse got up and trotted off unharmed.