BRITAIN’s Kitty King leads the Burghley Horse Trials CCI5* competition after two days of dressage. Back for the first time since 2019, crowds flocked to Burghley House in Lincolnshire, England with more expected for today’s (Saturday) cross-country, designed for the first time by Derek di Grazia.

There are three Irish competing in the five-star but it is the Brits who hold all but one of the top 13 placings. King scored 21.2, a career best at any level, on Friday afternoon to storm into the lead with Vendredi Biats, a 13-year-old gelding by Winningmood.

She has just 0.1 of a mark to spare over New Zealand’s Tim Price who lies in second place with Vitali on 21.3, a personal best at five-star for Price, while the 2021 European individual bronze medallist Sarah Bullimore holds third place overnight with the home-bred Corouet (22.5).

The highest-placed Irish Sport Horse after dressage is Trevor Dickens’ 16-year-old mare Vanir Kamira (Camiro de Haar Z x Dixi xx) with Piggy March. It was a career best score for the 2019 Badminton winner, who was bred by Kathryn Jackson. “Bless her heart, I gave her a big hug and kiss,” March said after her test.

“I was hoping and praying she would get a PB. She’s felt great this year. She is strong and has been working very well and I felt she deserved a PB this year. For me, it felt the hardest test I’ve ever ridden on her because I felt like I was on the edge; that was a mental thing because I was so desperate for it to go as good as it could today. I’m not one that normally minds pressure, but she is getting to the end of her days and I was so desperate for her to be as good as she could be. For Tilly Bean, a [score of] 22 at this level makes me so proud of her.”

Berry best of the Irish

Susie Berry is best of the Irish riders in 14th place with Helen Caton’s 13-year-old Caitriona Mulkere-bred gelding Ringwood LB (Iroko x Master Imp) on his first five-star start, while it is also a Burghley debut for Berry. The pair scored 29.3 which kept them in the top 10 until late on Friday afternoon.

Speaking afterwards, Berry said: “He was spooking a little bit at the clapping but as soon as I got him into canter he was fine… he has done a lot of four-stars, he has seen a lot of atmosphere and I do think he grows with atmosphere, it brings him a bit more to life.”

On today’s cross-country test, Berry added: “The first time I walked it I was like ‘no, I am just going to go home, it’s ridiculous’. It is a different course to anything I’ve done before, it’s almost quite European. It is roped quite tightly, which I might struggle a little bit with because I find it easier to keep coming and drift out on a distance, so he is going to have to adjust his stride and that is tiring.

“Quite a lot of the corners are quite hard to read… he wouldn’t be the quickest in the head, so it will be a good question for him. But Ringwood LB is massive, he has got all the scope in the world so I am not worried too much about the big fences. He’s got loads of experience, I am just hoping and praying that he will give it a good bash.”

Cathal Daniels is next best of the Irish raiders in 29th place with Frank and Margaret Kinsella’s home-bred 15-year-old mare Rioghan Rua (Jack of Diamonds x Flagmount King) on a score of 33.5. Padraig McCarthy lies in 45th place with Pearl and James Chaffe’s HHS Noble Call (Heritage Fortunus x Cavalier Royale) who was bred by Anne Hughes.

Not pleased

McCarthy was not overly pleased with a score of 38.5. “I am not particularly pleased with the mark. It is always difficult when you have a mistake in the trot but I thought his canter work was very very good. I thought he was three or four marks better at least than he was at Badminton but it didn’t show it on the scoreboard. But I am very pleased with him, I am not a judge!”

He is looking forward to getting out on the cross-country which is says is a “different animal” to the last time he was here in 2018. “He has been very clever about how he has used the stride patterns and the angles and maybe less of the big bruising jumps that we have seen here in the past. That could also be flavoured by the fact that I have a really good cross- country horse and I think that always changes your opinion of the course. But it is definitely a five-star, don’t get me wrong, I am looking forward to getting out there.”