By James Reid at Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials
Bubby Upton hailed her horse Cola III as she stormed around Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials' infamous cross-country course with a clear ride to sit seventh ahead of the final day of action.
Upton went round the tricky course in 11:45, 25 seconds over the optimum time with a ride that defied her novice status at one of eventing’s most difficult challenges.
Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials is back bigger and better than ever in 2022 after being absent since 2019 due to Covid-19, and new course designer Derek di Grazia set a fiendish task that proved too much for 20 riders.
And 23-year-old Upton put in a mature maiden performance but was full of praise for her horse.
“It means everything,” said Upton, who is based between Newmarket and Bury St. Edmunds. “I’ve said it so many times, but he really is a class, class act.
“I’m so pleased he was able to show everyone today to be honest what he deserved at Badminton, and what I denied him of.
“I have to be so careful when I watch others, because whenever they make a jump look difficult; I know he can do it more easily so I can’t take too much from them.
“To be sitting on a horse with that kind of stride around here makes it a whole lot easier – he’s got a heart of gold and that is all that matters.”
Upton came into Burghley in strong form despite her lack of experience, with a strong ride at other British 5* Badminton.
But the Suffolk star was also looking to banish the demons from that event, having fallen at the final fence at the cross-country stage in May.
“I thought don’t mess up again,” admitted Upton as she glided through the final fence, Defender Finale, at Burghley.
“I saw the perfect shot and he was there ready and he was full of running really, I had no idea how fit he was going to be.
“He just cruised on home and I simply couldn’t be prouder of him to be honest.”
Tokyo Olympic course designer di Grazia’s course proved difficult for the 52 riders who set off, with only 31 making it through to Sunday’s show jumping.
And Upton was keen to ensure she and Cola came home safely, taking her time at the treacherous Holland Cooper Leaf Pit and its huge drop.
“The Leaf Pit was perfect for me, it was exactly as I planned it,” added Upton.
“He stepped off it like a little pro, and then I was able to ride up to the brush and then ride up to the corner.
“Where everybody has been struggling today has been when they get to the base of the brush and then they get caught up and they can’t make the distance up to the corner, so as soon as I came off I thought phew.
“Then I came out of the corner afterwards and I said to him right, game on now, because when I got that out of the way I think we can make anything else.”
Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (1-4 September 2022) returns after a two-year hiatus, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A major international sporting and social event for over 50 years it attracts 80 of the world’s top equestrians and over 170,000 visitors. For more information visit