American equestrian Meghan O'Donoghue is hoping it’s second time lucky at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, writes Ben Hart.
O'Donoghue, 33, has competed once previously at the storied event set amid the grounds of the 16th century Burghley in Stamford, Lincolnshire, but failed to complete the course in 2014.
She is hoping for a change in fortune this time round and believes that 16-year-old thoroughbred Palm Crescent could even propel her to a top 15 finish if everything falls into place when proceedings begin on Thursday.
“I've always had in the back of my mind that something like Burghley or Badminton would suit the type of horse that he is, obviously full of blood and really enjoys the cross country,” said the Carbondale, Illinois-born rider.
“His dressage will be the hardest thing that he has to do. But that being said, if all of our stars align that day, I think that he could put in a test that if we could finish on it, that would be my goal, to put together a test that is respectable and puts us in the hunt.
“I will do everything I can to get the best performance out of him and if that's good enough for a top twenty or top fifteen placing I'd be thrilled.”
O’Donoghue, who owns a farm with her fiancée Will in Brown Hill, Virginia arrived in England early to indulge in a spot of sightseeing ahead of the four-day event, with Oxford one of the destinations ticked off.
The 5* event is undoubtedly the highlight of her trip across the Atlantic though, and one that is the culmination of years of hard work.
“It's a huge, huge deal to have a horse that, one can get you to something like this and then to be able to even get through the first trot up that I think is a big deal,” she said.
“So it's not just me, it's not just this one horse. I've rode a lot of horses and had a lot of people help along the way and you don’t get to something like this without all of those steps along the way along in your career, without them and those people you wouldn't be able to do something like that. So I’m very excited.”
For Palm Crescent, this will be his fourth 5* event in all but first in this country, with the previous three all coming in the States.
And though he lacks major eventing experience in this country, O’Donoghue believes his preparation could not have been any better, following a strong showing at Aachen Festival in Germany in June and Hartpury in August.
“Hartpury was his final preparation where he went well, he was very good in the jumping, and I think it was a great opportunity to get a taste of the English style of cross country and the terrain over here. He feels fit and he hasn't missed anything, which is always ideal.
“So, hopefully we're ready for it.”
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 www.burghley-horse.co.uk