By Tum Balogun
Marlborough’s resident Kiwi Jonelle Price is itching to unleash ‘Burghley specialist’ Classic Moet at the showpiece event which returns from a two-year hiatus next month.
With six previous appearances at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials under her belt, Price is no stranger to the competition and secured her best finish of third in 2016.
Having lost valuable time in the pursuit of Burghley triumph, on account of the 5* event’s Covid-enforced break, Price is eager to set her steed loose on the historic course as she looks to complete the pair’s ascending odd numbered sequence of finishes.
“For me personally, it's been a big blow,” said Price of the break ahead of the Lincolnshire event, set on the grounds of Burghley House in Stamford.
“I pretty much have a Burghley specialist in Classic Moet, she's known for her cross-country and for her speed across country.
“Burghley is like the holy grail of 5*s, in my opinion. It's the biggest, the terrain is the most taxing and it's the biggest endurance test.
“So I've had this specialist sat at home, really feeling the effects of it and getting older each year.
“Her first time she was fifth, her second visit she was third and I always joke that I was going to go back - the third - and win the next year if I kept going on that trend.
“But we just haven't had an opportunity to, so it is a big deal for me.”
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The London 2012 Olympic bronze medallist emigrated to the UK in 2005 with husband and fellow event rider Tim and has geared up for the meet with an 11th-placed finish at the 5* Badminton Horse Trials in May.
She later earned a top five spot at the Gatcombe Horse Trials British open in August and Price, who claimed her Olympic medal alongside childhood idols Andrew Nicholson and Mark Todd, is confident those outings have provided the perfect preparation for Moet.
“She’s in good form,” Price added, speaking ahead of the event that is back for the first time in two years - due to the Covid-19 pandemic - better than ever, with renewed impetus, a top class field and additional activities on offer.
“She recently ran in the British open which we use quite a lot for horses that are coming on to Burghley.
“Again, it [Gatcombe] has quite unique terrain, it’s very hilly, it's quite unusual for England to be quite so steep.
“But it really does a horse well in terms of a Burghley preparation, they come on a lot from it.
“She had a really good run about two weeks ago and finished fifth so at this stage it’s all eyes on Burghley.
“Moet is 19-years-old so we don't get too far ahead of ourselves.
“It's been very much just taking it one day at a time, but she is certainly showing at this stage of things that she's pretty keen to get there.”
Price faces the intriguing prospect of going head-to-head with husband Tim, who took the Burghley crown onboard Ringwood Star Boy in 2018.
The pair have grown accustomed to battles on the course and the 41-year-old expects next month’s event to be just as eagerly contested, adding: “At the end of the day, we are fiercely competitive.
“But if we're not going to win, we'd be delighted to see the other do so.”
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