World no. 1 Tim Price stayed top of the 2023 Defender Burghley Horse Trials standings despite a tentative cross-country start with Olympic horse Vitali.
Friday’s Burghley dressage record-breaker maintained his lead over Oliver Townend who sits 2.3 points behind on 2017 winner Ballaghmor Class, despite retiring both Swallow Springs and Tregilder.
On 26.7 points, Cheddington-based Price has a golden opportunity to regain the Burghley crown he last won in 2018.
“He was just not taking me from the start for whatever reason, horses aren’t machines,” he said.
“He still had a desire to go but just not the same speed as what I’ve had with him in the past, so I just had to work with what was beneath me.
“His jump stayed good, it was just a matter of trying to eke a little bit more out of him.
“He’s such an internaliser, at some stages he didn’t take a breath and relax and get into a second wind.
“I’m really proud of him, he kept coming and at one point I thought it was a long way to home but he kept trying and we got there.”
In the last 11 Burghley Horse Trials, nine leaders at the cross-country phase have gone on to win the competition compared to just two dressage leaders.
If Price gets over the line in Sunday’s show jumping finale, he will join both clubs with a colossal win on Vitali and cement his no.1 status on the world stage.
“He’s got a great action at staying on his feet and thinking,” he added. “It’s going to come on from this leaps and bounds. We’re still in the game.
“He’s not that confident with an atmosphere, he’s a good jumper, he’s an athlete and wants to do the right thing but then the lights go out for 30 seconds.
“Our preparation has been really good, I’ve been mixing it up with a little but with my approach.
“I think he’s really happy and relaxed and I’m looking forward to demonstrating that tomorrow.”
Defender Burghley Horse Trials (31st August - 3 September 2023) has been a major international sporting and social event for over 50 years. It attracts the world’s top equestrians and over 170,000 visitors. For more information visit www.burghley-horse.co.uk