Three-time Olympic medallist Tina Cook believes there could be a surprise winner at this year’s Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials but has backed the more established riders to eventually win the day.
The iconic 5* eventing competition returns bigger and better than ever in 2022 after two missed years due to Covid-19, and Cook believes youth could trump experience as the equestrian world descends on Stamford, Lincolnshire once more.
Findon-born Cook won silver at the London 2012 Olympics to add to her two bronzes from the 2008 Games.
And now having swapped her mount for the media, Cook is predicting an intriguing contest as riders vie for Pippa Funnell’s 2019 crown.
“I’m going to go with experience,” said Cook.
"There’s a big group of Tim Price, Oliver Townend, Pippa Funnell, Piggy March – they are here with maybe their second-class horses because of the World Championships being so close.
“But we’ve also got a bunch of younger riders in their 20s all wanting to show what they’re made of.
We’ve got Bubby Upton, Felicity Collins, Alice Casburn, to name a few, that could really spring a surprise because they’re all talented riders.”
Cook last ran as a rider around the world-renowned course in 2018 but now returns as a spectator for the much-anticipated 2022 iteration.
With its gruelling cross-country course, this year newly designed by Tokyo Olympic course designer Derek di Grazia, Burghley is regarded as one of the toughest challenges eventing can offer and Cook believes it is a terrific test of both horse and rider.
“It’s really strange coming here not as a rider because I’ve ridden here so many times and it feels kind of strange,” added Cook.
“It’s just an amazing atmosphere and as a professional rider you strive each year to have horses good enough to ride here, against the best in the world.
“You want to be able to shine and show your skill.
“It’s one of the toughest; it’s the terrain, the hills and sometimes when we’ve had a lot of rain the going in areas can get a little bit soft which can be energy sapping.
“You need a horse that can gallop and to keep galloping and keep jumping. That’s where this course is different, because of the terrain and the slopes.
“It really does test the horse and rider partnership, and the rider’s skill. It’s proper cross-country riding.”
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