Captain Mark Phillips on the Burghley cross-country course

Captain Mark Phillips has described this year’s Land Rovers Burghley Horse Trials cross-country course as “a real four-star test.”

The Phillips-designed challenge will play a major outcome on Saturday in helping to decide this year’s Burghley winner and the recipient of a £63,000 top prize.

General opinion among the riders is that he has presented a huge track — and Phillips does not disagree.

“I haven’t had one particular mission,” he said. “You just work with the ground and try to make it work for the horses.

“It has turned out quite big, a real four-star test. Some of the riders say it is the biggest they have ever seen, so we hope for fine weather on Saturday and [that] a lot of horses and riders have good rounds.”

The optimum time looks likely to be fiendishly-difficult to get, and Phillips believes the whole exercise will require a clever, tactical approach.

“There are five (jumping) efforts in the first minute, seven in the second, and then the hill in the third minute. Then there are not many places where they can get time back,” he added.

“They are going to have to try to get the time back not in one go, but in increments, which is actually going to make it much more difficult to ride and make it much more of a tactical and thinking exercise.

“It’s a four-star test, a Burghley track. These days, big fences aren’t normally the ones that cause trouble.

“I am nervous as hell, and I will stay that way until the last horse gets around safely.

“But I am pleased that the riders think it’s serious, because if they respect it, they are going to take care and hopefully take care to jump the fences well.”


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