Townend holds on for second Burghley crown
Ballaghmor Class by name, class by nature was the order of the day for Oliver Townend as a spectacular show-jumping performance saw him waltz to his second Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials title.
Knowing just two disrupted fences would remove his crown, the 2009 Badminton and Burghley winner delivered a near-perfect display, accruing just five penalty points to take his place atop the podium with a score of 45.6.
He was forced into brilliance too, when Piggy French – who had started the day fifth – scored no faults to threaten her friend's chance of victory.
Gemma Tattersall's third place and a fourth for Tom McEwen ensured an all-British top four in Lincolnshire, but all the plaudits were to head Townend's way – on a debutant horse that many had thought was not suited to Burghley.
"It's very, very special – I keep crying and that's not good for the image," said the emotional winner.
"We've had him since the beginning and it was up to me to do my job, and for him to do his, and we got there in the end.
"I walked around the collecting ring before the show jumping, and at that point I knew I would never swap him for any other horse. It's been a long time since I've said that.
"I'm desperate for top-class horses, I've played the long game to get there and now I'm trying to cut down so you can see me perform more like this across weekends."
Some had doubted whether Townend could produce his exploits from eight years ago, particularly after his opening ride Samuel Thomas II could only manage 56th in the dressage.
But after his cross-country ride atop ten-year-old Ballaghmor Class, the questions were no longer being asked, leaping to the lead from sixth place after scoring just 0.4 penalties in the world-famous course.
And despite his ride being just a youngster – who still has a big future in store – Townend believes Burghley victory can turn a corner for a partnership that has had its ups and downs like any other.
"With him being such a young horse, a lot can go wrong," he added.
"He's only just learnt a lot of things – I gave him as much time as I could before I pressed go.
"He's very babyish with the crowd, he can often lose concentration, and when he's naughty I do not think he is being naughty, I think he has just had a fright at some stage.
"We've all fallen off him properly, but I think that is just through sharpness – I think we are quite good mates now." Sportsbeat 2017