Clare moved up 58 places at Burghley for her best finish ever

Clare Lewis and Sidnificant jump through the Olympic Horseshoe fence Credit Kingswood Associates
Clare Lewis and Sidnificant jump through the Olympic Horseshoe fence Credit Kingswood Associates

NEW Zealander Andrew Nicholson recorded his third win at the 2012 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials - but he had to wait until the second last show jump fell for overnight leader Sinead Halpin before celebrating.

And Sussex rider Clare Lewis and her horse Sidnificant achieved best ever result at that level.

After two days of dressage the highest placed Brit was William Fox-Pitt, in equal fourth place with 2011 Burghley winner Parklane Hawk on 41.0. Above him were American riders Sinead Halpin in first on Manoir de Carneville on the only sub-40 score (36.3) and Allison Springer on Arthur IV (40.0). In third place was Australian Clayton Fredericks on Walterstown Don (40.8). Equal with William were Andrew on Avebury, a horse he bred, and German rider Kai Ruder on Le Prince des Bois.

Mark Phillips’s cross-country course included several technical questions from the Leaf Pit Classic (Fence 4), with its huge drop to an arrow-head, to the Land Rover Dairy Farm (Fence 19) which had a brand new pair of steps up to an angled hedge. In between, riders faced the Discovery Valley – which saw nine refusals, of which three retired including Mary King on King’s Temptress – the Land Rover Trout Hatchery, which also caused problems for another nine riders, and the enormous HSBC Maltings Branch.

After the Dairy Farm the course was less technical but bigger and the famous Cottesmore Leap – the largest cross-country fence in the world with its yawning ditch to brush behind – saw hopes dashed for a further five combinations. The time of 11½ minutes was also difficult to make with just four riders inside. Of these, Andrew Nicholson was the first on his other ride, Calico Joe, Oliver Townend on Andrew’s former ride, Armada, Mark Todd on Major Milestone (bringing him up from sixty-fourth place after dressage to fifteenth) and Sinead Halpin.

The overnight position left Sinead in the lead with a show jump in hand over Andrew (Avebury) and both William Fox-Pitt and Oliver breathing down Andrew’s neck. The show jumping course proved tough, and after both William and Oliver had two fences down to retain their places and Andrew had one it was Sinead’s to lose – and, dramatically, she did as first one fence, then another went down. Two fences from home the third fell, giving Andrew his win.

On Thursday evening, William Fox-Pitt commented that this year’s competition would not have a ‘dressage-influenced’ outcome; and so it proved to be with riders soaring up the leader board as others fell by the wayside during Saturday’s cross-country.

By far the best of these was Sussex-based Clare Lewis of Horsted Keynes, and her ‘jumping machine’, Sidnificant, who leapt from seventy-third position following an extremely disappointing dressage, to twenty-third after recording one of the faster cross-country rounds, and finally claimed fifteenth place when jumping one of only four clear rounds inside the time over the show jumps.

This was easily Clare’s best result at 4* and she was delighted. “Sidnificant was working in beautifully before my test, he was soft and listening to me but in the dressage arena he was awful. A friend described him as looking like an angry pig! I was so disappointed with my score (64.2) I didn’t speak to him on Thursday.”

But after her cross-country round she said: “He was fantastic.I was struggling to catch my breath. The fence after the Rolex Combination he did by himself, I don’t remember him taking off”.

Unlike many horses that finished tired and, as a result, accumulated heavy time penalties, Sidnificant looked as though he could go round again – a testament to Clare’s fitness regime which includes work on the South Downs. “I never gallop him but use the Downs to good effect”.

Her good looking bay gelding was trotted up for the veterinary Inspection on Sunday morning by another British rider, Ben Hobday, and there was no hesitation in passing him fit to go forward to the afternoon’s show jumping. By the time Clare jumped, thirty-one previous competitors had tackled the 13-fence course, with only one clear round inside the time. But Sidnificant was in fine form and gave every fence plenty of room, including the troublesome ‘Penny Black’ (Fence 11 which had featured at Greenwich).

“He’s such a good jumper,” said an elated Clare afterwards. “The pressure was on me to go clear but he was fantastic”. As riders above her dropped poles around the course, Clare and Sidnificant rose and rose up the leader board to finally record their best ever result at this level.

The HSBC 2012 ClassicsTM series title was decided at Burghley; William Fox-Pitt winning by a single point from Andrew Nicholson and thus pocketing $150,000 (£95,000) to go with his third-place Burghley prize money.

Photos by Kingswood Associates

Full results on