The eventing elite headed to the sleepy little Norfolk village for Easter weekend, turning what has become known as the Chelsea of Norfolk, into the beating heart of the eventing world.
Held at Sussex Farm by kind permission of J W Thompson Esq. the event has been running here since 1999 and gained International status in 2003. The Musketeer Events run event, directed by Alec Lochore, yet again offered the hordes of spectators more than 'just' high octane and high class eventing, with camel racing topping the bill for 2017. Raising money for the East Anglian Air Ambulance, spectators were treated to camel racing in the middle of the cross country course, with eventing stars and local riders, taking up a different set of reins for the challenge.
Offering classes from BE100 to CIC***, Barefoot Estates Burnham Market International also played host to the 2nd leg of the Shearwater Insurance Tri-Star Grand Slam. All classes had the privilege of show jumping in the main international arena overlooked by the hospitality arena and spectators hill. Sue Peasley's tracks were both roomy and tricky, catching a few combinations out, just as much as Alec Lochore's technical and bold cross country track that certainly sorted 'the men from the boys'.
"Should we ban him coming next year to give everyone else a chance?" joked Alec Lochore, after Oliver Townend claimed his 10th headline class win at Burnham Market in 10 years. The British Number 1 delivered a 'Master Class' performance, notching up a total of 4 wins in the CIC***, Advanced, Intermediate and Novice. With four rides entered in the CIC***, Oliver came meaning business and didn't disappoint. Taking the lead with 2016 winner, Cooley Master Class, he withdrew his final ride one Worthy ahead of the cross country to 'save him for another day', confident that he would not be over taken.
The CIC*** win gives Oliver his first step towards the Shearwater Grand Slam and it's £50,000 winner takes all prize pot. Eyes will be firmly fixed on the Shropshire rider at Houghton International at the end of May to see if he can make it back to back wins and inch ever closer to the significant pay day.
“Burnham Market is always the first event of the year where I really aim to be competitive" added Oliver, "I trust the ground, I trust the course designer, I trust everything about the place. I think running here sets my horses up for what's to come later in the season,”
Oliver's Advanced win came from Lanfranco after they completed on their 29 dressage score, ahead of previous over Bettina Hoy and Seigneur Medicott. Bettina was quick to turn to Facebook to praise not only the event and it's team and her own ride, but also to Oliver and Lanfranco who she was pleased to be beaten by, seeing her old horse now happy and confident with his rider.
The Advanced also saw a great result for Ireland's Austin O'Connor and Kilpatrick Knight, after finishing 3rd with a 29.8 and double clear, ahead of their return to Badminton in a few weeks. Austin was Mr Consistent in the dressage boards this weekend with 3 scores of 29.8 and one 29.3!
There has been a lot of early talk regarding the return of Piggy French post baby, with EquiRatings & the Eventing Podcast dubbing her as one to watch in the rise of Brits with the European Championships looming. With a great start to the season already in the bag, the former European Silver Medallist, finished runner up to Oliver in the CIC*** with new ride Vanir Kamira. Originally produced by Piggy and most recently campaigned by Paul Tapner, the ride returned to Piggy over the winter and is being hotly tipped as a strong candidate for the Senior British Team later this year.
“I hadn't planned to run fast, but we were in a good position so I went for it,” said Piggy, who finished bang on the cross country optimum time. “Vanir Kamira can get quite nervous and it's taken a while for me to figure her out, but she was much calmer today and jumped fantastically well.”
Piggy also claimed wins in Novice section N finishing on 24.7 with Colley Monsoon and in BE100 section D on 24.4 with Fernhill G. She also finished 2nd with AKD Corline in the same section on 29.1.
The Open Intermediate saw a convincing win from Harry Meade and Orlando, finishing on their dressage score of 25.2, just ahead of Tim Price and Cooley Showtime on 25.9, over 4 penalties clear of the rest of the field.
The crowd's favourite Ben Hobday was on flying form this Easter producing double clears on each of his rides and delivering a decisive win with Shadow Top Gun in Novice section H, on their 29 dressage.
It was a pair of 2nd for Pippa Dixon in the BE100 sections, with Barnadarrig Boy in section C, finishing on 27.3, and Eto O in the Open section, who finished on 29.7.
"I was so pleased with him", added Pippa about Eto O, "he made another half 3 start very very worth it! Burnham has always been a favourite event of mine and this years courses were fantastic! Eto absolutely loved it and absolutely ate up the course! I couldn't have asked for a better run before he steps up to novice next week!"
Gallery below from Lorraine Porter