Townend delighted with cross country showing at Burghley Horse Trials
Bringing a debutant horse and leading the way after the cross country, the 2017 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials experience couldn't be much better for Oliver Townend.
The Shropshire eventer was the last to ride in Saturday's showcase, but he and Ballaghmor Class ensured the best was saved until the very last on the world-famous Lincolnshire course.
That's because Townend and the Burghley rookie stormed to the top of the leaderboard, and with just Sunday's show jumping to come, that could be a position from which he may not be toppled.
Just 0.4 time faults were to come the way of the 2009 champion on his second ride after finishing sixth in the dressage and Townend was delighted to prove people wrong, showing the crowd exactly how much class his horse possesses.
"It was a very good ride, I lost that second but he's come here and proved to me as much as anyone else that it is the right thing for him to be at Burghley," he said.
"A few people told me I shouldn't have brought him here, but I know horses and I know what he can cope with.
"Sunday is another day, but I already know that the way we've seen him cope is going to be great experience for the years to come.
"He gave me a fantastic ride, we had always planned to go long on the Trout Hatchery because we knew we could still be in the time, it paid off and was the right decision."
While Sunday is in Townend's near future, the Gadlas Farm eventer is looking even further beyond for both he and Ballaghmor Class.
But the only man to win both Badminton and Burghley four stars in the same year knows the job is far from done yet, particularly with Gemma Tattersall just 2.4 points off his lead.
In fact there is a heavy British contingent in the top order, with five of the top six performing well on home jumps, a fact Townend is convinced is no coincidence.
"It's a good feeling being at the top and to have a lot of Brits near the top, the feeling is very positive," he added.
"We all really like the new team managers – Dickie Waygood and Chris Bartle – and it's good timing for them to step in.
"The horse is ten years old and hopefully I've got him for another six years with a bit of luck.
"In general, he's a good jumper, but he's never been to Burghley. We've seen it before, you can be a good jumper but not jump well here, but whatever happens now he's done his bit for me."
The multi-award winning Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials from August 31 – September 3 has been established as a major international equestrian and social event in the Autumn Sporting Calendar for over 50 years. For more information visit burghley-horse.co.uk Sportsbeat 2017