World No.1 Tim Price catapulted to the top of the 2023 Defender Burghley Horse Trials leaderboard after breaking the 5* eventing dressage record with a masterful performance on Vitali.
Price, 44, stunned raucous crowds with a jaw-dropping 18.7 score on the gelding, Burghley’s first ever sub-20 dressage score.
And the Chedington-based rider could not believe his luck as the pair put on a statement performance to overtake Thursday’s leader, Oliver Townend, by a 5.5-point margin.
“I can’t believe it,” he said. “He’s always had that ability. He’s a quirky little horse and there’s usually a couple of things that are mainly my fault that don’t go to plan but he was super.
“It felt quite fun. I felt a couple of times as though I was overriding and that it wasn’t that pretty but I was being effective.
“It felt like a workmanlike approach from me but a really lovely thing happening underneath – I wasn’t expecting a score like that.
“He’s a bit complex, he internalises everything and his brain whirrs around, so getting him to that mental state can be a bit tricky.
The New Zealander scored 21.3 last time out in Lincolnshire, the third-best test of all time at Burghley, and on Friday the gelding reached new lofty heights.
He placed third with Vitali last year and put his hat in the ring for a title with his only horse in the 2023 competition.
“He has done some good scores at this level once or twice but I do believe in him for better and he’s proven it today,” he said.
“He’s such a funny horse, he just needs full attention on the job and once he’s got that concentration then he relaxes and I can ride him and it’s poetry.
“When he’s out there he’s in his element, galloping along the good blood horse he is,” he said.
“The ground is amazing, I really enjoy it here and the time of year it arrives at and I’m keen to get out there.
“I’ll watch a few in the morning and then go and relax, slow down the thinking until we get into the start box.”
Defender Burghley Horse Trials (31st August - 3 September 2023) has been a major international sporting and social event for over 50 years. It attracts the world’s top equestrians and over 170,000 visitors. For more information visit www.burghley-horse.co.uk