Olympic silver medallist Kristina Cook backed Shropshire-based Oliver Townend to deliver at the 2023 Defender Burghley Horse Trials.
The Equestrian legend, who hails from West Sussex, said Olympic team champion Townend has “a point to prove” at the 5* event after not being picked for the European Championships earlier in the month.
Townend, 40, is ranked number four in the FEI world rider rankings and is hunting his third Burghley title following wins in 2009 and 2017.
“This is a really special place,” she said. “The cross-country is the main part of Burghley, the terrain tests the horses and riders skill, balance, bravery and endurance.
“Oliver Townend is a past winner here, he has got three really strong rides.
“He wasn’t picked for the European Championships this year so he’s a man with a point to prove.
“He’ll be coming here wanting to be first, second and third.”
“Established cross-country and show jumping horses come and jump in this arena and can really move up the leaderboard."
Huddersfield-raised Townend will be riding Tregilder, Swallow Springs and Ballaghmor Class, whom he won the 5* event on in 2017.
Riders will tackle the esteemed Burghley course, designed by Derek Di Grazia, in the world’s most famous equestrian event when proceedings begin in Lincolnshire with dressage on Thursday.
And former European champion Cook stressed the cross-country is where the competition will be won and lost as the week progresses.
“The ground can get a little bit soft in places when it rains,” she said. “I think this year it’s absolutely perfect.
“It’s the end of the season and so many people have been building up for here, getting the right horse, getting them fit and hoping that you’ve had the best prep runs in the national events before now.
“It’s a rarely a dressage competition here because you need to be providing quite a quick horse with stamina.
“The horses I have ridden around here that I’ve had the best results inside the time are thoroughbred - it's like sitting on a Ferrari when you’re going up those hills.”
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