Whittington and Purple Rain make promising start at Burghley Horse Trials

Whittington and Purple Rain make promising start at Burghley Horse Trials

Francis Whittington believes gelding DHI Purple Rain has lived up to expectations so far at the 2023 Defender Burghley Horse Trials.

Whittington, 46, marked his second Burghley with Purple Rain, also known as Prince, in Thursday’s dressage phase with a pleasing score of 34.9.

The 13-year-old gelding did not complete at last year’s 5* event and, after a 22nd-place finish at Badminton, Whittington is hoping for a smooth ride in the cross-country on Saturday.

“I’m really pleased – Purple Rain, or Prince as we call him, was fantastic,” he said “We’ve done a lot of work since Badminton. We’ve been putting more into his fitness.

“He’s come out of it and done as nice a test as we could have hoped.

Whittington left school to pursue a career in horses and also trained as an equine dentist.

After practising for 10 years, he decided to concentrate on eventing full-time and now runs his own yard in East Sussex.

The 2008 and 2012 Olympic reserve has all eyes on the weekend where Burghley comes into its own on the cross-country course designed by Derek di Grazia.

“It’s most definitely not about the dressage,” he said. “With this track, it’s tough enough without the distance.

“The course and the way it’s designed right to the very end is going to test them from a stamina point of view and also from a mental aspect.

“It’s going to be a strong horse that can take it all the way to the end. There’s a long way to go.”

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