Whittington ready to take top prize at next year’s Defender Burghley Horse Trials

Francis Whittington riding DHI Purple Rain
Francis Whittington riding DHI Purple Rain

Francis Whittington is already targeting a tilt at the top prize at next year’s Defender Burghley Horse Trials after his best finish in 11 years.

The Rotherfield-based rider, 46, finished 19th at the famed 5* event in Lincolnshire at the weekend on board DHI Purple Rain, otherwise known as ‘Prince’.

After failing to complete the event last year aboard the same horse and having last finished inside the top 20 in 2012 with Sir Percival III, Whittington marvelled at the progress of his plucky mount.

“He’s been an absolute legend this week,” said Whittington.

“I’m really pleased with him, having been here and not finished a couple times, to complete with him and to make the improvements we’ve had has been fantastic.

“The owners have been wonderful and given me the time to not push him too much and I think next year he can come out and do pretty well. This will keep me going for most of the winter.”

And Whittington, who was a reserve for the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games, believes there is still more to come from the promising Prince.

“We set a target to finish under a 60 and he’s nearly done that, but we’ve got a lot to work on,” he added. “I reckon we can come back next year and give it a good crack if we keep improving.”

Joining Whittington inside the top 20 was Mayfield’s Tom Crisp, who finished 14th with Liberty And Glory.

A couple of penalties in Sunday’s show jumping phase ended hopes of back-to-back top-10 finishes for the pair, and Crisp reckons the pressure of bettering last year’s ninth place effort may have got to him.

“She double cleared last year and so I put that added pressure on myself,” he said.

“She jumped really well, just misread a couple and we finish with a couple down.

“When you have the first down, I think you panic all of a sudden. She was looking at the big screen coming into fence one going, oh that’s me up there!

“But to get another completion at Burghley and to do it strong and well and finishing it as good as she looks, I’m happy with that.

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