This year's Defender Burghley Course Preview and Media Day gave the press a chance to speak to the Event Director Martyn Johnson, Course Designer Derek Di Grazia and riders Greta Mason, Phil Brown and Andrew Hoy.
The Event Director for the 2023 Defender Burghley Horse Trials is Martyn Johnson, who took up the post in 2021. Martyn is based in Northumberland where he previously ran Burgham Horse Trials and still finds time to produce event horses.
The Course Designer for the 2023 Defender Burghley Horse Trials is Derek Di Grazia. Derek designed his first Burghley course for last year's event and has designed the Kentucky 5* course since 2011. He also designed the tracks for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and the 2018 World Equestrian Games, and still finds time to compete when he can.
The 2023 Defender Burghley Horse Trials cross country course is approximately 6400m or four miles long.
The anticipated time allowed for the Defender Burghley Horse Trials cross country course in 2023 is about 11 minutes and eleven seconds, which will be popular with superstitious riders.
On arrival at Burghley House we were brought through to The Rose Garden, a beautiful hidden courtyard with views out onto the lakes and the cross country course.
We were met by the new Press Officer for the event, Catherine Austen, who invited us to sit down for breakfast and introduced Martyn Johnson who welcomed us.
After breakfast journalists were invited to interview Martyn Johnson and Derek Di Grazia, as well as three riders. Andrew Hoy is an event ambassador for 2023. A winner of the event in 1979 and 2004, he has huge experience of the event, in addition to being a record breaking Olympian for Australia. Greta Mason (Cooley For Sure) and Phil Brown (Harry Robinson) are both competitors in this year's event.
For the media cross country course preview we were allocated cars in a fleet of Defenders provided by the title sponsor of the event.
Course Designer Derek Di Grazia commentated his way around the course by radio starting at Fence 1 in Arena 2.
The 2023 course is anti-clockwise and begins with a decent tree trunk, The Defender Starter, before continuing to the traditional second fence - with great views of Burghley House - Lambert's Sofa.
Fence three is the Pol Roger Table, described by Derek Di Grazia as, "one to get them up and jumping".
Fence 4, in the main arena, consists of two big oxers, not unlike the ones which used to feature in the HSBC-sponsored Maltings area.
Fence 5 is the first part of Defender Valley, where riders must complete four elements on a direct route: a narrow fence before the ditch, then two elements on a curving uphill line.
Riders then proceed on to the Leaf Pit before returning to the Defender Valley and on to Herbert's Hollow, which this year consists of two triple brushes.
The approach to the DefenderTrout Hatchery is over a Kayak trailer attached to a Defender, before dropping down through the first part of the water, bending round to the left and jumping a bounce of huts before entering the water again, jumping out and finally jumping a final element into the top part of the water complex.
The alternative route bends round to the right after the Kayak Store, where riders jump a fishing hut before entering the second water over a large upright fence, jumping out and finally jumping a final element into the top part of the water complex.
The course continues uphill from here to the Waterloo Rails at 12, shown in the next image on the right.
Fence 13 is a raised brush sponsored by Voltaire Design.
Joules at The Maltings will be a popular photography area this year. It feature beautifully crafted hares, commissioned by Derek, in both the direct and alternative routes. Elements B and C of the direct route are large corners on a tricky line.
The Rolex combination is in its usual spot before Capability's Cutting (see above) before riders continue downhill to The Parasol Table (below), Irish Horse Board Bank (17), Winners Avenue and Cottesmore Leap.
After Cottesmore Leap the course turn to the right and brings us to Fairfax and Favor at Keepers.
The Defender Dairy Mound is approached up a steep bank to element A. There is an alternative which involves circling a tree before climbing the bank beside direct route A.
After element A there are two route. Direct takes the course slightly right, down off the mound and then round to the left over elements B and C. The long route is left after A, towards Defender Hospitality and round the left-hand side of the mound.
Crossing Capability's Cutting again over Fence 22, The Rolex Grand Slam, brings the course downhill to the Agria Lifetime Equine Slate Mine (23), The Boodles Raindance fences (24 & 25) through the lake, then round to Lion Bridge (26 & 27)
The penultimate fence is names after the Charity of the Year, Horatio's Garden, a charity which nurtures the wellbeing of people who have suffered spinal injury through the use of beautiful outdoor spaces.
Finally the archway of the traditional final fence, The Defender finale, brings riders home to complete the course.
There are 67 entries to this year's Defender Burghley Horse Trials but this has to reduce as riders with four entries will have to choose a maximum of three.
The first Vets inspection will take place on Wednesday the 30th August.