Perthshire rider Wills Oakden revealed a few ‘important tweaks’ from Grand National-winning trainer Lucinda Russell made all the difference in the cross-country phase of the 2023 Defender Burghley Horse Trials.
Oakden, 33, soared to fourth place after a stunning clear gallop around Burghley’s 5* fences with Oughterard Cooley saw him remain on a dressage score of 34.9.
Another decent run on second horse Arklow Puissance made sure he secured two top-10 finishes going into the show jumping finale.
“It’s a huge thank you to Lucinda Russell who we’ve worked with on the training, their fitness work, I’m really grateful and it was really good fun,” he said.
“Lucinda gave me a good little pattern to do and it’s worked a treat here.
“We’ll keep our powder dry but she made a few important tweaks.”
Oakden came third with Oughterard Cooley last year and is poised to better the result after a storming ride on Derek di Grazia’s fabled track.
On Friday, Oakden said his dressage scores with both horses were a case of ‘damage limitation’ and proved that cross-country is where the geldings come into their own.
Following a convincing ride on Oughterard Cooley, he added, “It was pretty cool, I’m not ashamed to admit I was out of control pretty much the whole way, but that was probably a good thing round here.
“He was so keen he was so bold, he was so forward thinking.
“I was just really pleased with how he was feeling the whole way.
“I was just really delighted to be sitting on the horse - come nine, 10 minutes he was still full of going, still ready to press the go button.”
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