Oliver Townend leads after two days of dressage at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials.
It’s a convincing start to the British rider’s bid to win the Rolex Grand Slam. As the reigning Land Rover Burghley and Kentucky CCI4* champion, he will net US$350,000 if he wins Badminton too.
The three four-star events have to be won consecutively by the same rider for it to count.
But the wet spring means the ground is soft here and that will make tomorrow’s cross-country test all the more difficult.
Oliver’s overnight leader is his Burghley 2017 winner Ballaghmore Class, who pulled off the best first-phase score to be recorded at Badminton in the last 18 years.
“We get glimpses of his ability at home but not all the time. He was disappointing when I rode him this morning but he felt fantastic yesterday. Then the minute I got back on him at the stables to come down for his test he felt better,” said Oliver.
“This is only his second CCI4* and you never know, second time round, if the first one has gone to their head.”
He said tomorrow’s cross-country track will be “a slog”, due to the soft ground.
“It will be a real stamina test,” added Oliver. “There are all sorts of angled hedges off blind bends and you could easily make a mistake without having a bad round.”
New Zealand’s Mark Todd lies second aboard Kiltubrid Rhapsody, a horse also at his second ever four-star who was recording the rider’s best test mark in 10 years.
“It’s nice to know I’m still improving,” joked Mark. “He’s a big moving horse, nice to train and nothing seems to worry him.
“I don’t think the cross-country course is as big as last year, but it is trickier. It’s not as much about our riding and the horse’s bravery, but more about having luck on your side.”
“I think it will be a cross-country competition and I wouldn’t be renowned as the fastest rider in the world, but I’m on a quick horse,” admitted Ros. “Maybe it’s an advantage he’s only carrying me tomorrow [because the ground is soft].”
Ireland’s Jonty Evans punched the air after recording a score good enough to leave Cooley Rorkes Drift fourth overnight, ahead of two Aussies, Paul Tapner (Bonza King Of Rouges) and Sam Griffiths (Paulank Brockagh), in equal fifth.
Two Americans are in the top 10 — Will Coleman (Obos O’Reilly) lying seventh and Lauren Kieffer (Veronica) sharing 10th place with Brit Piggy French (Vanir Kamira).
German superstar Michael Jung is sitting in eighth spot with La Biosthetique Sam FBW, while Japan’s Yoshiaki Oiwa (The Duke Of Cavan) is ninth.
The first horse is due out on the cross-country course at 11.30am tomorrow (Saturday 5 May).
Come back to yourhorse.co.uk/badminton-2018 over the weekend for more Badminton news and stories.