An action-packed cross-country day has triggered a shake-up of the leaderboard at Badminton Horse Trials, presented by Mars Equestrian, with nine British riders now inside the top 10.
Dressage leaders Laura Collett and her Olympic team gold medallist London 52 pulled off the round of their lives to maintain their overnight lead.
“To ride through the finish line at Tokyo was unreal, but the crowds here and being at Badminton — I’m not going to say it beats Tokyo, but it was up there,” said Laura, who has one showjump in hand over her Tokyo teammate Oliver Townend tomorrow.
Oliver lies second and third overnight with Swallow Springs and Ballaghmore Class respectively.
“It’s a pleasure to be back at Badminton and to have two finish cross-country so high up the leaderboard,” he said.
“The course was fantastically designed and felt how a five-star should feel. The class horses made it look easy and the not so class horses made it look difficult.”
Scroll down to see images of the top 10 after cross-country and read their thoughts on their rounds
1 Laura Collett and London 52
Laura was one of only six riders to beat the 11.44 optimum time when London 52 pulled off the fastest clear of the day (11 secs inside).
She described the course as “relentless”.
“I didn’t really know how deep he would dig for me and he really did,” said Laura of Keith Scott, Karen Bartlett and her own 13-year-old gelding. “Walking it I thought is he a man or a mouse? Luckily he’s a man.
“Coming to the Vicarage Vee he definitely questioned my sanity about what I was asking him to do. I said, ‘yes please’ and he said ‘OK mum, let’s go’.”
The pair were held on course following a horse fall at the last fence for Frenchman Maxime Livio’s Vitorio du Montet. The horse was winded but eventually walked off course unaided.
“He’s [London 52] never been held on course so I didn’t know how he would cope, but actually he was back on the bridle and a fresh horse. I think he’d thought I’d gone mad, doing two cross-country rounds in one day.”
2 Oliver Townend and Swallow Springs
It was a rollercoaster day for Oliver, who was initially eliminated on Swallow Springs after the grey scrambled over the final brush out of the HorseQuest Quarry (fence 4), taking out the red flag and the duo almost parting company.
They continued and were subsequently held for half-an-hour after the Lake (9/10) following Nicola Wilson’s fall.
Oliver completed within the optimum time and initially appeared at the top of the leaderboard, however was subsequently eliminated.
He was reinstated that afternoon.
“We had a close moment in the quarry. I now know why Andrew Nicholson [the horse’s former rider] is known as Mr Stickability,” said Oliver. “I kicked for a stride and he saw a long one. I thought, ‘he’s done that before somewhere’!”
3 Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class
“He worried me in the warm up as he felt like he was going to boil over,” said Oliver of his 2017 Burghley winner Ballaghmor Class.
“He’s never been hunting but I found two grey hunt horses near the warm-up and I walked him in a 5m circle around the two hunters for about 15 minutes and he relaxed.
“He was a little keen and cocky to start with so we took a few distances I didn’t want. He was tricky in Huntsman’s Close, but once he settled he was a pleasure to ride,” continued Oliver.
“You can take big distances on him and he makes you look good. Then he sticks his head down and gets you home.”
4 Ros Canter and Lordships Graffalo
Reigning world champion Ros Canter has risen up the leaderboard to fourth overnight with Lordships Graffalo, a 10-year-old contesting his first CCI5*.
“It was genuinely a lot of fun,” said Ros of her cross-country round aboard the horse she broke-in as a three-year-old.
“Being a young horse I didn’t know what to expect. He hasn’t seen crowds like this before as he’s been coming up the levels while the sport has been behind closed doors. He made it feel easy; like a pony club track.
“He goes when you say and takes strides out. He’s unbelievably brave and was out of this world today.”
5 Piggy March and Vanir Kamira
Defending champions Piggy March and Vanir Kamira picked up one time-fault to slot into fifth.
“It felt hard work all the way to the end — I was pleased to get there to be honest,” confessed Piggy. “We didn’t have the start we’re used to [due to a hold]. She’s normally a runner from the start and she just wasn’t.
“She didn’t travel well to Huntsman’s Close and she caught a knee in there quite badly and gave a good twist. She was never off her line or anything and I gave her a little tap to say ‘come on Tilly Beans’ and then she picked up.
“She’s an amazing little horse and she’s given me some of the best days of my life competing,” continued Piggy.
“If you ever had to ride her at home you wouldn’t give her a second thought, but she picks up and performs. Full credit to the little mare; she’s got guts.”
6 Ros Canter and Allstar B
Ros Canter also piloted Allstar B home clear with 1.2 time penalties to add. They lie sixth.
“He’s a legend,” she smiled. “He’s a big-bodied horse so he doesn’t find shortening very easy which can make it feel very difficult, but he digs in deep until the end.”
7 Jonelle Price and Classic Moet
Jonelle Price and Classic Moet pulled off a customary fast clear for seventh.
“She comes with such a phenomenal track record that it’s my job to keep it up,” said Jonelle.
“I was five seconds down at the ninth minute marker and I really put my foot down — I thought if I get time-faults on this horse, I really will look stupid.
“Next time I looked we were up to seven seconds. There’s not many horses who can make up 10 seconds.”
8 Kitty King and Vendredi Biats
Kitty King and Vendredi Biats picked up eight time faults to slip from third after dressage to eighth.
“It definitely wasn’t the smoothest round I’ve ever had,” confessed Kitty. “He was looking at the crowd a bit and spooking through his left shoulder, but he got it done and I’m really proud of him.”
9 William Fox-Pitt and Little Fire
William climbed into the top 10 with both his rides, Little Fire moving up from 15th after dressage when he jumped clear with six time penalties to add.
10 William Fox-Pitt and Oratorio
William was third out on the course with his first ride Oratorio who pulled up from equal 27th after dressage to 10th overnight with just two time penalties to add.
“I feel quite emotional,” said William after his round. “That was quite exciting. I was dreading it; I thought ‘do I really want to be doing this at my age?’
“Oratorio is quite busy to ride and I like a more peaceful animal. He’s quite opinionated.”
Eric Winter: “Stuff has to happen”
Course-designer Eric Winter called it “an interesting day”.
Of 10 top names that set out early, four didn’t finish and one had jumping penalties, while only one (Oliver Townend) achieved the optimum time.
Casualties included Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser, lying second, when they fell at the final element of the Lightsource BP Solar Farm (24) — a bounce.
Mollie Summerland’s Charly Van Ter Heiden, fourth overnight, refused to enter the water twice at the Mars Equestrian Sustainability Bay and retired.
Reigning European Champion Nicola Wilson, 13th overnight, was taken to Southmead Hospital for trauma scans and further investigation after a heavy fall at fence 27 (Mars M), where J L Dublin fell and rolled over his rider. The c element of this fence was subsequently removed.
“Early on the horses went out very quickly and then some mistakes were made. Later in the day they started to take a bit more time. I said before it was about patience and riding the turns,” said Eric.
“When you have 100,000 people [here] watching, stuff has to happen. If everyone jumped round clear it would be boring.”
Photos: copyright Trevor Holt
Top 10 after cross-country
1 Laura Collett (London 52) GBR — 21, 0, 0 = 21
2 Oliver Townend (Swallow Springs) GBR — 25.7, 0, 0 = 25.7
3 Oliver Townend (Ballaghmor Class) GBR — 25.9, 0, 0 = 25.9
4 Ros Canter (Lordships Graffalo) GBR — 26, 0, 0 = 26
5 Piggy March (Vanir Kamira) GBR — 25.7, 0.4, 0 = 26.1
6 Ros Canter (Allstar B) GBR — 26.4, 1.2, 0 = 27.6
7 Jonelle Price (Classic Moet) NZL — 31.4, 0, 0 = 31.4
8 Kitty King (Vendredi Biats) GBR — 24.8, 8, 0 = 32.8
9 William Fox-Pitt (Little Fire) GBR — 27.3, 6, 0 = 33.3
10 William Fox-Pitt (Oratorio) GBR — 31.4, 2, 0 = 33.4
For the full leaderboard click here,