It was all change on cross-country day at the Mars Badminton Horse Trials today (Saturday 11 May), with New Zealand’s Tim Price and Vitali (pictured above) moving into the lead with an impressive clear round, adding just four time penalties to their dressage score of 27.7.

“He’s a class horse and is just getting better with age,” said Tim of the 14-year-old black gelding. “Ultimately we need to be clear and fast, so I had to suck it up and be brave and he just gave me everything he had. I was thinking I want to be one of the top two or three fastest rounds, whether that’s inside the time or not. You can’t go faster than what they’re willing to give. It’s about giving your horse a good trip so that they keep going for you.”

It is close at the top of the leaderboard tonight and Tim does not have a fence in hand over William Fox-Pitt (lying second) going into tomorrow’s showjumping. William does, however, have one fence in hand over the third-placed rider, Lucy Latta. This means he can afford one showjump down tomorrow and retain second place at least.

Tim described Vitali as an “all-round event horse” whose true potential was coming out. However, the final phase has been the horse’s nemesis in the past. Tim said Vitali had showjumped well over the winter and he is feeling positive ahead of tomorrow’s final phase.

“I have a plan in place, he’s fit and he’s buzzing with wellness,” added Tim.

You can view the top 10 after cross-country in pictures below.

2nd William Fox-Pitt and Grafennacht

William Fox Pitt and Grafennacht are hot on Tim’s heels and moved up into second place in what may be the legendary rider’s last Badminton. William has hinted to the press this weekend that he may retire after a final run here.

“She is an amazing mare,” said a beaming William of the 12-year-old bay. “She’s just fabulous and always says yes.”

This was William’s 26th Badminton cross-country completion, and he was delighted to have his family supporting him on the day.

“[My children] really get it now, and have been to Badminton all their lives,” he said. “Hopefully they’re old enough now to remember me having done something when I’m in my zimmer frame. It’s very exciting to still be here and still be in the fight.”

Grafennacht is the first mare William has ever ridden at Badminton.

“She’s a cool horse. Anyone could ride. She always says yes and has a go,” added William. “I was very optimistic because she’s quietly dangerous. Luckily she didn’t blemish her record — she’s never had a cross-country [jumping] fault and I thought how typical would it be for it to happen here, where it really counts. She always seems to have walked the course and I don’t have to pull. I was puffing a bit at the end today though — and I thought I was quite fit!”

3rd Lucy Latta and RCA Parton Saint

Ireland’s Lucy Latta and RCA Parton Saint take third position on a score of 37.2. This was Lucy’s five-star debut and first Badminton attempt. She pulled off the fastest cross-country round of the day, stopping the clock one penalty over the optimum time. This feat elevated the pair 43 places up the leaderboard to lie third overnight, having occupied 46th spot after dressage.

“He is truly one of the best cross-country horses out there and is as brave as a lion,” said Lucy of the 13-year-old gelding. “He wants to do it; he literally looks for the flags. I set off at a good pace. I wanted to be on my minute markers early on because I knew he would stay the distance. He gave me everything he had out there.”

Lucy is a full time brand manager for White Claw, an alcoholic drinks company, and RCA Parton Saint is her only horse.

“I think of eventing as my second job,” said Lucy. “I look at it like I have two jobs and I do both of them to the best of my ability.”

4th Emily King and Valmy Biats

Emily King follows with 15-year-old Valmy Biats, lying fourth overnight.

“He was amazing, absolutely incredible,” Emily said of the horse. “He felt mega ‘on it’ from the start. I wanted to be a bit up on minute markers but not have that interfere with fences and he was feeling really good. [Going clear at Badminton] doesn’t feel like it’s real. I’m so pleased and so proud of Valmy.”

5th Sarah Ennis and Grantstown Jackson

Completing the top five was Irish rider Sarah Ennis and 13-year-old bay gelding Grantstown Jackson. The pair finished the cross-country on a score of 40.

6th Caroline Powell and Greenacres Special Cavalier

The second top-10 rider from New Zealand was Caroline Powell, who moved into sixth place with Greenacres Special Cavalier.

7th Felix Vogg and Cartania Swiss

Early leader Felix Vogg and Cartania Swiss remain high in the rankings after their swift cross-country round. The Swiss rider was delighted with his horse. To date, only one Swiss rider has won Badminton, and last year Felix was the first from his nation in 50 years to complete.

“To win is a huge thing; a big milestone, but I don’t think we’re close to that yet,” he said.

8th Tom Jackson and Capels Hollow Drift

Tom Jackson and the grey Capels Hollow Drift sit in eighth, making a leap up the leaderboard from 22nd yesterday after dressage.

9th Pippa Funnel and MCS Maverick

In ninth is Pippa Funnell and the 11-year-old gelding MCS Maverick. They go through to the final showjumping phase on a score of 45.1.

10th Alexander Bragg and Quindiva

Completing the top 10 is Alex Bragg and the 14-year-old mare Quindiva. The pair sits just 0.1 of a penalty behind Pippa.

All change at the top

Although the day began with little between the first and last scores — just 17.7 between the dressage leader and the last placed rider after withdrawals following the first phase — the cross-country proved as influential as ever and the gap widened greatly over the course of Saturday.

Yesterday’s leader, Ros Canter, retired her own and Alex Moody’s Izilot DHI during their round. The pair broke the first fence jumping into Badminton Lake and then had a run out, before being pulled up by the defending champion. Meanwhile crowd favourite Bubby Upton, who was second after the dressage, completed the cross-country with her mother Rachel’s Cola.

“I’m so proud of my horse,” she said of the 14-year-old gelding. “He never fails to give me his all.”

The pair broke a frangible pin on the course, dropping to 18th place overnight, but Bubby remained positive. “It is what it is and it doesn’t take away from what an unbelievable horse he is,” she said.

Seven months ago, Bubby broke several vertebrae in a schooling fall at home and, after months of uncertainty, she began riding again in January. “The support and love I have felt over the last 12 months has been unbelievably touching,” she added.

Leaderboard: top 10 after cross-country

Format: rider & horse (nationality) dressage score + XC jumping faults + XC time faults = overnight total score

1, Tim Price & Vitali (NZL) 27.7 + 0 + 4 = 31.7

2, William Fox-Pitt & Grafennacht (GBR) 30.6 + 0 + 2.4 = 33

3, Lucy Latta & RCA Patron Saint (IRE) 36.8 + 0 + 0.4 = 37.2

4, Emily King & Valmy Biats (GBR) 29.2 + 0 + 8.8 = 38

5, Sarah Ennis & Grantstown Jackson (IRE) 36.4 + 0 + 3.6 = 40

6, Caroline Powell & Greenacres Special Cavalier (NZL) 30 + 0 + 13.2 = 43.2

7, Felix Vogg & Cartania (CHE) 30.6 + 0 + 10.8 = 43.4

8, Tom Jackson & Capels Hollow Drift (GBR) 34.4 + 0 + 10 = 44.4

9, Pippa Funnell & MCS Maverick (GBR) 31.9 + 0 + 13.2 = 45.1

10, Alex Bragg & Quindiva (GBR) 37.6 + 0 + 7.6 = 45.2

For the full list of results after the cross-country, click here.

The final phase of the Mars Badminton Horse Trials kicks off tomorrow (Sunday 12 May) at 11.30am.

Images: copyright Photography by Shelley/Your Horse, Kit Houghton Photography & Sally Newcomb. Additional reporting by Aimi Clark

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