Badminton top 10 in pictures: Ros Canter still heads the field after influential cross-country day

Julie Harding
Julie Harding

Cross-country day at Badminton Horse Trials, presented by Mars Equestrian, led to a serious tussle at the top of the leaderboard, and not just due to Eric Winter’s tough 30-fence track, but also because of the energy-sapping rain-drenched and holding ground, which meant that there were no clear rounds inside the time.

But while there were a number of falls, run-outs and retirements on track, former World Champion Ros Canter pulled off one of the rounds of the day to hold on to pole position with Lordships Graffalo.

“Walter’s an amazing horse. He had to dig deep today, but he answered every question. I didn’t change any of the plans I had [while out on course], but I just had to remind myself which horse I was getting on and what their habits are,” said Ros, referring also to Pencos Crown Jewel, one of the early runners who ended up in seventh place.

Irishman Austin O’Connor, who has long been renowned for his turn of speed across country, rose from equal 34th after the dressage into second after achieving the fastest round of the day — for 10.8 penalties — with Colorado Blue. Should he be able to pull off a win tomorrow, he would be the first Irish victor for 58 years.

“He’s an incredible horse and I’ve said for years that he’s one of the best cross-country horses in the world and I’m privileged to ride one like him,” said Austin.

Former Badminton winner Oliver Townend leapfrogged up the order, from sixth after the dressage into third with Ballaghmor Class.

“He’s very special,” said Oliver. “I’m not eloquent enough to tell everyone how much he means to me.”

Scroll down to see images of the top 10 after cross-country and read their thoughts on their rounds.

1, Ros Canter and Lordships Graffalo

Ros and Lordships Graffalo ran towards the end of the class of 64 horses, stopping the clock with 11.6 faults, which turned out to be the second fastest time of the day. 

Wasnt he amazing, as always,” she said. Hes never had to dig that deep before; hes always found life easy. A horse like him should be celebrated — Ive not sat on anything like him before. The ground was more difficult to ride on than this morning. Tomorrow is another day, but whatever happens, hes a star.”

At the press conference attended by the top three riders, commentator John Kyle asked who each one expected to win tomorrow, and both Austin and Oliver pointed to Ros, who was second here last year with Lordships Graffalo, then a Badminton first timer.

2, Austin O’Connor and Colorado Blue

“The horse was amazing; hes the real deal and has been for a few years now,” said Austin O’Connor of Colorado Blue. “He had to try out there, but boy did he try. Hes never run in this ground, but he’s full of blood and class.

Ive got a great team at home and theyve kept him very fit,” continued Austin.

“Im also a lot older than I look and I’ve ridden a lot of cross-country courses in the wet before.

3, Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class

Oliver’s day began inauspiciously when Swallow Springs, the first of the big guns to run and lying third, triggered a frangible pin at the Mars M Tables, adding 11 penalties. With the horse looking laboured, they were finally eliminated and pulled up by the ground jury at fence 24.

Turning his luck around at the end of the day with Ballaghmor Class, who finished second here in 2019, Oliver said: I’m the luckiest rider in the world. I’m proud to be associated with him.

“I had to trust him a few times out there. A couple of times I wasn’t able to see a distance and every time he helped me out, including coming out of the Quarry, where we went on a big one. These good horses dig you out.

“We’ve been together since he was four and we know each other inside out,” added Oliver. “He’ll alway give me a nudge when I walk past his stable. I’m not allowed to walk past and ignore him.”

4, Tim Price and Vitali

“I thought he might look at the ground as we went, but he kept his perspective up and galloped,” said New Zealand’s Tim Price of Vitali. “I had better energy than I expected on the way home; it was just the lack of speed that slowed you down. Hoofprints were 4-5in into the ground.

“My wife [fellow event rider Jonelle] said I looked slow — shes taken to speaking her mind, which is annoying!

“When I got to the lake I took the long route because Id ridden my luck a bit,” said Tim, adding: “I might go and have a sleep and a massage before my next one,” although the Kiwi ended up withdrawing Coup De Coeur Dudevin, who had been in ninth place.

5, Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser

The team gold and individual silver medallists from the Tokyo Olympics added 30.8 penalties to their score, and Tom said: After watching the morning action I just wanted a nice round. Ive messed up here too many times before with the best horse in the world.

“He tried really hard and was foot perfect jumping, but the ground is now horrific, seriously tacky and holding.

6, Gemma Stevens and Jalapeno

“I am so relieved,” said Gemma after finishing her round with the Chilli Morning daughter, Jalapeno. “The horse tried her heart out and shes now recovering really well.

“Its been a few years since Ive been here and I wont lie, I was scared, so the relief is huge. Its really tough out there, but shes a chestnut mare and shes feisty.”

7, Ros Canter and Pencos Crown Jewel

“I never really dreamed that this horse would go around Badminton and I couldnt be more proud,” said Ros Canter of 14-year-old Pencos Crown Jewel.

“The owl hole and the coffin fences felt a bit hairy, but shes gritty. I didnt know what I was doing at the lake, but we were going well so I decided to go straight.

8, Bubby Upton and Cola

“He’s was amazing. It wasn’t quite as polished as at Burghley,” said 24-year-old Bubby Upton, referring to her trip around the autumn five-star with Cola last year, which led to a 14th place.

“There were a couple of moments he didn’t go on the stride I thought he would [today], but it was probably due to the deep ground. It’s so tough out there.”

9, Pippa Funnell and Majas Hope

Pippa Funnell and Majas Hope were held on course for a fence repair, but, as Pippa said: “Because of the ground I wanted to get into a rhythm early on and not worry about the clock. You have to ride differently because of the [frangible] pins; you take one more pull than you would otherwise. It helped me when I was held coming up the avenue.

Hes the best horse to sit on in this phase, and the worst horse to sit on in the dressage,” continued Pippa. “I have so much confidence in him — I cant warm up; the first fence I jump is literally number one. I cant go anywhere near the warm up fences.

Wed talked about do I or dont I go direct at the lake, but I did. I heard a clunk, but couldnt look back until Id jumped the corner, but it was still up.”

10, Tom Jackson and Capels Hollow Drift

“Hes just class. Its his third five-star and he gets better and better,” said 30-year-old Tom Jackson of Capels Hollow Drift. “It wasnt his favourite going, but he dug so deep.

“I got the feedback to forget about the watch. I dont normally talk to the horse going round, but I did get the voice out a bit to encourage him home. Im unbelievably proud of him.

Out of comfort zones

Due to wet conditions several changes were made to the cross-country course ahead of Sunday’s 11.30am start, including the removal of the B element at the Lemieux Mound (17) and the A element at the HorseQuest Quarry (27), plus the water level in the Lake (21) was lowered.

Nevertheless, some combinations proved to be out of their comfort zones, and there were six horse falls, including one for Kitty King and Vendredi Biats at fence 5, the Countryside Alliance Stick Pile. Up until then they had been lying second.

Laura Collett withdrew seventh-placed Dacapo; Harry Meade did the same with 10th placed Tanareze; and William Fox-Pitt (Graffennacht) slipped outside the dressage top 10 when accruing almost three dozen time faults.  

As Oliver Townend commented: “You could see some real old fashioned five-star horses who stuck their heads down and tried so hard for their riders. No rider can make a horse go round here who doesn’t want to.”

The competition concludes tomorrow with a final horse inspection and then the showjumping phase, and overnight leader Ros Canter has two fences in hand. Find out how to follow the action here.

View the full leaderboard here

Photos by Trevor Holt

Profile image of Julie Harding Julie Harding


Julie is the editor of Your Horse magazine. She has worked for equestrian publications since 1993, including in the Horse & Hound office for 21 years, 11 of them at the helm of sister publication Eventing magazine. The job took her all around the world, including reporting at three Olympic Games. Julie has four horses and ponies, including the 17hh plus Apollo, a former hunter turned happy hacker, a cob called Panda and two World Horse Welfare ponies who taught her two daughters to ride, but who she couldn't bear to part with once they were outgrown!

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