Badminton Horse Trials course-designer Hugh Thomas comes in for some flak, with plenty of people over the past few years saying the track is too soft or too many riders get inside the time.

But credit where credit is due because I’d say today — the cross-country day for the 2010 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials — was spot on, in terms of statistics.

There were 81 starters, 42 of whom jumped clear, four inside the time and 57 finishers. I don’t think the numbers get much better than that at four-star.

Of course, even a stats geek like me has to admit it’s not all in the numbers. If all the problems had come at one fence, that wouldn’t be hailed a great result. But the faults were well spread around the course.

There were a few horse falls, but that is — unfortunately — always going to be the reality of the sport, especially at the top level. The death of Louisa Lockwood’s mare, Desert Island, was obviously a sad low — and condolences to all her connections — but I don’t know the circumstances of the accident so I can’t comment on that.

Lots of good combinations were caught out, and plenty of the less experienced were able to get round with sensible riding and long routes.

Plenty of people with more experience and right to comment than me will give their judgement of the course and the result over the next week or so, but my initial reaction is hats off to Hugh.

First and second-timers

It’s always fun to see which first-timers do well. Simone Deitermann, 28, went brilliantly for Germany for third overnight and Camilla Speirs, 20, for Ireland was outstanding on her 15.1hh Portersize Just A Jiff to hold 13th place.

For the Brits, four first-timers resulted in two completions. Sian Wynne Morris, 33, was the star turn, putting in the first clear inside the time on Just Appeal. She said on Radio Badminton that the horse has had a sore mouth so she was trying to use her body rather than her hands, and this resulted in a more forward ride. Whatever, it worked.

Nicola Malcolm, 22, also finished, with just a stop at the first hedge at the Colt Pond on McFly and should be pleased to have completed at her first Badminton and Burghley on a horse who wouldn’t be everyone’s classic eventer.

Two British second-timers caught my eye. Emily Llewellyn — the youngest Brit here at 20 — went well on both her horses. Admittedly she had some luck in terms of judging decisions with both her horses — she had to turn a circle with Pardon Me II after overshooting her turn to the final fence and pulled out of the second corner at fence 15, with Society Spice. But I have to say I agree that she didn’t present to the fence in either case.

But Emily continues to stand out with her polish and style — youngsters at Badminton can either freeze and not attack, or override, go wild and terrify their horses with the change from their normal style. Emily has never shown any sign of doing either.

The other British second-timer who I noticed was Emily Galbraith. She hasn’t had the best preparation — this is only the horse’s fifth run since being here in 2008, plus she was one of the last to get in off the waiting list, so didn’t know for sure that she was coming a week ago.

But she jumped round penalty-free, with a respectable 19.2 time-penalties, and looked over the moon with her first Badminton jumping clear (she had one stop in 2008).

And her ride, Crown Alliance, is still the horse I’d most like to take home.

Keep up with the final day tomorrow on www.horseandhound.co.uk, with a report after the trot-up and when the event finishes.

Don’t miss H&H’s 15-page special report in the issue dated 6 May, including day-by-day analysis, comments from Carl Hester and Mark Phillips and much more.