The Badminton leader board has experienced yet another re-shuffle following the final afternoon session of dressage at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials.
2016 Burghley winner Chris Burton produced an accurate and mistake-free test riding the 12-year-old Irish sports horse Graf Liberty to score 32.9.
“I can’t believe it, I’m so proud of him,” said Australian rider Chris. “Really I’m so happy. I sat on him for the first time this week on Wednesday to keep him fresh. We went into the main arena and his periscope went up a bit with the crowds and atmosphere, but then he went back to work, which was great.”
Chris has a commanding 3.5-penalty lead over second-placed German, Ingrid Klimke riding Horseware Hale Bob OLD who lies on a score of 36.4.
“‘Bobby’ was so brave as he found it hard to walk and relax in the collecting ring, but as soon as we went into the main arena he was totally with me,” said Ingrid. “He had got a bit excited by the crowd who were clapping after Jonty [Evans]’s test, so I gave him a bit of time before the bell went for us to give him a good look around. I’m so pleased with him.”
Rounding off the top three was crowd favourite Jonty Evans. The Irishman rode the test of his life on Cooley Rorkes Drift to score 37.2.
An emotional Jonty, who hasn’t competed at Badminton since his debut here in 2007, said: “I can’t believe it — this horse is so special. I looked up at the score board in our free walk and saw we had been given two eights and a seven and thought to myself, ‘right, this is going OK’. It was only at the end when I saw I’d been awarded two nines for my riding that I thought, ‘oh my God!’.
“My horse showed he could handle pressure in Rio [where the pair were ninth individually] and I’d told people earlier this spring that if I turned up on the day, so would he and I really don’t know if he could have done any more today — it means a lot to ride a horse like him, especially when people told us as a six-year-old he wouldn’t move well enough for the job.”
Fourth place is held by Belgian rider Karin Donckers on a score of 37.3. She was the lunchtime leader riding Fletcha Van’t Verahof, while Michael Jung lies in ninth on La Biosthetique-Sam FBW on 40 penalties.
Alex Bragg and Tom McEwen remain the best Brits in equal 18th position.
The cross-country gets underway at 11.30am tomorrow morning (Saturday 6 May).