Badminton first-timer Megan Jones tops the leader board after the first day of dressage at Badminton. The Australian 27-year-old produced a virtually flawless test on 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse Kirby Park Irish Hallmark, to move five points clear of Badminton defending champion Pippa Funnell.
There were more high jinx in the dressage arena this afternoon, as Alan Winter, first to go after lunch, had a vital memory lapse during his test. A lenient judge forgave him what appeared to be three errors, penalising him just two marks for one error, leaving Alan’s own Kelson Endeavour near the bottom of the scoreboard on 79.6.
There were some beautiful moments during Leslie Law’s test on Shear H2O, and had the 14-year-old gelding not stood up on his hind legs in a move reminiscent of the Spanish Riding School during the rein-back and then bunny hopped to his final halt, the partnership could easily have displaced the leaders at this stage. For the moment he settles for a more modest 10th place with 54.2.
The concept of flying changes seems to have passed some riders by, with fly kicks featuring prominently, and several riders receiving no more than two from the judges for the movement. Not so Matt Ryan, who showed some of the less experienced riders how to do it on 12-year-old Bonza Puzzle, moving smoothly into second place with 44.2.
“This horse is a bit young and greenish at this level. It’s his first four-star run, but he’s one of the best quality horses I’ve had for some time. He’s on the elite squad for Athens, and the selectors seem to prefer younger horses. He’s got great potential and a serious jump, and he’s racked up some good performances at three-star level,” Matt says.
Paul Tapner bought to a close an interesting day’s dressage with a tidy test on Highpoint, displacing Pippa Funnell to move into third place, confirming Australian excellence in the equestrian field.
Paul expressed his concerns about the cross-country: “Time is going to be of prime importance, and time penalties sent me down the rankings at Burghley. However, this horse is a local horse, he’s done all his gallop work round here, and I reckon I know the ground pretty well.”
With many strong contenders still to complete the dressage phase tomorrow, there is still all to play for and although the Australians have set a competitive standard, several of those riders riding two horses here are saving the best for last.
Meanwhile riders’ concerns about the cross-country are not limited exclusively to the increasingly damp going. Most are happy about the way the course starts, but “it is one question after another thereafter” according to Pippa Funnell.
The Sunken Road has elicited plenty of anxiety, with some describing it as “trappy” and others as being “built for ponies”, making it difficult to get a decent stride on any of the various routes.
Megan Jones commented: “[Kirby Park Irish Hallmark] is a huge horse and I will have to walk the course several times and make notes to work out the best routes for him – the Sunken Road (fence 15) is definitely making me think.”
1, Kirby Park Irish Hallmark (Megan Jones) AUS 42.0;
2, Bonza Puzzle (Matt Ryan) AUS 44.0;
3, Highpoint (Paul Tapner) AUS 44.8;
4, Viceroy II, (Pippa Funnell) 47.0;
5, The Psephologist (Bumble Thomas) 48.6;
6, Moon Man (William Fox-Pitt) 49.0;
7, Master Fred (Richard Waygood) 50.8;
8, Private Colin (Sam Griffiths) AUS 51.6;
9, Comanche (James Robinson) 52.4;
10, Shear H2O (Leslie Law) 54.2.