I was the lucky member of the H&H team at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials to be free to walk the course at the event today.
And what a great day for the sport of horse trials it was. Weather and ground were about as perfect as they could be and the course, which at first appeared “easy” and “comfortable” thanks to the performance of two of the first three riders — William Fox-Pitt and Georgie Spence who both came home within the set time — soon began to ask questions of the riders in an unpredictable fashion.
There was no bogey fence, no dangerous thrills and spills but a steady day of top class sport. And for me, with all the focus on safety at present, that’s a far better finish than one that results in a sensational coverline.
My day was considerably enhanced by the commentary of the Radio Badminton team and I would heartily recommend anyone who has never taken advantage of the supporting audio commentary available at the top three-day events go for it.
The insight into what the day means for the competitors and the challenges presented really adds to the depth of enjoyment and, in these days of more technical courses, as an audience I think we have a responsibility to the riders to ensure that, as far as possible, we understand the difficulties they are facing.
The great weather brought visitors out and the course and trade stands — oh, the trade stands — were both packed.
There’s an exciting day of show jumping to look forward to tomorrow. Anything could happen.
Although Zara Phillips and Toytown are out of the frame, William Fox-Pitt could still take the lead, but I have to put my money on Oliver Townend. He and Flint Curtis were a picture of a smooth team in action today, as were Karin Donckers and Gazelle De La Brasserie, the overnight leaders, who went down to fifth due to time-faults she apparently didn’t realise she’d accrued until she finished. She was distraught in the arena at the end of her ride.
Even in fifth place Karin could find herself taking home £19,000 in prize-money — but I guess that’s not the point when it could have been £60,000. Now Gazelle De La Brasserie, that’s a mare I’d like to take home…
Log back on to www.horseandhound.co.uk tomorrow for reports after the trot-up and at the end of the competition.
Don’t forget to buy H&H next week (14 May) — our 15-page Badminton report will include comments from Carl Hester, Mark Todd and Tina Cook, plus full cross-country course analysis and plenty of colour photographs.