Clayton Fredericks (pictured) leads the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials after the first morning of dressage, despite performing his test in a torrential downpour.
His ride Nullabor, who led the dressage at Burghley last year, picked up plenty of high marks — including a 10 near the end of the test — to score 38.1.
“I was more focused on the job rather than worrying about the weather,” said Clayton afterwards. “He did a good job and I’m very pleased — he feels stronger and more established now than he was at Burghley.”
William Fox-Pitt was thrilled with 2005 Burghley winner Ballincoola, whose mark of 44.1 puts him second at this stage.
“He’s getting back to how he was when he led the dressage at Burghley twice,” said William. “He’s got fantastic potential, it’s a case of making him relaxed enough to show himself off.”
World champion Zara Phillips is just 0.7 of a penalty behind William, riding Glenbuck, a horse she took on after the death of Irish rider Sherelle Duke at the end of 2006. It is the 13-year-old’s first attempt at four-star level.
“He’s never been in an arena like that, but he chilled out in there — he obviously another one who likes the big occasion,” she said, referring to her top horse Toytown, who normally produces his best work at important events.
The riders say their first impressions of the cross-country are that it is a strong track and will be influential.
“It looks pretty full on,” said Polly Stockton, who lies fourth with Tom Quigley.
“You’ve got to be on your toes from fence five all the way through,” said William, who said the work that has been done on the ground through the winter is immediately obvious, despite the recent rain.
“I hope the work pays off as much in the wet as in the dry. But there are more than a dozen fences where all the horses will have to jump in the exact same spot and there it will inevitably get deep.”
Clayton remarked: “Normally a late draw is good, but I’m pleased I’m going early with the rain.”
RESULTS AT THURSDAY LUNCHTIME
1. Nullabor (Clayton Fredericks, AUS) 38.1
2. Ballincoola (William Fox-Pitt, GBR) 44.1
3. Glenbuck (Zara Phillips, GBR) 44.8
4. Tom Quigley (Polly Stockton, GBR) 46.7
5. Apache Sauce (Mary King, GBR) 51.7
6. Ira D’Islea (Pierre Marie Dubois, FRA) 53.5
Keep up to date with twice daily reports from Badminton on www.horseandhound.co.uk and don’t forget to buy H&H next Thursday (8 May) for a 16 page report, with comments from Carl Hester, Ginny Elliot and William Fox-Pitt.