The heavy going at Badminton has been taking its toll with refusals, falls and retirements coming thick and fast this morning.
There were no withdrawals at the beginning of today’s cross-country phase, but as horse and rider falls and retirements proved testament to the toughness of the going, riders’ nerves began to falter. Although there had still been only two withdrawals by just after lunch, refusals brought more retirements than might have been expected.
Of the early riders, Pippa Funnell was a shock faller. She fell victim to the first gate into the Huntsman’s Close, when her first ride Viceroy II misjudged it, and Pippa fell heavily out of the side door. She retired with a sore arm, but it is hoped that she will be able to ride Cornerman later today.
Fellow Brit William Fox-Pitt seemed to be having a good ride round on Moon Man, but he turned his nose up at the bridge into the quarry (fence 29), and his rider decided enough was enough.
The Shogun Sport Turn lived up to Australian Andrew Hoy’s predictions. He was concerned yesterday that horses would have trouble seeing the definition of the ditch, and Richard Waygood’s Master Fred was the first of the horses to have trouble. He jumped into the first element, unseating his rider for the second time. Rongotai, later to go, appeared to jump into the ditch, getting trapped and sending rider Nick Turner flying.
There were several duckings this morning, with the jetty in the lake (fence 18) accounting for both Karen Dixon, whose Uptotrix lost his footing after the jump, and Emily Baldwin, who came unstuck when Welton Sparkle decided that he didn’t like the look of the jetty after an enormous leap over the brush into the water. She bravely remounted and continued but had a crashing fall over the final gate (fence 25) out of the Huntsman’s Close.
The same fence, which had not been expected to cause problems, did for Virginia McGrath, who was desperate to complete on The Yellow Earl to win an Armada Plate for five completions. The horse destroyed the fence, depositing Virginia for the second time, and causing a hold-up on the course.
Olympic long-listed Leslie Law stood absolutely no chance when Shear H2O got his back legs stuck over the hedge into the lake (fence 17b), staying in vertical position as Leslie took a splash. They retired, but not before the horse had had time for a quick swim.
Bumble Thomas coped with the conditions admirably to finish with a clear round and 21.2 time penalties to put her and The Psephologist into the lead with a total of 69.8 penalty points.
Gloucestershire-based vet James Robinson was quicker around the cross-country, but having started with more penalties after the dressage, sits tight behind Bumble with 70.8. First-timer Chris King rode an impressive round on Miss De Meena IV to end in fifth place.
Australian Megan Jones, who had been a strong Antipodean contender after the dressage, was incredibly unlucky at the Pony Club Sunken Road. She went in very cautiously, but the horse lost his footing at the bottom, and she fell over his head. She eventually completed, finishing well down the leader board.
The going on the steeplechase meant that a course change had to be made, with relevant time adjustments ensuing. The going was also taking its toll on the cross-country course, with no riders completing within the time.