Oliver Townend (pictured) put in a cool clear cross-country round inside the time to take the lead at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials this afternoon.
Oliver was the last competitor with Flint Curtis, third after dressage. He knew before he set out that dressage runner-up Lucy Wiegersma had had 0.8 time-penalties, so he could go ahead of her, and heard over the loudspeaker as he approached the Mitsubishi Quarry that the Belgian overnight leader Karin Donckers had also moved down with time-penalties.
“I knew then I just had to jump the last three fences and I was ok,” he said.
“It was one of the most thrilling rides I’ve had on him, partly because of the build-up, but also because he travelled so well. It was lovely to come into the main arena with 15 seconds to spare and not feel I was kicking and shunting to the line as I have been sometimes.”
Listen to Oliver Townend’s interview
Lucy Wiegersma holds second — on the same score as Oliver, 40.5 — with Shaabrak.
“The horse went very well, but he gave me a bit of a rough ride,” she said. “He was more wild at the start than he’s ever been and was pulling me into the fences so I had to really sit into him, which is a technique I normally employ at the end of the course when the jumping gets a bit ragged.”
Listen to Lucy Wiegersma’s interview
Italian Badminton first-timer Roberto Rotatori is in third after a clear round inside the time with Della Malaspina Irham De Viages.
“This horse is very easy in the cross-country and it was easy for him,” he said modestly.
Zara Phillips had a miserable day, which started when she had to pull up her first ride, Ardfield Magic Star, who went lame on course. Then Toytown (ninth after dressage) left a leg at the flower bed out of the HSBC FEI Classics Sunken Road, tried to chip in an extra stride to the final flower bed and crashed out through the side of it. Zara then retired him.
Matthew Wright also lost a chance of a good place when If You Want II stopped at the corner in the Irish Sport Horse Studbook Huntsman’s Close and fired Matthew off.
The only rider who needed to go to hospital was Penny Lawn — she was airlifted to Frenchay for observation after suffering a bang to the head when she flew off as Southway ran out at the skinny at the bottom of the Alterian Hillside.
The final horse inspection tomorrow is at 9am, after which the competitors go forward to the show jumping.
RESULTS AFTER CROSS-COUNTRY
1. Oliver Townend on Flint Curtis (GBR) 40.5
2. Lucy Wiegersma on Shaabrak (GBR) 40.5
3. Roberto Rotatori on Irham De Viages (ITA) 43.7
4. William Fox-Pitt on Idalgo (GBR) 45.2
5. Karin Donckers on Gazelle De La Brasserie (BEL) 45.2
6. Ruth Edge on Mayhem III (GBR) 45.4
Log back on to www.horseandhound.co.uk later for a blog from H&H acting editor Jaki Bell. And we’ll be back tomorrow with reports after the trot-up and at the end of the competition, plus Dee Kennedy’s final audio blog.
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.