There were plenty of world-class combinations battling it out on the final day of dressage at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials today (3 May), but the only rider to get close to the top of the leaderboard was the man already sitting at the top of it.
Oliver Townend posted a beautiful test on his 2017 Burghley winner, Ballaghmor Class (pictured top), complete with three 10s — one for a halt before the rein-back and two for the final halt — with just with just the final flying-change earning him the lowest marks of the test; two sixes. They scored 21.1, which leaves them 1.4 penalties adrift of his other horse, Cilnabradden Evo, who holds onto his early lead on a record-breaking score of 19.7.
“I’m over the moon with both of my horses and it’s a very good start,” said Oliver. “Ballaghmor Class won Burghley as a novice — we were still putting the flying-changes into him at that event — and now he is becoming more established. He is beautiful to ride and both of my horses have an amazing work ethic.”
Tom McEwen, who performed his dressage yesterday afternoon with the classy Toldedo De Kerser, now sits in third on a score of 24.7, five penalties adrift of the leader, with Piggy French, who also went yesterday, in fourth with Vanir Kamira on 26.
One of the last to go in the dressage was Pippa Funnell. Riding Nicholas and Barbara Walkinshaw’s 10-year-old Billy Walk On. They scored 26.5, which was good enough for fifth.
“I’m really delighted with him,” said Pippa. “He has been so beautiful here all week and I was nervous I might have under-done the work I’ve done with him here because of how good he’s been. I thought ‘oh no’ when we were going around the outside of the arena before we went in as he became a little spooky, but as soon as he got inside the white boards, he took a breath and let me ride him. I rode boldly to give him confidence and it’s so exciting, because he’s still not produced the quality of work he has been producing at home.”
Fifth, sixth and seventh are all occupied with horses that are Badminton first-timers — Kitty King is fifth with Vendredi Biats (27.2), Millie Dumas sixth with Artistiek (27.3) and Laura Colllett seventh with Mr Bass (27.6).
Other notable combinations to compete this afternoon included Tina Cook, who went into equal 11th with Billy The Red on a score of 28.1. This was a score also matched by Chris Burton and the second of his rides — the other being Graf Liberty, who is ninth on 27.7 — on Cooley Lands. Izzy Taylor is now equal 13th on Springpower on 29.2 and Kai Ruder (Colani Sunrise) and Tim Price (Ringwood Sky Boy) share 15th on 30.1.
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Just 8.1 penalties separate the top 10 and the general consensus among riders is that tomorrow will prove this won’t be a dressage competition.
The cross-country gets underway at 11.30am.
Read our full Badminton form guide in this week’s issue of Horse & Hound (issue dated 2 May 2019).
Our bumper 25-page Badminton report will be in our 9 May issue, including opinion from Mark Phillips and Peter Storr.