The German star enjoyed a foot perfect round on La Biosthetique-Sam FBW, making a course that claimed a number of scalps look more like a novice track. He has a nine-penalty cushion going into tomorrow’s showjumping, giving him two fences in hand in his quest to become the first German rider to win Badminton and the second rider to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing.
Michael was quick to praise his brilliant long-term partner: “I know [Sam] from many years, from many tough competitions. He trusts me and listens to me and it was very nice to ride him today. It was very easy and a very good feeling. I am very proud of him.
“We are very lucky with the weather – the ground was really perfect. It was just a bit soft coming back to the white gates [from the Shogun Hollow at fence 23 to the World Horse Welfare Gates at fence 24] so I let him gallop a bit slower there, but elsewhere else the ground was perfect.”
Overnight runner-up Emily King had been riding a brilliant round on Brookleigh and was nearly in sight of the finish when she fell at the second element of the Rolex Crossing, a fence which has also claimed the scalp of her mother Mary on a previous occasion. Emily was quickly on her feet, although her understandable disappointment was clearly evident. Brookleigh was not injured.
Andreas Ostholt has moved up into second place with a clear round, picking up 5.2 time-penalties along the way. He survived a very dodgy moment at the KBIS Vicarage Vee on So Is Et, when the horse slithered over the fence, but managed to stand up on landing.
Andreas said: “I really enjoyed my ride today apart from the hairy moment at the Vicarage Vee. I was thinking ‘not today, not today, not today’ as I tried to stay on top. I may be getting older but I’m not too old to stay on!”
Gemma Tattersall leapt up the leaderboard from 16th after dressage to third overnight with a foot-perfect round four seconds inside the time from cross-country machine Arctic Soul (pictured jumping the final element at The Lake).
Gemma said: “He went out of the start like a shot gun and we jumped the first three fences like we were at Cheltenham, then I managed to settle him on the longer galloping stretches. He’s full thoroughbred and he’s got the most incredible stamina; when I asked him to he flew up the hill from the second last.”
The Vicarage Vee was the most influential fence on the course, causing 13 horses to fault with four horse falls and three more riders parting company with their mounts. A number of problems resulted from horses drifting to the left and landing on the unlevel ground at the edge of the ditch. However many other horses and riders made the question look easy, including La Biosthetique-Sam FBW and Arctic Soul.
Mark Todd is now fifth with Leonidas II – one of 11 clears inside the time – while Jock Paget has moved up to fifth with Clifton Lush. Fellow Kiwi Clarke Johnstone is sixth, while France has Astier Nicolas in sixth on Quickly Du Buguet and Gwendolen Fer in 10th on Romantic Love.
Oliver Townend is in eighth on Armada after a classy performance as pathfinder, finishing eight seconds inside the time. He had been having a good round on Black Tie until the horse clearly tired towards the end of the course. Oliver sensibly decided to pull up at fence 27/28, the Alexanders Silver Birch.
Other performances of note include Beanie Sturgis, who enjoyed a fabulous ride on the evergreen 16-year-old Lebowski to move up 40 places from equal 59th after dressage to 19th; Zara Phillips enjoyed a solid clear round on High Kingdom, picking up just six time-penalties; and Tina Cook, who had the fastest round on the day on Star Witness moving up from 42nd to 14th.
Jeanette Brakewell had been enjoying a fantastic round on Lets Dance when they had a heavy fall at the first element of the Rolex Crossing. Jeanette was momentarily stuck underneath Lets Dance, but was sitting up and talking before being taken to Southmead hospital for observation. The mare was led away.
H&H’s blogger Alice Dunsdon’s day didn’t go according to plan when Fernhill Present’s dislike of water proved to be his undoing with stops at the Wadworth Lower Lake and the Mirage Pond causing them to be eliminated. However, Alice and ‘Hilly’ have still set a new record as the first combination to contest all six four-stars around the world.
Fellow Badminton first-timer and H&H blogger Simon Grieve managed to complete the cross-country on Cornacrew, albeit with one stop at the second part of the Mirage Pond and numerous time-faults. If ‘Bozzie’ passes the trot-up tomorrow morning, Simon will be the first rider into the arena to showjump on Sunday morning.
Follow tomorrow’s showjumping action wherever you are on your smartphone, tablet or computer with H&H Live, plus don’t miss our full H&H magazine next week (12 May issue) for our full 24-page report including columns from Carl Hester, William Fox-Pitt and Mark Phillips.