‘I’m gutted for him because he gave me his all’: cross-country blip drops Bubby Upton down the Badminton leaderboard

  • Bubby Upton was defending second position, protecting a dressage score of 27.3, as she set out on the Mars Badminton Horse Trials cross-country course on her long-term partner Cola. This is a lovely partnership to watch across the country, Bubby riding with a loose rein, no martingale and the pair seemingly thinking as one. But though Cola is such a careful jumper, he misjudged the stride coming into the Agria Silver Birch Rails and they activated the frangible device, adding 11pen.

    After that Bubby seemed to nurse Cola home, but he continued to jump well right to the finish. This completion represents a massive moment in Bubby’s recovery from serious injury last year, and while there may have been slight disappointment to slip down the leaderboard, she looked elated with her horse, pointing to him to give him the credit as she went through the finish flags.

    “I’m so proud of my horse, he never fails to give me his all,” said Bubby. “It was so unbelievably tough out there. I had to work hard which is rare on that horse. I’m gutted for him about the pin because he was faultless; he just chipped in at the last minute and didn’t quite read it. I’m sad for him because it’s not a reflection on how hard he tried.

    “I’ve never felt him that tired, he’s a cross-country horse through and through but he never gave up on me. It’s the hardest ride I’ve ever had. It’s an incredible course and Eric Winter’s an amazing course-builder, but it was tough, even tougher than last year.”

    Swiss rider blasts into lead at Badminton Horse Trials cross-country

    The best round of the first raft of riders came from Swiss rider Felix Vogg, who was lying 15th after dressage on his Luhmühlen winner Cartania. This neat little mare was catlike all the way round, flicking up her back legs over the tricky log element at the Holland Cooper Vicarage Vee. They finished with 10.8 time-faults.

    “I am sitting on a really good mare, I knew she would handle it after last year, but this year it’s a totally different course,” said Felix. “It’s a long time since there’s been a Swiss winner, and last year I was the first in over 50 years just to finish here. To win is a milestone, but I don’t think we’re close to that yet.”

    Zara Tindall wasn’t in a competitive position after dressage, in 48th, but she put in a great Badminton Horse Trials cross-country round to finish clear with 18.4 time-faults.

    “He’s such a good jumper but he’s tricky and comes on and off the bridle, I’m like ‘not now!’ He’s got loads of scope as he’s only a little horse. I had to work hard, but when you get it done it’s such an achievement,” she said.

    Zara added that the ground is a factor.

    “The ground is dead, it looks fine but the horses aren’t bouncing off it,” she said. “I had to fight for it but I did enjoy it at the end. My horse hates people so galloping around in front of all these people is another thing!”

    Sam Watson was tipped for a fast time on SAP Talisman having finished 1sec over the time at Burghley. However, he rubbed his tummy on the palisade going into the Mars Badminton Lake, and activated the MIM system on this new deformable device, incurring 11pen.

    He then chanced the tricky direct route at the final log element of the Mars Sustainability Bay (fence 18). At this stage, no one else had yet attempted this without turning a circle before this separately numbered fence, but it didn’t look comfortable, and he later had another 11pen at the Holland Cooper Vicarage Vee. He went on to complete, a minute over the time.

    “Thank God for the pins, they save me from making bad decisions,” said Sam. “I got greedy at the lake. I had a strong Burghley round behind me and I saw an opportunity, [but] I was too aggressive at the lake. The horse got me out of the trouble, the pins got me out of trouble. I’m lucky and I’m proud of the horse.”

    Max Warburton’s bid from equal 10th place came to an early end when Monbeg Exclusive ran out the final corner at Voltaire Design Huntsman’s Close (fence 7), and had a second drive-by at the LeMieux Eyelash Brushes (fence 15).

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