With the Eric Winter-designed cross-country track at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials proving influential today (4 May), the leaderboard has undergone a complete re-shuffle.
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Piggy French leads the way at this stage after a great round aboard the 14-year-old mare, Vanir Kamira. The pair stopped the clock just two seconds over the 11min 45sec optimum time, to finish on a score of 26.8.
“She’s amazing and such a game little mare,” said Piggy. “She really comes into her own at Badminton and Burghley — at one-day open intermediate level she doesn’t feel like she has any scope and doesn’t give you any confidence, but she comes here and feels like a completely different horse.”
Australia’s Chris Burton is the only rider to finish with no time-penalties so far, stopping the clock bang on the optimum time with Graf Liberty. They sit just .9 of a penalty behind Piggy, and are second.
“I’m lucky really as my horse make my job very easy,” admitted Chris. “”He’s very manoeuvrable and goes in just a snaffle. I couldn’t believe how full of running he was at the end — whenever I wanted him to, he galloped away easily.”
Dressage leaders Oliver Townend and Cillnabradden Evo were clear but 31 seconds over the time and now sit in third on a score of 32.1.
“He got the trip, which no one believed he would and I could not be happier for my team and his owner Sally-Anne Eggington,” said Oliver. “He was very, very good and genuine. He emptied out towards the end but he still came home quick as I looked after him all the way round.”
William Fox-Pitt is fourth at the moment with Badminton first-timer, Little Fire. They added 14 time-faults to their 29.2 dressage and sit 14 penalties adrift of Piggy.
“I’m dead chuffed and he was jolly good,” said William. “He’s the reason I’m still going and why I’m still dreaming — anyone could ride him.”
Clare Abbott is fifth with Euro Prince (42.2), while New Zealand’s Jesse Campbell is sixth with Cleveland (43.).
Tom McEwen and Toledo De Kerser, who were third after the dressage have dropped down to seventh at the moment after incurring 11 penalties for a broken frangible pin. They landed on the back of the triple bar jumping out of the bottom of The Lake and also added 8.8 time-faults.
“It was a multitude of small errors — 11 penalties is 11 penalties, it’s just one of those things,” said Tom, who also added there was confusion over his start time and that the clock had already started by the time he got into the main arena to leave the start box. He is unsure if he will appeal the time at the time of writing.
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The cross-country continues and the last horse is due to leave the start box at 4.46pm.
Pick up this week’s magazine (dated 2 May) for the full H&H Badminton form guide and check back to the H&H website for more cross-country news.