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‘We nearly gave up with him’: speed master rockets into lead after Badminton cross-country round


  • Ireland’s Sarah Ennis blitzed around the Eric Winter-designed 2024 Mars Badminton Horse Trials cross-country track with Grantstown Jackson to jump into the lead with the fastest of the day so far, eight seconds over the optimum time of 11min16sec. They were 42nd after the dressage, but their speedy round has propelled them to the top spot at this stage of cross-country day.

    “He lived up to his reputation after the European Eventing Championships last year where he clocked the fastest time,” explained Sarah of the 13-year-old gelding, owned by Peter Cole and Susanne Francke. “We couldn’t have gone any faster today but he burst out there and tried.

    “I was on it everywhere and he made it feel so easy. I took a planned long route at fence 18 and that is where we lost our time, but what a cross-country machine, he’s incredible. He’s so light and I never felt him struggle with the ground and he just kept going.

    “We nearly gave up with him as an 11-year-old, but decided to take him to Boekelo CCI4*-L and if he went well we would continue with him, but stop if not. He obviously wanted to keep going though as we jumped double clear! He loves jumping and is 80% thoroughbred, out of a thoroughbred dam.

    “He took a long time to mature and now he is the ultimate machine. So I say to people out there who think that it’s not working to actually hang on in there, especially with Irish horses – they get better and better and better –it’s unreal.

    “He’s like Forrest Gump and just wants to run.”

    Sarah was two seconds up on the clock when she opted to take the long route at the final part of fence 17AB/18 at the Mars Sustainability Bay, which is worth noting for later rounds.

    Georgie Goss (née Spence), who rides for Ireland, enjoyed a great Badminton Horse Trials cross-country clear round with Feloupe, with whom she was equal eighth after the dressage. They added 32 time-faults to their 30.6 dressage.

    Georgie was lucky at fence 15ABC, the LeMieux Eyelashes, where the mare was clever to chip in an extra stride to get over the C element. She then, as many others have, took the long route out over the log at fence 18, the Mars Sustainability Bay. An eighth Badminton completion is on the horizon for Georgie, who had a baby last year.

    “She was an absolute star and pulled it out the bag for me,” said a delighted Georgie. “Even when she was green, she looked for the flags.

    “At least I went clear so no one can say I’ve lost it since having a baby! She’s done herself proud with a good dressage and an amazing clear across country, plus she’s a super jumper.”

    Fan favourites Alice Casburn and Topspin retired before The Lake following two earlier refusals on course.

    Topspin, who had been 30th after dressage, chipped in at fence B of the Quarry and left a knee, which caused Alice to lose a stirrup but the horse found a leg to get them out of trouble. The gelding then stopped going into the top of The Lake at fence nine, the Lightsource bp Log, so Alice opted to retire after jumping it clear on her second attempt.

    The USA’s Meghan O’Donoghue got close to the A element of fence 20ABC, the INEOS Grenadier Sunken Road, which ultimately unshipped her from the saddle of Palm Crescent.

    France’s Gaspard Maksud activated the frangible device at the final element of the Voltaire Design Huntsman’s Close. The first element of the Mars Badminton Lake then also fell when the frangible device was activated, at which point Gaspard opted to retire.

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