‘I had to suck it up and be brave’: risk pays off for top rider who heads Badminton leaderboard

  • Tim Price has moved up to pole position on the leaderboard at the Mars Badminton Horse Trials after cross-country, thanks to an impeccably judged round.

    Tim was defending third place on Vitali, and by the time he went cross-country he could move into the lead with a fast clear. Ahead of him, the leader Ros Canter had retired Izilot DHI at the Lake, while Bubby Upton broke a frangible and had 15.6 time-faults. Tim now has 1.3 penalties in hand over William Fox-Pitt and Grafennacht, though Caroline Powell could yet go ahead of him on Greenacres Special Cavalier, seventh after dressage.

    Vitali is a nimble horse who was one of the few to go direct at the angled log at the Mars Sustainability Bay, and the risk paid off as he was just 10sec over for four time-penalties. In fact, that direct route barely looked like a risk, as Vitali took the sharply angled element easily in his stride while some other horses have made it look awkward.

    “He’s a class horse and he’s getting better with age,” said Tim. “You have a job with these fences and a horse to look after in terms of stamina, but ultimately we need to be clear and fast, and there were a couple of moments I had to suck it up and be a bit brave. He gave me everything – he thought on his feet.”

    Tim has not given himself much leeway over his pursuers if he does manage to hold on to the lead, especially on a horse that is not renowned for his showjumping reliability.

    “I think he’s an all-round event horse although he hasn’t yet shown it in all three phases,” said Tim. “He’s buzzing with fitness which I think cost me a few marks on the flat, but maybe it will help me tomorrow. I have got a plan.”

    Emily King nails first Badminton Horse Trials cross-country completion

    Emily King, 28, was lying fifth on Valmy Biats after dressage but were on a quest for their first Badminton completion. The horse looked to start off slightly deliberate but by the time he got to the LeMieux Eyelash Brushes, he was flying. The 15-year-old French-bred gelding made these huge jumps look straightforward and finished full of running for 8.4 time-faults.

    “He was amazing!” Emily said. “He felt mega on it from the start. I wanted to be up on my minute markers but not interfere with my fences because he’s so bold. He’s been galloping in sticky going back at home, so he’s used to it and he’s so fit. I think he’s been within himself, rather than halfway round finding it a bit tiring.

    “I didn’t ride what I planned in Huntman’s and he saved me there. That was a proper wake-up call, I thought I can’t trust my eye to take [a stride] less so I need to add if need be. Then I helped him out at other places, which I don’t always do, so I am so pleased. I have to be a touch cautious, holding his balance, while trying to go quick.

    “It doesn’t feel like it’s real – everyone works so hard just to get here, so to finish and have a good round is just what you dream about. I’m so proud of Valmy.”

    Kiwi rider Jesse Campbell put in a lovely Badminton Horse Trials cross-country round on Cooley Lafitte. The horse tired a little in the last third of the course, and Jesse nursed him home to clock 10.8 time-faults.

    “The horse dug so deep for me,” he said. “I felt like I couldn’t see a distance, but the horse tried incredibly hard over a tough course. I had to go the direct route [at the Mars Equestrian Sustainability Bay] because where would I be with 25 time-faults?

    “I think the ground held up well – the tired horses are the end are more mentally tired.”

    Felicity Collins, 26, typically puts in super jumping rounds with her great cross-country course RSH Contend OR, but it didn’t go well for her on this occasion. Felicity found herself on a long stride at the final corner in Huntsman’s Close, and the fence came down and she pulled up.

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