Oliver Townend maintained his early Thursday dressage lead on day one of the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials today (2 May). Riding Cillnabradden Evo (pictured below), owned by Sally-Ann Eggerton, the 13-year-old scored a record-breaking 19.7 in the first phase, which gives him a comfortable lead at the halfway stage of dressage competition.
“I’ve had this horse a while and I know him inside out,” said Oliver. “So far, so good.”
Oliver’s new Badminton record beats the one set by Andrew Hoy in 2000 aboard Darien Powers when they scored 20.5.
Tom McEwen put in a very polished performance aboard his 2018 World Equestrian Games team gold medal-winning horse, Toledo De Kerser (pictured top). They are five penalties adrift of Oliver, on a score of 24.7.
“He was awesome in there,” Tom said of the 12-year-old, owned by Jane Inns, Ali McEwen and Fred and Penny Barker. “That’s roughly where his work is at the moment and I couldn’t have asked for any more. His work has more quality now so I can go for those higher marks.”
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Completing the British 1-2-3 is Piggy French, riding Trevor Dickens’ mare, Vanir Kamira. They posted a score of 26.
“I’ll take that score!” said Piggy. “I’m really proud of her and I must say thank you to my sister, Nini, who did all the work with her while I was competing in Kentucky. Vanir Kamira isn’t the easiest as she’s hot and tricky, so Nini has done an amazing job — fair play to her for getting her to Badminton in this form. She is always a bit hot and insecure here and always feels distracted, but she was focussed today and stayed with me.”
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Kitty King was very emotional after her test with 10-year-old Badminton first-timer Vendredi Biats, which left them on 27.3, which is good enough for fourth at this stage.
“He had a good old spook when we came in at one of the cameras and he put his back up and I thought ‘oh God, here we go’ as usually I never get him back with me after one of those moments,” explained Kitty. “Although he got a little tight each time we went into that corner, he stayed with me.”
Badminton first-timers Millie Dumas and Artistiek round off the top five with a score of 27.3.
“I’m over the moon,” said 26-year-old Millie. “He’s been wild all week so I was worried how he would react in the arena, but he was really good. He doesn’t give you a huge amount of confidence at home as he’s so spooky, but he was with me the whole way in the ring today.”
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The top 10 competitors are separated by 11.3 penalties. Chris Burton (Graf Liberty) is sixth, William Fox-Pitt (Little Fire) is seventh, Pietro Sandei (Rubis De Prere) is eighth and Pippa Funnell (Majas Hope) and Izzy Taylor (Call Me Maggie May) share ninth.
The second day of dressage commences tomorrow morning at 9.30am.
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 dressage news and rider’s thoughts on the cross-country course