Vitali, a 13-year-old gelding who is owned by Joseph and Alexander Giannamore, banked the first part of the Irish Horse Board Bank at 17, but Tim quickly picked him up and he recovered well to clear the second part and was quickly back into his stride.
“I didn’t have an ideal shot to the fence and I thought it [banking the fence] could happen, but I hoped I could stay on board while it did,” Tim said. “While this horse has given me some amazing rides over the years, today he wasn’t taking me the same as he usually does. Horses are not machines. So, I had to revise my plan a bit. He never lost his jump the whole way around, though, and he stayed very classy with his action.
“I went into survival mode three minutes in, and I was so proud of him and how he tried all the way home.”
While Tim currently holds the lead, his time-faults mean either Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser or Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class could take the lead if they jump clear and finish inside the time.
Padraig McCarthy’s own and the Chaffe’s HHS Noble Call soared around the course on their second attempt. Padraig, 19th here last year with the horse, moved into 11th after his 2023 Burghley Horse Trials cross-country performance.
Five-star debutante Emma Thomas, 23, and Rebecca Velarde’s 10-year-old Icarus X jumped a brilliant clear round together, finishing with 21.6 time-penalties. Emma was emotional after her dressage test, and today’s result produced a similar reaction.
“I feel like I don’t have any arms left as he was so strong, but I can’t believe we’ve gone clear around our first five-star event,” said Emma. “He can’t be in the cross-country warm-up before he jumps as he gets so, so excited. He has to warm-up somewhere else, and I have to walk up to the start box with no rein contact. I can’t be in the box for more than 15 seconds. He was towing me around today, but we did it.”
Fellow five-star first-timer Tom Bird, who is the youngest competitor on the field at 21, gave his own and his uncle David Kerry’s upstanding grey Rebel Rhyme a great ride. They jumped to the wrong side of the flag on the final part of the Leat Pit, which they then corrected, and they went well thereafter to come home safely with 33.2 time-faults.
“He was epic from start to finish,” Tom said. “He was held at the start which isn’t ideal for him as he can get hot, but I couldn’t fault him. I am indebted to everyone who has helped us get here.”
London Olympian Tiana Coudray made the save of the day when her own Cancaras Girl, a 13-year-old mare who was ninth at Bramham last year, laboured over the second part of the Leaf Pit. Tiana fell onto the mare’s neck, causing her air jacket to go off, but she quickly sat back into the saddle and carried on. However, it wasn’t to be their day as they parted company later on course at The Irish Horse Board Bank.
Julia Norman and Ardeo Berlin were clear until they were pulled up by the officials at fence 25 so the horse could undergo a veterinary check for blood.
End of day update: Tim Price and Vitali are still in first, Padraig McCarthy and HHS Noble Call are in 18th spot, Emma Thomas and Icarus X finished the day in 23rd, and Tom Bird and Rebel Rhyme are in 33rd.
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