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It was a drama-filled day right until the bitter end at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials today (6 May).

Ingrid Klimke just managed to hold onto her lead, albeit a narrow one, riding Horseware Hale Bob OLD after a faultless round. The pair added 3.6 time-faults to finish on a score of 39.6.

“We were flying,” said a delighted Ingrid. “I sometimes just had to say wait to ‘Bobby’ to make sure we got the job done, but he galloped to the end and it was pure fun — he really loves it.”

Ingrid Klimke and Horseware Hale Bob OLD

Nipping at Ingrid’s heels is fellow German and defending Badminton champion Michael Jung, who was the first to go inside the optimum time. Riding La Biosthetique-Sam FBW, the pair completed the course with two seconds to spare, finishing on their dressage score of 40.

“Sam is an amazing horse. I was nervous about how everything would work but he is so trusting in me,” said Michael. “He was strong at the start, but settled after The Lake at fence eight. He was a bit tired after fence 21, but I said ‘come on’ and at the end he felt as fresh as he did in the first minute of the course.”

The last combination on course was Andrew Nicholson riding the super-experienced 17-year-old Nereo. He stormed around the influential Eric Winter-designed track and the crowd willed him on at the end to beat the clock, but they finished six seconds over the optimum time and slotted in behind Michael on a score of 40.4 — just one cross-country time-fault behind the German, and two behind Ingrid.

“Nereo was unbelievable — it’s just my job to stay focused and every now and then I pull or kick,” explained the New Zealander. “The course was nice to ride, but Nereo was telling me he was going at the best speed he could — he knows when there’s big crowds that the cross-country isn’t just going to be a six-minute track so he preserves himself.”

Only two horses made the optimum time, the second being Tim Price and Xavier Faer from New Zealand, who finished one second inside.

“The course wasn’t for the faint-hearted, but my guy has a big gallop and was awesome,” said a delighted Tim.

Ros Canter is best of the Brits in sixth place riding Allstar B. The pair posted a polished cross-country round, just 14 seconds over the optimum time, and are on a score of 54.5.

“I’m sat on one of the best cross-country horses in the world — he’s brave and a good jumper,” said Ros.

Ros Canter and Allstar B

Oliver Townend is in seventh with ODT Ghareeb, while first-timer Alex Bragg, who was third out on course this morning, lies in eighth place with Zagreb.

Dressage leader Chris Burton stopped at the final part of the Hildon Water Pond, an angled, narrow log, marring an otherwise smart round on Graf Liberty.

“He jumped so well but everything happens so quickly,” said Chris. “It will have been a good experience for him though and he has a four-star win in him.”

Jonty Evans, who was in third place after the dressage, had a run-out at the second corner at fence 21, which put paid to his chances.

The Irishman said: “It’s such a shame as my horse has an impeccable record. It was my fault but we’ll be back for another go.”

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There were 49 cross-country completions from 81 starters, with 32 clear jumping rounds.

Emily Gilruth was airlifted to South Meade hospital for further investigation after a fall with Topwood Beau at fence three.

Shanghai Joe ridden by Shane Rose from Australia has suffered an injury to a forelimb. The incident occurred after Shane fell from his horse at fence 19. Shanghai Joe then galloped loose and slipped on a gravel path at the entrance to the stables.

A statement from Badminton said: “He has been stabilised at the event’s veterinary centre by an orthopaedic specialist before being transferred to Breadstone Veterinary Hospital for further treatment.”

A separate statement from Badminton read: “Rider number 60, Elisa Wallace (USA) riding Simply Priceless was interviewed by the ground jury and sanctioned with a yellow card under article 526.1 — abuse of the horse, following her fall at the last fence. Neither horse nor rider were injured in the fall.”

Don’t miss this week’s H&H (out now), which includes a 16-page Badminton pull-out with full form guide and more. Next week’s H&H (out on Thursday 11 May) will have comprehensive 25-page Badminton report, bringing you all of the news, analysis and statistics.