Is this going to go down as one of the greatest Badminton’s of all time? With some spine tingling displays in the dressage, out pourings of emotion from riders and one hell of a cross country day, Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials 2017 is shaping up to be one of the greatest 4* competitions we’ve seen in some time.
With the dressage leaderboard receiving a major shakeup, this new Eric Winter track has created a proper eventing test, with all three phases looking to be very influential.
With dressage leader Chris Burton being one of many to fall foul to the Hildon Water Pond at 15, Graf Liberty falls 18 places down the leaderboard to sit just inside the top 20 in 19th.
Ingrid Klimke moves into the top spot, going into the third and final phase, with Horseware Hale Bob OLD, following a near perfect round across the country, accruing just 3.2 time to leave them on a two phase score of 39.6. Ever the gracious rider, Ingrid was quick to praise her fellow podium sitters, countryman Michael Jung and Andrew Nicholson.
“Firstly I want to thank these two guys, as I walked the course with Andrew and he really helped me a lot, and then I watched Michi, so went back and thought that’s how to do it.”
Despite making this challenging track look much more straight forward than the results would suggest, Ingrid added – “the course was tough and we really had to ride it…it was a real pleasure to ride him.”
Just 0.4 of a penalty splits the two leading German riders, with reigning Olympic, European, Badminton, Rolex and Rolex Grand Slam winner Michael Jung now sitting in 2nd place after an incredible round on La Biosthetique Sam FBW to be the first combination to complete within the time.
“That was a really tough course” added Michael in the end of day press conference, “It was one tough question after the next. It was very important to have every fence very correct and that you had a positive feeling from one to the next.”
Making it one of the tights Badminton final days for some time, Andrew Nicholson and Nereo edge ever closer to that elusive Badminton win, sitting just 0.4 behind Jung and 0.8 behind leader Ingrid Klimke, adding just 2.4 time penalties to move them up from 5th after the dressage.
“I thought walking it, it was a very good course. The sort of course you have to sit on your backside and work” commented Andrew. “We’ve had some courses at big events where experienced riders on experiences horses could glide around but here you had to work from fence 2.”
Class performance from Rosalind Canter and Allstar B see them move from 20th place after the dressage into 6th, going into the final phase and currently best British rider. However Oliver Townend, initially seeming to have a very below par Badminton, moves up 40 places with ODT Ghareeb following a flying cross country, adding just 5.2 time, to sit in 7th. Part time farrier, Alex Bragg remains in contention in 8th with British bred Zagreb.
It is all change at the top of the #MMBHT leaderboard and what a day of eventing dressage it has been
First came the lady from Belgium - Karin Donckers and Fletcha Van 'T' Verahof to produce a sublime test to take the lead on score of 37.3. With previous great form and an expectation for a good test it was no surprise for many to see Karin take the early Friday lead.
Then came Jonty - one of the nicest men in eventing riding, the most sensational horse, Cooley Rorkes Drift. The highest placed Irish pair from Rio rode the tests of their lives, much to the jubilation of the on looking crowd. A confirmed score of 37.2 moved them .1 ahead of Karin Donckers to take the temporary lead. A fist pump to the air signalling the shear delight from this superstar pairing.
"I'm delighted with him and he tried so hard and its so good to do it in the right place. I saw 8, 8, 7 on the score board and thought that was reasonably good and it gets you going...He generally loves the cross country, he gallops and he jumps, we've really worked hard on that since Rio."
Ingrid Klimke - no stranger to being a dressage leader didn't disappoint either. She made
Jonty's lead very short lived and blew the judges away with a 36.4 from Horseware Hale Bob OLD. This pair were very much expected to take the lead into the jumping phases. however what happened next was a bit more of a shock.
"It's always a big dream and big hope, but im not the only one who wants to lift the trophy... I totally trust him and really look forward to tomorrow. Plan A is to go straight everywhere and get the time. Luckily im late to go so I can see how everything is riding. This is not a dressage competition for sure."
Chris Burton - the reigning Land Rover Burghley champion and Olympic Bronze medalist, aboard Graf Liberty produced the 3rd best Badminton test in history for 32.9, making it the best Badminton test of the decade! Renowned for being quick across the country and a phenomenal cross country rider, all eyes now firmly turn to the British based Aussie.
"He's done good tests before but, I knew it was in him but didn’t think it would be today at Badminton. At 4* the time is always tough. I think he's done a great job, I really do. It’s the sort of course where you are scared of every fence but I think you can see a way through every fence."
Dressage day 1, typically the day where those with multiple rides opt to bring forward their secondary horse, acting as their on path finder, also typically a day where we see lower percentage scores than on Day 2.
Tests were not without some level of drama, with Sir Mark Todd and Austin O'Connor, both Olympians and 4* regulars, picking up errors of course for halting in the wrong place on the final centreline. Sir Mark produced a near personal best score with Leonidas as 4* level, giving them a 42.9 to sit in 5th place over night. A pair with phenomenal form across the country and in the show jumping, these wouldn't be ones to write off just yet. For Irish Olympian Austin O'Connor it was a first 4* test for, Wendie Foster's, Kilpatrick Knight and a great performance for them. A strong test that delivered them a 45.8 to slot into 12th place overnight. Speaking to us after his test Austin added:
"He’s a lovely horse, he’s a bit quirky and takes a bit of working but its all about getting the balance and also not working too much. We’re really pleased with his performance today.”
Further PBs came from Sarah Ennie and Horseware Stellor Rebound with a score of 45.4, Tom McEwen and Toledo De Kerser produced a new PB of 44.6 leaving them in equal 6th overnight and equal highest placed British rider with Alex Bragg. Tom and Toledo have only ever had 1 pole down in the show jumping in the whole of their international career - these will be a pair to keep an eye on in the jumping phases.
As Equiratings predicted it was not Michael Jung in pole position after day one, the Rolex Grand Slam, among many other accolades, winner produced a 40 dressage with La Biosthetique Sam FBW. Still a very strong performance but not one to push the leaders at the moment. However let's not forget that he sat on a 40.9 dressage in Rio and was 5th after dressage ...he still went on to win Gold!
As expected Bettina Hoy and Designer 10 produced a stunning and well polished test for 39.2 to sit in overnight second. Bettina and Designer picked up 12 faults in the final phase at Badminton last year along with a number of time faults.
To the Day 1 overnight leader - Thibaut Vallette - the one that sent hearts racing with his rather cashing French Military uniform (because who doesn't like a man in uniform), set the pace with a 38.7 in only their second 4* - the first being the Rio Olympics. Not a unanimous leader from the judges with Anne-Mette Binder from Denmark, our judge at E, only awarding him 72.86% which would have had him in 3rd behind Bettina and Michael. With very few previous international appearances to take a lead from, it will be interesting to see how this pair in Saturday's cross country phase.
Will Friday's dressage produce us a new leader...we think it will!
High fashion and high drama were top billing on Badminton Wednesday with the CCI**** first horse inspection. Taking more of a centre stage than it ever used to the trot ups have become the equestrian world's focal runway. With riders not only conscious of an 'accepted' announcement but also a best dressed award, the 4* jog has quickly become a the 4th phase, or should that be the 1st phase of the competition.
High drama ensued as Olympic Gold and Silver medallist Asiter Nicolas and Piaf De Beneville were sent to the holding box, closely followed by Laura Collett and Grand Manoeuvre. With gasps from the crowd and murmers in the media enclosure both horses were later represented and accepted.
Laura as usual looked resplendent in her Holland Cooper, Cooper Tweed Cape in Camel, paired with the newly launched Fairfax & Favor Amira boots. Trot up style at its most classic.
Another opting for the sensible yet stylish option of the Fairfax & Favor boots (this time the classic Regina), this time opting for the Beauchamp Blazer from Sporting Hares.
An array ofr suited and booted male riders looked more 5* than 4*, however the appearance of denim jeans for such an occasion still doesn't hit the spot for our team. There is something about a sharp cut suit, or chinos and jacket that look the part for this big occasion, leaving a standard pair jeans to look a little too low key.
This year's trot up saw HiHo Silver sponsor the best dressed prize, awarding it to Badminton first timer, Danielle Dunn, sporting a bespoke creation by Helena Smith of Charleston Couture, made especially for the occasion.