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!