Nereo has made Andrew Nicholson’s first Badminton trophy look like a real possibility while rival William Fox-Pitt is right behind him putting pressure on the Kiwi to be faultless over the coloured rails.
“I will go home tonight where the children will bring me back to reality. I’ll be talking about real life problems like what the chickens have been doing so I’ll not be worrying about eventing until tomorrow,” said Andrew.
Going early in the day meant Andrew had only seen a handful of riders go – most going clear and Ireland’s Joseph Murphy showing that returning home penalty free was a real possibility.
“I knew it was riding well and Nereo is a class horse so as long as I did everything right chances were he would too,” Andrew said.
William had longer to wait as he set off with just nine out of the eighty competitors to follow him. By the time William set off only ten had returned home inside the time.
“I watched a few go this morning and didn’t understand why some of them were struggling with the time so much. I saw Joseph Murphy make it look quite easy so I thought more people would get the time,” said William.
Chilli Morning looked classy the entire way.
“He was a bit feisty but that is when Chilli is at his best. In the start box I thought this is your chance so you have to nail it. He cantered well and I was easing him up at the end which I hadn’t expected to be,” said William.
Scores are tight at the top with the top five competitors all within a fence. Armada gave Oliver Townend another super ride around Badminton and will show jump 1.8 marks behind William.
“He jumped the first fence and ran off with me down the hill out of the arena. He felt extremely keen and fence 2 and 3 felt really special, something I won’t ever feel on another horse,” said Oliver.
The crowd favourite chestnut is a full brother to Nereo,
“I let Armada take control over the softer fences to try to get him to back off a little bit which meant that we had a few jumps that didn’t feel or look that great,” said Oliver.
Ingird Klimke set out meaning business on Horseware Hale Bob and finished four seconds inside the time despite nearly colliding with a car.
“There was a car on the track which I nearly had to jump by the stables but it moved just in time. My horse was full of confidence even though they were big fences but I think the size really motivated horses. We had a sticky moment where we differed on which stride we were going on but he’s a great jumper so it didn’t matter too much,” said Ingrid.
Jock Paget and Clifton Lush finish cross country day 4.1 – just over a fence – behind Andrew and Nereo.
“I’d like to do well for the owners, they’re two really good horses and we had a great draw today,” said Jock.
A clear from Clifton Lush tomorrow would put some serious pressure on the top five tomorrow.
Paul Tapner kicked off the day on Kilronan and didn’t quite manage to beat the clock adding 5.6 penalties to his dressage score, something the Aussie rider was not going to do twice. He kicked his second ride Indian Mill on the whole way. The dark bay gelding will show jump from sixth on his 41.9 dressage score.
“I’m positive there is a four star win in this horse he is pure class,” said Paul.
Andrew Nicholson sits in seventh on Calico Joe, the only thoroughbred still on Andrew’s Marlborough yard.
“Being thoroughbred means that he might not jump like the others but in between fences he is incredible. He glides and does the same speed turning and going straight,” said Andrew.
Bettina Hoy is in eighth overnight with Designer 10.
“He was just amazing even though he has never jumped anything that big. I don’t think I have gone that fast for ages. He stumbled jumping into the lake but I just kept kicking,” said Bettina.
Mark Todd and Leonidas II will show jump for ninth while Jock Paget’s second ride Clifton Promise completes the top ten.
Following last year’s cross country carnage some riders thought the course was on the softer side.
Course designer Giuseppe Della Chiesa said: “I had last year in the back of my mind but riders like William, Andrew and Oliver made it look easy, that is what I wanted. I am really pleased with how it rode, exactly as I thought it would. The pictures are great, the atmosphere was perfect and as we learnt last year the conditions can change everything so quickly.”
The riders were complimentary of the course. William Fox-Pitt concluded:
Report Natalie Clark
Photographs Courtesy of Dave Murray