A polished performance saw the German score an impressive 34.4. Afterwards he commented: “I’m really happy with La Biosthetique Sam. I had a wonderful feeling – it was a really nice test. Yesterday and the day before he was really nervous because I couldn’t have enough work with him. He was full of energy when he came here. Normally I would like to gallop him a bit more but the ground was very, very soft so I couldn’t do that. But in the end we have found a way and it has worked very well.
“The ground looks nearly perfect. I think when we have an other dry day tomorrow we will have wonderful ground on Saturday. I hope that my horse is really ready and we can go fast and have a lot of fun.”
The outstanding score – the same as he achieved with Fischerrocana FST at the Rolex Kentucky Three day Event last week – is the first step in his endeavour to win the Rolex Grand Slam. However, he added: “I would like to ride as I would at a normal competition. I think when you have too much pressure or give the horse too much pressure then he feels that something is different and he feels the same.”
Another German rider currently lies in second place at the end of the first day. Andreas Ostholt and So Is Et were the only other combination to achieve a sub 40 score with 38.2 – 3.8 penalties adrift of his compatriot. He said: “He is one of the best horses I have ridden at this level.” When asked about his thoughts of the cross country he added: “It’s Badminton – it’s tough enough.”
Francis Whittington was the best of the British riders, who scored 40.0 with Hasty Imp. An over the moon Francis,said: “When I was planning to come here with Hasty Imp I came here with no expectations. I’ve been in this position before and I know it can change overnight. With Hasty Imp he has to work hard at this level. As far as the dressage side it was a case of getting him nice and relaxed and go in and do the best he can do. And this time we actually did. He was relaxed partly because I was relaxed. We went in there and rode for the paces that he has – we said this is us and this is what we can do, we’re enjoying it in here and hope you guys enjoy it too.”
Members of the New Zealand squad put in strong performances with three riders in the top 10. The highest placed of these was Clarke Johnstone with Balmoral Sensation in fourth.
Jesse Campbell and Kaapachino are currently in fifth on their Badminton debut, with compatriot Jock Paget – the 2013 winner – in ninth on Clifton Lush, a combination who were third here last year.
The 2014 champions Sam Griffiths and Paulank Brockagh put themselves in contention with a score of 42.2, and currently lie in sixth position. “I’m really happy with that,” said Sam afterwards. “I’m a typical rider in that I’m annoyed I left a few marks out there and there were things that I could have done better, but I couldn’t have asked more from the mare – and that’s what matters.”
There are two other British riders in the Top 10 – Sarah Bullimore with Valentino V in eight and Rosalind Canter on Allstar B in tenth.
Dressage starts tomorrow at 9.30 with Ben Hobday and Mulrys Error.
Photographs courtesy of Hannah Ray