British riders dominated the dressage phase of the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials with Oliver Townend taking a stronghold on the competition.
With home nation riders occupying the top eight spots after the two days of dressage, Townend slotted into second with his second horse Ballaghmor Class, with a score of 21.1 – just 1.4 penalties behind his leading mount Cillnabradden Evo.
The only time in history a rider has had a one-two finish at Badminton Horse Trials was in 1988 when Ian Stark took victory with Sir Wattie and second with Glenburnie.
Of his top two positions, Townend commented: “You’re always hopeful but we don’t really have plans; I was hopeful they would do good tests and that they would put their best foot forward but I couldn’t be happier at this stage.”
Tom McEwen sits in third going into the cross country with Toldedo de Kerser with a score of 24.7.
Laura Collett and Mr Bass, who are much-fancied for a top finish, posted a solid score of 27.6, finishing the first phase in eighth.
“I’m delighted with him. He’s a real trier and he’s never been in an arena like that before,” said Laura of Keith Scott and Nick How’s consistent 11-year-old gelding. “He doesn’t find the dressage easy and he struggles with his flying changes from left to right, but I wouldn’t want to be sitting on anything else tomorrow.”
New Zealand’s Andrew Nicholson, who lifted the Mitsubishi Motors trophy in 2017, slotted into tenth place with a smooth test aboard Swallow Springs. The grey gelding, who is owned by Paul and Diana Ridgeon, is here for the first time.
“He’s a sensitive horse, but he knows in the arena to do his job and he’s getting stronger all the time,” said Andrew.
Mark Todd, who won in 2011, has jetted back from Australia where he has been training Eminent for in Grade One flat races and scored 30.6 aboard NZB Campino. He lies in equal 18th ahead of the cross country.
He commented: “I’ve had a good team at home to keep Campino going for me, but having only ridden in two open intermediates this spring the course certainly looks a bit bigger than usual.”
Going into the cross country phase, there are 31.8 penalties between the leader and the rest of the field. But Eric Winter’s cross country course, which is 6697 metres in length and has an optimum time of 11 minutes 45 seconds, will pose a challenge to riders, and the leaderboard could be all change by the end of the day.
Images Courtesy of Tanzy Lee