Andrew Nicholson and Nereo remain the ones to beat at the end of dressage at Badminton. Despite going early in the day on Thursday when the judges are traditionally less generous with their marks, the combination is still at the top of the leader board on a 37.8.
“I’ve got a big chance here so I’m very focussed on the prize. I had a great opportunity to win last year but I made a mistake, this year I have a brilliant horse and I’m going to do my best not to do that again,” said Andrew.
William Fox-Pitt got closest but Chilli Morning didn’t seem to have his usual sparkle today and made a few mistakes to finish 1.2 behind Nereo on 39. The chestnut stallion jogged in his walk work and didn’t change true in his canter flying changes.
“He did some lovely bits but he has done better, a bit of tension crept in and with this calibre of field you can’t afford to make a mistake let alone three,” said William.
Earlier in the day William brought the stallion to the warm up area to wake him up.
“He’s been asleep all week so it was an unfortunate time for him to get a bit buzzy”.
“The cross country test doesn’t compare to last year. It is going the other way and it takes you off your line at points. It’s difficult to tell if the time is going to be easy to get but I’ve got plenty of time to have a watch tomorrow and then decide how I will ride it,” said William.
It is a case of chestnut boys dominating the top three with Nereo’s full brother Armada filling third place under Oliver Townend.
“We all know Armada, he can be very fiery. It’s taken me a few years to retrain him,” Oliver said tongue in cheek looking at Andrew, Armada’s previous rider.
Renowned for being a jumping machine, Friday’s dressage test was the geldings best at Badminton. The Yorkshireman is looking forward to riding tomorrow.
“It doesn’t matter what they build here it always shocks and surprises. If Armada tries his best and I try my best we should be okay but there is a lot to do out there and it is definitely a Badminton track,” said Oliver.
It was late in the day that Germany’s Ingrid Klimke took to the arena and put in her usual polished performance to sit in fourth overnight riding Horseware Hale Bob on a score of 40.2, just 0.6 penalties behind Armada. Hot on Ingrid’s heels is Jock Paget whose Clifton boys sit within 0.4 of each other. Lush earned a higher score than his stablemate and 2013 Badminton winner, Promise.
Just 0.7 behind Jock is Australian Paul Tapner whose Indian Mill pulled off a performance worthy of a much more experienced horse for 41.9. Thursday’s third place rider Niklas Bschorer slips to eighth with Tom Tom Go 3 after dressage.
“The atmosphere is very unique here, he did a really great test but I think he could have done a little better,” said Niklas.
Bettina Hoy gave Designer 10 a big hug when their test finished and allowed the flashy 16.3hh dark bay gelding to stop for grass as he exited the main arena, they take forward 42.8 to cross country. Best of the Irish contingent is Aoife Clark and Vaguely North, just 0.1 penalties behind Bettina in tenth. Tina Cook sits just outside the top ten with De Novo News in eleventh on 43.3.
Andrew Nicholson’s second ride Calico Joe is in twelfth.
“I feel lucky to have two horses here and I just have to remain focused and get on with it, it’s not a distraction to have two horses but it isn’t necessarily a good thing either,” said Andrew.
Calico Joe will go cross country with 43.5 penalties tomorrow.
Flora Harris and Amazing VIII are in 13th after dressage on 43.6 with Lucy Jackson and Willy Do in 14th on 45.7.
Mark Todd’s first ride Leonidas II is tied in 15th with Bill Levett and Shannondale Titan. The kiwi rider made a mistake in his dressage test which cost him a position.
“I think it’s fairly obvious, we will go all the straight routes – that’s the plan anyway. I think the Mirage Pond is very testing and riders will have to pay attention but the jumps are big all the way around. You can’t afford to relax at any fence,” said Mark.
Mark’s second ride Oloa is in 51st on a score of 52.7.
“We made a few mistakes where I couldn’t keep control of him but other than that he was very good,” said Mark.
Although only the top three managed to break the 40 mark in the first phase, the scores are tight with the top 27 competitors being within ten marks of each other and the top 68 within twenty penalties, one refusal, run out or time fault will prove very costly tomorrow.
Two horses have been withdrawn after the dressage phase, Coolys Luxury and El Grado ridden by Tom Crisp and Nick Gauntlett respectively.
General consensus among the riders is that the course needs to be respected as a Badminton course, despite not being as tough as previous years.
It’s all to play for tomorrow with £80,000 and the famous Mitsubushi trophy at stake – something the current leader has never won before. Come rain or shine Eventing Worldwide will bring you all the news as it happens tomorrow, follow us on Twitter @EventingWWNews and like us on Facebook for all the latest news.
Report Nat Clark and Jess Crocker