Oliver Townend maintains his lead …

British rider Oliver Townend has maintained his lead after the cross-country phase at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials.

However, he now leads with his previous Burghley Horse Trials winner Ballaghmor Class with Cillnabradden Evo occupying seventh.

Townend’s first ride Cillnabradden Evo – who led after dressage – clocked up 10.6 time penalties. But his second ride Ballaghmor Class delivered the goods putting in a classy performance, adding just 0.4 time faults to complete with a two phase score of 21.5.

Afterwards he commented: “This was his best round to date for me. I wanted to give him a clear run and show the world what he’s capable of. We were 14 seconds down coming out of the Lake, and I just had to press go and off he went. He’s a special athlete.”

Piggy French and Vanir Kamira rose one place to second – with a score of 26.8 – despite collecting 5.3 time faults.

French commented: “She’s so game and gutsy. She’s not flashy like some, but give her a Badminton or a Burghley and she comes into her own. I’m a bit annoyed about being two seconds over as I thought I’d got the time, but I’m not going to let that take away from what she’s done.”

Australia’s Christopher Burton threw down the gauntlet early in the day by finishing bang on the optimum time of 11minutes 45 seconds with Graf Liberty. He also steered Cooley Lands home inside the time – with only five combinations achieving this across the day. Burton now sits in third and fifth going into the show jumping.

Of his first ride he commented: “He makes my job very easy. The bank to the arrowhead felt very messy, but it probably looked better than it felt. I was holding him the whole way round and he made the time feel surprisingly easy.”

Sandwiched in between Chris’ two rides is the 2017 winner Andrew Nicholson, who enjoyed a storming – and completely penalty-free – round with Swallow Springs. Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy – another pair to make the optimum – occupy sixth place.

Forty-seven of the 78 combination who left the start box came home with clear jumping rounds under their belts.

Course-designer Eric Winter commented: “It’s not often I say at the end of the day that I’d not change anything about the course, but it was the case today. It showed off the best to be the best and showed everyone else what they had to work on.”

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