British riders dominated the first day of dressage at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials occupying the top five spots on a day when the a new dressage record at the event was set.
Oliver Townend, who is fresh from his victory at the Land Rover Kentucky Three Day Event last week, and Cilnabradden Evo hold the lead with a record breaking 19.7. Sally-Ann Egginton’s 13-year-old gelding, who has been a multiple winner at lower levels, has yet to complete a major five-star competition.
Townend commented: “So far, so good. I’ve only had time to give him one gallop since I’ve been home, but he gave me 100% in there. I tortured myself a lot last night, lying in bed and riding the test over and over in my mind,” said Townend. “I knew he was capable of a performance like that, but you never want to get too complacent. I know there are people questioning why I have brought him here but he feels on great form and I have faith in him. This is the biggest event in the world in terms of history and you can never predict what might happen – one silly slip and you can be flat on your backside – but I’ll be giving it my best shot.”
Tom McEwen and Toledo De Kerser pulled off a personal best score at this level – 25.7 – to lie in second place overnight. The pair were 7th here last year.
“He was awesome in there. He’s been building up to the higher marks at home and we were able to reproduce that work in the arena, which I was really pleased about,” said McEwen of Jane Inns’, Ali McEwen and Fred and Penny Barker’s Selle Francais gelding, with whom he was part of Britain’s gold medal-winning team at last year’s World Equestrian Games (WEG).
Tom’s team-mate, Piggy French, currently occupies third spot with Trevor Dickens’ Vanir Kamira. French was thrilled with their mistake-free test, which left them on a score of 26.0.
“I was away last week in Kentucky so my sister Nini kept Tilly ticking over, which is not an easy job,” said French. “She’s a feisty mare with a few issues that need carefully managing, so it’s a fine balancing act. She’s not a dressage horse, but she felt very professional today. She kept her ears forward and had a smile on her face, which gave her presence. As the test progressed and I wasn’t swearing under my breath, I figured we must be doing ok.”
Kitty King continued Britain’s dominance with Vendredi Biats, scoring 27.2 to sit in fourth. “He spooked at the camera going around the edge of the arena and when his back went up I thought I might get bucked off, but he held it together and I was pleased with the mark,” said King, who last competed here on Boondoggle in 2010.
Millie Dumas is the highest placed first timer, lying in fifth with Artistiek on a score of 27.3. She said: “I wasn’t expecting that – he was such a good boy. He’s been wild all week so I really didn’t know what to expect as I have never felt him this uptight to right. He was still a bit tense in the warm up but But he went in there and he answered everything I asked him to.”
Images courtesy of Tanzy Lee