Oliver Townend further strengthened his claims to this year’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton trophy when he pulled off an exceptional dressage test on Friday afternoon on his second ride, Ballaghmor Class, to leave him in first and second places at the end of the first phase.
Karyn Shuter, Angela Hislop, and Val Ryan’s 2017 Burghley winner couldn’t quite catch his stablemate, Cillnabradden Evo, who still leads on a score of 19.7, but a mark of 21.1 was still an eye-wateringly impressive achievement under great pressure.
No other rider has been in this position in Badminton’s history and only one rider – Ian Stark – has ever finished first and second. But it would be a brave man to bet against the on-form Townend to match this feat.
“Everyone expected so much of Ballaghmor Class after he won Burghley, but he was quite a novice when he did that; he was still learning flying changes. Now he feels like a well-established horse who is beautiful to ride,” said Townend of the 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding by Courage.
When asked who trains him on the flat, Townend replied: “Embarrassingly, I don’t actually have a trainer. I have a good set of mirrors and I watch a lot of Carl Hester dvds – so it’s not actually me you’re watching!”
Tom McEwen has been nudged down into third place with Toledo De Kerser. They lie on a score of 24.7 going into tomorrow’s cross-country phase.
“Toledo is fit, fresh and ready to run. Having spoken to other more experienced riders, the course is always tougher when it runs this way round, but I think the optimum time [11min45sec] should be achievable,” said McEwen, when quizzed about his expectations for tomorrow. He added: “This [competing at Badminton] is what we work so hard for every single day and it’s such a privilege to even be here.”
Piggy French and Vanir Kamira slip one place to fourth.
“I have walked the course a couple more times and have a few more plans in my head than I this time yesterday,” she said.
The other notable performance in this afternoon’s session came from Pippa Funnell and five-star first-timer Billy Walk On, the 10-year-old British bred gelding (Billy Mexico x Shannon Line), who squeezed into the top five with an expressive performance that left them on a score of 26.5.
“I’m really delighted with him. He’s been beautiful all week and so I was worried that I might have underdone the work, but he took it all in his stride.”
Jenny Caras is the higher-placed of the two U.S. representatives - currently sitting in equal 53rd with Fernhill Fortitude. The 15-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Courage x Misty Matilda) scored a 36.9.
Savannah Fulton and the Full Moon Farm Syndicate's Captain Jack, a 16-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Numerous x Lady Malone) sit in 80th place on a 51.5.
“We have been treated to two days of truly top-class dressage here at Badminton. The grace and athleticism of the horses and their riders, particularly in the high-pressure buzz of the arena, is simply amazing to witness. And yet, that’s only the beginning – tomorrow they shift gears and take on the cross-country phase and what a spectacular and demanding course it is this year. Hopefully, the weather will be kind so riders and visitors can experience the stunning Badminton Estate at its very best,” commented Rob Lindley, Managing Director of Mitsubishi Motors in the UK.
Tomorrow’s cross-country action begins at 11.30 a.m. when Pippa Funnell will set out on her first ride, Majas Hope.
For the full dressage results, click here.
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