British riders occupy the top five spots after the first day of dressage at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials. No-one could catch Oliver Townend, who was fourth into the arena this morning on Cilnabradden Evo and pulled off a record-breaking score of 19.7.
“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.”
Sally-Ann Egginton’s 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (S Creevagh Ferro x Willow Garden), who has been a multiple winner at lower levels, has yet to complete a major five-star competition.
“I know there are people questioning why I have brought him here [the pair fell on their last outing at this level at Pau], 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.”
Townend goes again on his second ride, the 2017 Burghley winner, Ballaghmor Class, tomorrow afternoon at 3:56 p.m.
Tom McEwen and Toledo De Kerser pulled off a personal best score at this level (25.7) to lie in second place overnight.
“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 12-year-old Selle Francais gelding (Diamant De Semilly x Ariane Du Prieure II), with whom he was part of Britain’s gold medal-winning team at last year’s FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG).
Tom’s teammate, Piggy French, currently occupies the third spot with Trevor Dickens’ 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare Vanir Kamira (Camiro De Haar Z x Fair Caledonian). French was thrilled with their mistake-free test, which left them on a score of 26.
“I was away last week in Kentucky [where she finished fourth with Quarrycrest Echo], so my sister [Nini French] 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 an eye-catching test aboard the lovely grey, Vendredi Biats, a 10-year-old Selle Francais gelding (WinningMood x Liane Normande), owned by Dally Eyre, Sally Lloyd Baker, Samantha Wilson, and Diana Brown.
“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 [27.2],” said King, who last competed here on Boondoggle in 2010.
First-timer Millie Dumas made a spectacular start to her campaign with Artistiek. Their score of 27.3 leaves them in the top five at the end of the first day.
Rob Lindley, Managing Director of Mitsubishi Motors UK, said: “We have had an exciting first day of competition here at Badminton where the atmosphere is already beginning to build. This is just the start of things to come and we can’t wait. Good luck to all taking part, we are on the edge of our seats.”
Tomorrow’s dressage action continues at 9:00 a.m. when the first rider in the arena will be first-timer Matthew Heath (The Lion). The first U.S. rider will be Jenny Caras aboard Fernhill Fortitude at 10:34 a.m. and the final U.S. rider will be Savannah Fulton aboard Captain Jack at 3:12 p.m.
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