South Gloucestershire, England—May 7—Rosalind Canter was the star of a dramatic and thrilling day of cross-country sport at Badminton Horse Trials.
The 2018 World Champion has two show jumps in hand to win her first five-star after a stirring performance at the end of the day aboard Michelle Saul’s 11-year-old Lordships Graffalo, the runner-up at Badminton and fourth at the World Championships (Italy) in 2022.
Canter was only 3 seconds slower than experienced Irishman Austin O’Connor (Colorado Blue), whose best previous Badminton result was fourth in 1999 in similarly boggy conditions. The pair were easily the fastest in the field, with 11.6 and 10.8 time penalties respectively, on a day when the sticky ground conditions exerted a toll on horses’ stamina.
Loud cheering greeted Canter and “Walter,” a British Sport Horse (Birkhof's Grafenstolz x Cornish Queen) as they galloped back into the arena. “We all love Walter, and he had to dig deeper today than ever before, but I think he had a nice day out,” said Canter. “I had the benefit of going round on my first horse [Pencos Crown Jewel, lying seventh] so I knew where there was time to be saved.”
O'Connor, who has the chance to be the first Irishman to win Badminton since Eddie Boylan in 1965, gave a masterclass of riding on “Salty,” one of the world’s most highly rated cross-country horses. “He’s an incredible horse, and it’s a privilege to ride him. I started out thinking that what will be will be, but he relished the conditions and was loving it. I’m the luckiest rider in the world," he said.
Oliver Townend’s second ride, Ballaghmor Class, is one of the world’s greatest five-star horses, a winner of Burghley (2017), Kentucky (2021) and an Olympic team gold medal (Tokyo 2021). They were the third fastest of the day with 21.2 time penalties and are within a show jumping rail of O'Connor.
“I’ve had him since he was 4; he’s now 16,” said Townend, “and he definitely makes life more exciting for all of us. We’re proud to be associated with him. He’s a very special horse. These top-class horses love their jobs; you couldn’t make them do it if they didn’t want to.”
New Zealander Tim Price is fourth on Vitali, closely bunched with Tom McEwen (Toledo de Kerser, fifth), Gemma Stevens (Jalapeno, sixth) and Canter’s other ride—she is the only competitor to complete on two horses—Pencos Crown Jewel, seventh.
Thirty combinations finished, and, as anticipated with the heavy going, some riders rose dramatically up the leaderboard. These include Bubby Upton, up 23 places to eighth on Cola, and three-time Badminton winner Pippa Funnell, up 30 places to ninth. France’s Luc Chateau, 11th on Viens du Mont, and Switzerland’s Felix Vogg (Carthania, 13th) are best of the Badminton first-timers and Aistis Vitkauskas, 27th on Commander VG, has made history as the first Lithuanian rider at Badminton.
Townend’s first ride, Swallow Springs, third after dressage, was pulled up by the ground jury when he appeared tired and activated the frangible table at 19b. Kitty King, second after dressage, was another among the high-profile casualties who did not complete on a challenging day of cross-country when she and Vendredi Biats fell at a log pile.
Both U.S. pairs completed the cross-country. Lillian Heard Wood and LCC Barnaby finished with 48 time penalties and sits in 24th place. “He was awesome," she said. "So smooth. I went pretty slow, but I so wanted to finish, I just said, OK, do it how you want.”
Katherine Coleman and Monbeg Senna added 62.8 time penalties and are in 26th place. “My horse has so much scope; he jumped me out of the tack a few times," she said. "I couldn’t be prouder of him, and now I know I have a five-star horse for the future.”
The final horse inspection will take place tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. BST followed by show jumping at 11:30 a.m.
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