At the end of a drama-filled cross-country at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials CCI**** Australia’s Paul Tapner and Kilronan lead the field on a score of 56.4.
There were shocks, thrills and spills aplenty when, one by one, the favorites disappeared from the reckoning. Just 35 of the 77 combinations who set out on Guiseppe Della Chiesa’s new-look course completed, and no one managed to finish anywhere near the optimum time. There were 24 clear rounds.
Tapner’s round for 20.4 time penalties was one of the quickest.
“My ride didn’t exactly go to plan,” said Tapner. “I went long at Huntsman’s Close, which wasn’t part of the plan, but I knew I had to conserve energy. I’m really glad I did that, though, because even going the long route was hard work.
“Before I set off my coach, Prue Barrett, said to me: ‘It’s a battlefield out there—just come home clear.’ So that’s what I tried to do,” he continued.
New Zealander Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy are just more than 5 penalties behind in second place. Their round for 11.6 penalties was the fastest of the day and leaves them 1 penalty ahead of Frenchman Pascal Leroy and Minos De Petra.
Asked whether he ever imagined he could move up from equal 41st after dressage to second, Price said: “No, not in a competition like this. The horse was great, though. I think his fitness played a large part. He was still galloping well towards the end of the course, which meant I could travel well in the spaces that I could.”
There was no one particular fence that caused all the trouble, and the consensus was that it was the cumulative effect of the number of big jumping efforts that took its toll.
Dressage leader Clark Montgomery retired Loughan Glen after a stop in Huntsman’s Close, while third-placed Francis Whittington (Great Britain) pulled up Easy Target at the same fence. Montgomery retired his first mount of the day, Universe, at fence 23 after a stop there.
Fellow American rider Tiana Coudray picked up 20 jumping penalties at fence 23c. Canada's Rebecca Howard fell from Riddle Master at fence 16.
Course-designer Giuseppe Della Chiesa admitted that he was surprised by the trouble the course caused.
“The expectation was that the course was strong, and there were a lot of unexpected mishaps, but that’s the sport. I was surprised by how much trouble the keyhole at the Outlander Bank (fence 13) caused,” he said. “Yes, I would like to have seen more horses finishing, but the statistics do not tell the whole story. A lot of the top riders retired their horses after having one refusal instead of carrying on.”
Two show jumps separate the top five at this stage, with one fence covering second to fifth places. Oliver Townend is the highest-placed British rider with Armada on a score of 62.7.
Two of the best-fancied combinations—New Zealand’s Andrew Nicholson (Nereo) and Britain’s William Fox-Pitt (Parklane Hawk) ran into unexpected trouble. Nereo left a leg coming out of the Gatehouse New Pond (fence 14) and deposited Andrew out of the side door, while Parkland Hawk made a similar error at the third-last fence, the first of the Countrywide Hedges (fence 27).
See full results on the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials website.