Badminton: dressage is done

No change in the first day's dressage leader at Badminton, but some changes in the top ten, although our New Zealand riders competing on the second day couldn't bust into that top ten.

The two days of dressage in great conditions at Badminton Horse Trials have concluded with Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam still in the lead. No one riding on the second day was able to head him off, but Emily King, riding here for the first time ever, and the youngest competitor in the field, made the best attempt. Her score of 36.8 on Brookleigh has put her into second place. Her mother, Mary, won the event in 1992.

None of the New Zealanders riding on the second day made a dent in the leaderboard but there are four in the top 20 after dressage. Five if you count Oliver Townend’s horse, Black Tie, who is a New Zealand thoroughbred! Owned by Oliver and New Zealander Karen Shuter, he is in eighth place after dressage.

Clarke Johnstone has showed that his consistent marks received in New Zealand and Australia on Balmoral Sensation are valid and that Ritchie can more than hold his own against the best in Europe and UK. They have finished in ninth slot after dressage, closely followed by Jesse Campbell on Kaapachino, another New Zealand thoroughbred. Both are making their Badminton debut, so should be very proud of their first-phase efforts. Even competing here has been their dream since they were riding at pony club events.

Sir Mark Todd was the first of the New Zealanders to compete on the second day. While there was some good work done by Leonidas II, he was very tense and did not maintain his walk work, throwing away precious marks. They scored 44.8 which left them in 17th place after the dressage, 10.4 penalties behind the leader, Michael Jung. Sir Mark was understandably disappointed, as the horse is very capable of doing tests in the 30’s. “He got in there and lost concentration. He saw himself on the big screen and that sort of freaked him out a bit and so we were battling from thereon in.”

Jonelle Price was next out on Classic Moet. Her test looked great in parts, the trot work the highlight, and her score of 47.3 leaves them in 30th position. Jonelle may take a little consolation in that she did beat her husband, Tim who is on 47.4 and into 31st spot. However, this is Badminton, and people have won the event from even further down the leaderboard than the Prices are. The judges were very consistent with Jonelle’s marks, but with Tim’s there was a 12-mark difference between the scores.

Tim’s halts caused him (and the judges) some grief. “It started with a halt that didn’t stand still. It got a bit better as we went but there is a halt in the middle that he didn’t maintain either and at the end of course.” Tim, obviously disappointed, knows the horse is capable of better, having scored a 38 at Burghley last year.

Lucy Jackson’s Bosun did not impress the judges and their mark of 60.1 leaves them in 74th place and with a lot of work to do in the next two phases.

The riders are all saying that this year’s course is a tough one. While the going is improving with every day of sunshine and the forecasts are for pleasant weather conditions for cross-country, it will still be the phase that has the potential to cause leaderboard chaos. Sir Mark, never one to hold back about what he thinks of courses, even to the point a few years ago when he suggested the Badminton course wasn’t up to four-star level, confirmed this year the course was big and testing. One of the biggest fences of all, the famous Vicarage Vee, has been haunting riders for years. Sir Mark has jumped it many times but still is cautious about it. “The Vicarage Vee is always an ugly-looking fence and we just have to hope we jump that all right too.”

Tim Price is looking forward to tackling the huge fences. “It suits my guy down to the ground. He loves anything; he would jump off a cliff for me. It’s just a matter of placing him well and doing a good job.”

Tim loves the track, saying it has a lot of challenges. As to that Vicarage Vee, he says he “embraces the challenge there” but concluded that “there are jobs to do everywhere.”

The course is about a minute longer than it was last year, so horses’ fitness levels are going to be crucial and time penalties will no doubt be added to many people’s dressage scores. The cross-country starts at 10.30pm New Zealand time.

So, after dressage, the leaders and the New Zealand riders’ results are:

Michael Jung, La Biosthetique Sam, 34.4, 1st

Emily King, Brookleigh, 36.3, 2nd

Andreas Ostholt, So Is Et, 38.2, 3rd

Clarke Johnstone, Balmoral Sensation, 40.8, 9th

Jesse Campbell, Kaapachino, 41.1, 10th,

Sir Mark Todd, Leonidas II, 44.8, 17th,

Jonathan Paget, Clifton Lush, 45.2, 19th

Jonelle Price, Classic Moet, 47.3, 30th

Tim Price, Ringwood Sky Boy, 47.4, 31st

Blyth Tait, Bear Necessity, 48.5, 39th

Megan Heath, St Daniel, 54.3, 66th

Daniel Jocelyn, Beaucatcher, 57, 72nd

Lucy Jackson, Bosun, 60.1, 74th.