The home side is dominating after the first day of dressage at the 2019 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton horse trials. Oliver Townend has set a new Badminton record, with an extraordinary score of 80.26% for 19.7pen riding Cillnabradden Evo, which leaves him comfortably five points ahead of the field at this stage.
Oliver and the 13-year-old Irish-bred gelding – who was formerly ridden by Andrew Nicholson – had one mark of 6.5, but the rest were all 7s and above, including 11 marks of 8.5, four 9s and two 10s, which both came for the final halt.
“I’ve had this horse a while and I know him inside out,” says Oliver. “So far, so good.”
The record beats the one set by Andrew Hoy at Badminton back in 2000, when he scored 20.5, riding Darien Powers.
Second to fifth places are also all British riders, with Tom McEwen second on Toledo de Kerser (24.7pen), Piggy French third on Vanir Kamira, Kitty King fourth on Vendredi Biats, and first-timer Millie Dumas delighted to be fifth on Artistiek.
Australian Christopher Burton is sixth, on Graf Liberty, William Fox-Pitt is seventh on Little Fire, and Italy’s Pietro Sandei rounds up the top eight, riding Rubis de Prere.
The best-placed New Zealand rider at the halfway stage is Jesse Campbell, who is 12th equal on Cleveland, scoring 68.59% for 31.4.
Tim Price is 26th on Bango, having scored 37.6. Tim says the combination of tension, and the horse being “mega-fit”, prevented him from pulling out the higher marks.
Oliver’s impressive start puts him in a great position to complete the second leg of the elusive Rolex Grand Slam; he is the current ‘live’ competitor, having won the Kentucky CIC5* a week ago on Cooley Master Class. The Grand Slam is awarded to a rider who wins the Badminton, Burghley and Kentucky five-stars consecutively.
But of course Badminton is never just a dressage competition, with riders describing Eric Winter’s track as “very clever”.
Pippa Funnell says: ”There are plenty of places where a horse will really have to use its footwork. The fences invite you to ride and attack the course and there are certainly places where you have got to be accurate.”
Adds Chris Burton: “Eric has designed a few tricky lines and a few things to make us think, so we’ll see how it goes.”
The second day of dressage kicks off at 8.30 tonight (NZ time), with Ginny Thompson and Star Nouveau second into the arena, at 8.38.
They are followed at 9.02pm by Sir Mark Todd and NZB Campino, and Andrew Nicholson on Swallow Springs.
Tim’s second ride, Ringwood Sky Boy, is on at 2.48am (NZ time).