There is just one New Zealand rider in the top 10 after the dressage phase at the 2019 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, after a dominant performance by the British riders.
Andrew Nicholson and his 11-year-old Irish Sporthorse Swallow Springs, making his first appearance at Badminton, is in 10th place, having scored 72.18% for 27.8penalties.
“He’s still quite young but is getting stronger and better all the time,” says Andrew of the eye-catching grey. “He’s stepped up from Burghley last year [where the pair were third], and he feels like he can carry himself better now, which helps keep him calm and relaxed.”
The top eight are all British riders, while Australia’s Chris Burton is ninth on Graf Liberty, and 11th on Cooley Lands.
The next best Kiwi is Tim Price, 15th equal on Ringwood Sky Boy, with a score of 30.1pen. Tim is also 55th with Bango.
Sir Mark Todd is 18th equal on NZB Campino, on 30.6, while Jesse Campbell, who did his dressage on the first day, is now 24th equal with Cleveland, on a score of 31.4.
Ginny Thompson and Star Nouveau scored 61.73% for 38.3pen, and sit in 57th place.
But the day belonged – again – to Oliver Townend, who for the first time in Badminton’s 70-year history, sits first and second after dressage.
His performance on his second ride, the grey Ballaghmor Class, was the only test to come close to beating that of his leading ride, Cillnabradden Evo.
The 2017 Burghley winner Ballaghmor Class was awarded three 10s – all for halts – with just with just the final flying change earning him the lowest marks of the test; two 6s. He scored 21.1, which leaves them 1.4 penalties adrift of Cillnabradden Evo, who set a new Badminton record score on the first day, 19.7.
“I’m over the moon with both of my horses and it’s a very good start,” says Oliver, who last week won the Kentucky five-star. “Ballaghmor Class won Burghley as a novice – we were still putting the flying changes into him at that event – and now he is becoming more established. He is beautiful to ride and both of my horses have an amazing work ethic.”
Tom McEwen is third on 24.7, Piggy French fourth on 26, and Pippa Funnell fifth with Billy Walk On. Fellow Brits Kitty King, Millie Dumas and Laura Collett are sixth to eighth.
Just 10 penalties separate the top 15 though, and the general consensus among riders is that Eric Winter’s cross-country course is challenging enough that this won’t be a dressage competition.
Cross-country gets underway at 11.30am (10.30pm NZ time) and you can watch the livestream free at https://www.badminton-horse.co.uk/livestream/cross-country-2019/