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After David Doel and Miss Caruso got things underway by doing the ‘Guinea Pig’ test, Paul Tapner and the sparkly white Kilronan, whose groom is probably totally out of elbow grease by now, were first in. Unfortunately Kilronan obviously knows exactly where he is, so some tension showed and an unrequested run-back in the halt didn’t help the marks, but they still nailed a 47.8.
Nicola Wilson conjured a 47.0 out of One Too Many, and was thrilled with her test, “just the first change was disappointing.” She likes the XC course. “It is big and bold but better round Vicarage Vee, less intense.”
By lunchtime, it was a New Zealand 1, 2, 3, with Jock Paget’s score of 41.2 putting him into provisional second place at this point. He pronounced himself “very happy with the test, the horse is such a professional now, he knows his job. Every foot was right where I wanted it, he was a pleasure. It’s nice after doing the work that it comes together.”
The early lead was taken by Andrew Nicholson on the evergreen Nereo, who was the only rider to post a sub-40 score in the morning session. A polished test left Andrew feeling “really pleased. Nereo was very switched on but knows to stay calm.” He hadn’t walked the cross country, and joked that he must “sound like I’m not very organised. I’m about to head out now and I’m hoping Giuseppe hasn’t shied off after last year. There is plenty to jump, and I’m very focused on getting the title – I’ll be holding the mane all the way round!” Avebury is apparently now back in full work and could have been here, but they didn’t feel it was worth the risk. Andrew’s dressage trainer Annabel Scrimgeour pronounced herself “very proud” of his efforts.
Pippa Funnell was best of the Brits in fourth place with Redesigned on 46.0. Her usual immaculately presented test was marred slightly by a communication mix-up in the canter strike-off following the rein back. She said she was very pleased and relieved, as Redesigned gets very nervous here. “He knows it’s Badders but got better and better as test went on.”
Last year, Izzy Taylor was the only rider to complete on two horses, and said of Thitledown Poposki: “Dressage is not his favourite phase but he tried his hardest. He is a wise old man and knows when he goes in the arena there is a limit to what can be done. Last year was a big ask for him at the stage he was at, but this year he’s more ready. The track is less twisty.” She posted a score of 52.8 and sits in 13th place going into the afternoon.
All eyes were on the 2014 winner Sam Griffiths with Paulank Brockagh. Sam said that his test did not quite go to plan, but he will concentrate on his performance and not worry about what others are doing. He hopes that if he finishes on dressage score he will be there or thereabouts. A couple of mistakes cost him marks, including cantering out of the first halt. His preparation has been disrupted by his new daughter born last week, so perhaps he wasn’t as distracted as the audience by the small child screaming extremely loudly at the C end of the arena! Sam told us that as soon as the course guide comes out, they start mocking up questions in the arena at home.
Jonelle Price couldn’t make it a New Zealand 1-4, as an unsettled test from Classic Moet left them in 15th on 54.9. Jonelle was a bit disappointed with the score, but admitted the horse is not blessed in dressage department. “He came 4th at WEG not for his dressage but because he was the only horse that smoked round an unjumpable cross country.” She noted that although The Deputy will produce a better test, she’d rather be sat on this one on the last day!
Andrew Hoy’s dressage aboard a wild Lanfranco, was nothing short of explosive! He came into the main arena looking very hot, and it is testament to Andrew’s skill as a rider that he managed to conjure the number of 7s he did. Sadly, these were interspersed with a good number of 1s as Lanfranco failed to halt at any point in the test, and performed some airs above the ground in the rein back, leaving him very firmly at the bottom of the leaderboard on 63.7.
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