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Today was perhaps the oddest day of XC I have ever seen at 4*. When the first nine competitors went clear, albeit nearly all of them with time penalties, it started looking as if the XC, having been too tough last year (and not just because of the ground) was now too soft to test the best of the best and with 52 clears in total, 13 of them inside the time, on paper it looks like a softer Badminton than some years.
Huntsman’s Close, so influential in 2014, was definitely far more lenient, the 7 or 8 strides round the turn between the two corners giving lots of wiggle room. The first of the corners caught out a couple of combinations (including Chris Burton and TF Jamaimo, who crossed his tracks going the long way after banking the first corner, but still finished inside the time) but the second corner seemed pretty simple for the level.
The Lake and the Mirage Pond were very influential, claiming a lot of victims. Neither really forgave an error although one or two managed to stay clear thanks to lightning-fast reactions and very honest horses!
Andrew Nicholson had a couple of interesting moments in his round on Nereo, but did a great clear inside the time to lead overnight. In fact the top 5 after the dressage all maintained their places, and we have the full brothers Nereo and Armada in 1st and 3rd places, an absolute triumph for their breeder Ramon Beca.
Bad days at the office for:
Francis Whittington – who fell foul of the turn in The Lake (which was either 3 strides or 4 from drop in to step up, but woe betide anyone who didn’t make the decision lightning-fast and stick to it because the step out to wave took no prisoners) on Fernhill Highlight, and then of the Mirage Pond hedges on his second ride, Hasty Imp, who chipped one in, tried to get 3 strides in, and had nowhere to go.
Andrew Hoy – who ended up in the water from both his rides – Lanfranco when he ran out naughtily at the skinny in the New Pond, and Rutherglen at The Lake, when the horse left a leg badly coming in.
Flora Harris, whose stunning mare Amazing VIII looked so impressive all round, but who looked wrong over the finish line (all credit, Flora pulled up and jumped off immediately)
Craig Nicholai, finally making it to his first Badminton, who had a horrid fall and whose instant reaction was to hug his lovely horse repeatedly in relief that he was up and uninjured.
Good days at the office for:
Izzy Taylor, who again looked phenomenal xc on both her rides.
Pippa Funnell, who rode like a woman posssessed on her second ride, the 4* debutant Second Supreme, and he answered every question.
Bettina Hoy, who was vocal at times but managed a great clear with just 1.6 time, from Designer 10.
Nicola Wilson, who did two great clears.
Gabriel Silva Cury, who had a fantastic round on Grass Valley, Sir Mark Todd’s former ride.
Jeannette Brakewell, back in the big time and looking great xc with Lets Dance.
Oliver Townend, whose round on Armada was absolutely masterful, the horse looking fantastic and making the course look very easy.
Ingrid Klimke, whose Horseware Hale Bob is definitely the Real Deal!
William Fox-Pitt, who had Chilli Morning absolutely brimming with confidence and foot-perfect everwhere.
Gemma Tattersall, whose classy clear, bang on the optimum time, will surely get her a place on the Euros squad. In fact, the European selectors will be very happy tonight, I suspect!
This competition is not over yet. Just 1 fence covers the top 5, and only 2 fences cover the top 9, so if tomorrow’s SJ course is influential, as I expect it to be, clears could be at a premium and there should be a big shake up of the leaderboard.
But Andrew Nicholson, with his first ever Badminton title so close, will be the most determined of all.
Interviews with Riders which can be played through Dropbox app:
Lucy Jackson and Oliver Townend: HERE.
Ben Way: HERE.
Paul Tapner: HERE.
Andrew Nicholson: HERE.