Our Badminton 4* Reports are sponsored by Horseware’s Luxury Apparel brand Alessandro Albanese.
Our thanks to them for this support.
The afternoon sessions kicked off with Oliver Townend on seasoned campaigner Armada, who has probably never looked better. He was presented in great balance and a very secure way of going, and nailed a very accurate and obedient test. One change looked slightly crooked from the camera angle I saw but the rest was hard to criticise. The judges liked it, giving it 39.6 to put him into 2nd at that point, and Oliver was obviously delighted too.
The judge at H continued to puzzle us occasionally with the marks… Oliver’s marks for riding were 7.5, 7, 9, for example. The judge at H was not consistently out of line with the other two, which makes it more perplexing!
At the end of his test, after leaving the arena, Oliver responded to the clapping by holding out his hand and raising it. He then seemed to try to repeat this further down toward the exit of the main arena. Maybe it was all innocent, or maybe it is just me who has a strong dislike of any gamesmanship, any attempt at all to upset the next horse in by trying to make the crowd cheer and clap louder!
Anyway, if that was his intent, it seemed to work, unfortunately, as the next horse in, Tim Price’s Ringwood Sky Boy, was visibly tense and did not really stand in the first halt at all. This horse is another fantastic mover, in the Shannondale Titan mould, but his tension limited what Tim could ask for… for instance he didn’t really dare to let the neck out in the walk work. The horse came behind the vertical at times, and did some artistic head-tossing in the reinback. He settled in the trot and canter work, being far happier to be going somewhere, for a 48.1, but without the tension it could probably have troubled the leaders.
Sarah Bullimore did well to magic a 54.4 out of Reve de Rouet, who is capable of a really good test but was rather lit up here. He definitely had an alternative career in the Spanish Riding School on his mind once they left the arena, Sarah managing his antics very patiently!
Paul Tapner presented Indian Mill in a very secure frame and in a great rhythm. this horse is not a huge mover but there was a lot to like (not least the sight of Paul in a set of black tails so tight that they might have been sprayed-on!) and he was another to go into the top 10, with 41.9.
Andrew Nicholson’s test on Calico Joe was another masterpiece, only marred slightly by the horse running to trot from the rein-back, and a blip in the changes (although my video feed blipped too, so it could have been that?!)
William Fox-Pitt had warmed Chilli Morning up while wearing a crash hat, interestingly, but his trademark elegant top hat was back in place for his test. Both looked very calm and relaxed, William even having time to adjust the position of one of the tails of his coat at the beginning of the walk work, as he was sitting on it! One change was a little late behind but the last 2 were absolutely spot on, for a final mark of 39.0, just 1.2 penalties behind the leader.
Jock Paget and Clifton Lush nailed a super test, for 40.8, 0.4 ahead of his other ride Clifton Promise.
Nicola Wilson and the lovely coloured mare The Beltane Queen managed a 50.9, the mare getting a bit high and tight in the neck which stopped the flow a little, but there is a lot more to come from her if Nicola can get her more relaxed.
Andrew Hoy had a much easier time on Rutherglen than he did yesterday on Lanfranco, for a 46.4 and 19th overnight.
Pippa Funnells’ Second Supreme showed tension too, the atmosphere in the final session, as the crowds grew, really got to some horses. I am not quite sure what happened in their last two changes (another video feed blip here!) but the marks plummetted and Pippa grimaced at the judge at B during her final halt, so it must have been quite dramatic!
Toddy was the last rider in, with Oloa very rhythmical and balanced, and made a very promising start with 9,7,7 for the first movement. Unfortunately Oloa got tense, quickened in the walk and then did not stand in the halt before reining back (scoring 4,3,1), and fluffed a couple of the changes, dragging the marks down, and ended up on 52.7.
The final dressage scores are HERE.
The scores at the top are all very tight, one stop (20 pens) covers the top 68, so there is a lot to play for tomorrow, especially if there is any rain and the going gets any deeper.
There has been one withdrawal after dressage – Tom Crisp has WD Coolys Luxury after the horse did not feel absolutely 100% in the dressage.
XC coverage starts tomorrow at 11.20am. Full TV and online watching details are HERE. The very best of luck to all competitors and their horses. Show us how it’s done and come home safely!