After Wednesday’s light drizzle, on Thursday morning Burghley Park was soaked in glorious sunshine – not too hot, a slight breeze, perfect conditions. Crowds seemed to be larger than last year, although the field of Competitors is smaller than usual, perhaps because of the recent European Championships and the ERM series? All horses passed the trot up, only Fleet Street having been sent to the Holding Box for checking over before being Passed, so 61 came forward to the dressage, after guttingly disappointing last minute withdrawals from Lissa Green and Abi Boulton.
Emily Llewellyn was the Guinea Pig on Emirati Nightsky, and produced a lovely flowing test that would have had her in a good place on the board if she had been competing, a good start to get the Ground Jury’s eye in.
Willa Newton and Chance Remark were best of the morning session, making a very elegant picture for 47.0 to head the field for a while.
First in after the coffee break was Tim Price with Xavier Faer, who flowed into the lead on 46.5.
Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser were next to look like troubling the leaders, scoring lots of 7s, and three 8.0s for their halt, although the rein back immediately afterwards was a bit tense, scoring 5.0s and 5.5. He rode bold extensions and the changes were clean, only the penultimate one looking a bit scuttle-y and dragging the marks down a little. The collectives were good and their final score of 47.5 to go into 3rd at this stage was well deserved.
Paul Tapner had Bonza King of Rouges going beautifully, in lovely balance, and in particular showing a really good stretch on the canter circle while maintaining the rhythm and balance, far more of a reach than I had previous seen. Their 46.2 and into the lead at that point was well deserved.
The Maestro Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam were the last combination into the arena before lunch and were absolute poetry in motion, presenting a beautifully correct test for lots of 8s and the odd 9, and a totally justified leading mark of 38.9, which I calculate to be 74.1%.
This horse has never been an extravagant mover but Michi eked out every possible mark to produce an accurate, relaxed and flowing test, so harmonious, which was truly lovely to watch. If I am really picky then from my viewpoint (in the grandstand just to the right of A) their half passes to the left looked marginally better than to the right, and the final flying change was a bit of a blip, a bit late, for 5,4,4 on the scoreboard, so there is room for them to be overtaken tomorrow if anyone can nail an excellent test on a great mover!
Sam coped well with a lot of clapping both before and after the test, perhaps helped by the black ear veil he had on. It was such a pleasure to see this legendary pair, and I can’t wait to see them on the XC on Saturday.
After the lunch break Georgie Spence and Wii Limbo were the first to look like troubling the top of the leaderboard, this big-moving elegant horse looking calm and obedient for an assured test, scoring plenty of 7.5s and 8s. Their changes were clean and she looked delighted at the end of the test. Their score of 46.4 put them into 3rd place and best of the Brits at this stage in the competition and eventually 5th overnight.
Gemma Tattersall and Arctic Soul looked really good, scoring lots of 7s and 8s, only the stretchy canter circle really looking as if it pulled their marks down a bit. They were awarded 43.0 to go into 2nd place overnight.
Three from the end of the day, Mackenna Shea, in beautiful dark grey tails, and Landioso did a lovely test for 3rd place overnight, on 46.1 for America.
So at the end of Day One of the dressage, Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam were the only ones to break the 40 penalty barrier; it remains to be seen whether any of tomorrow’s combinations can do better.