A Continental First Day of Dressage at Badminton
Written by Amy Bennett
The first day of dressage at The Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials saw a continental stranglehold of the top five, with two Frenchmen and two Germans take the top four placings, with New Zealand’s Mark Todd rounding off the group.
France’s Thibaut Vallette stormed into the lead in the first session after lunch with a polished performance, scoring 38.7 penalties. Although an Olympic team gold medallist and individual silver medallist in Rio last year, not only is this is the Frenchman’s first Badminton, it is also the first four start for both him and his mount Qing Du Briot Ene HN, so to put in such a solid performance at their first four star event is a phenomenal achievement.
The 13 year old Selle Français showed a wonderful cadence in the trot, that unfortunately he couldn’t quite carry through to the canter. “He has a very nice trot.” Thibaut said of the striking bay gelding, “It’s important to set off well in the test to make the most of those marks, but in the canter the horse is a bit more difficult to collect.”
Apart from one small blip in the first flying change the pair performed a seamless test, “there was a little moment where it didn’t look so good, but then things slotted back into place and I was very pleased with the finish.” He said.
Following closely behind with less than a penalty between them, is Germany’s golden girl Bettina Hoy. Riding the 13 year old Westphalian Designer 10, they displayed their usual mix of panache and accuracy to score 39.2 penalties.
Current Badminton Champion and team mate to Bettina, Michal Jung, riding his double Olympic gold medal mount La Biostethique Sam only managed to slide into third place going into the second day of dressage with an uncustomary 40 penalty point dressage score.
France’s Astier Nicolas, whose mount Piaf De B’Neville was sent to the holding box in yesterday’s trot up, lies in fourth spot overnight, and Mark Todd made a costly error of course with Leonidas II to lie in fifth place. Best of the Brit’s is currently two up and coming riders, sitting in equal sixth together – ex rugby player and Badminton first timer Alexander Bragg riding Zagreb, and he is joined by the reigning British Under 25 Champions, Tom McEwen with the promising 10 year old Selle Français Toledo De Kerser.
With just over one time penalty between the top three currently, the optimum cross country time is most certainly going to prove influential once again. However, the current leader board is not yet set in stone as there is another day of dressage tomorrow with my secret tip for the top – Ingrid Klimke and Horse Ware Hale Bob – still to come.