It’s All Change for Badminton Horse Trials Leader Board after Day 2 of Dressage
Written by Amy Bennett
At the conclusion of the dressage at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, and ahead of the cross country phase tomorrow, Australia’s Christopher Burton and Graf Liberty take the lead on board the striking 12 year old Irish Sports horse Graf Liberty.
Burton smashed the interim dressage score set by Germany’s Ingrid Klimke just after lunch of 36.4, as the 6th last combination to go, he posted a score of 32.9 which is almost 4 marks clear of Ingrid, and the third best ever dressage score in Badminton’s history.
“He’s done good tests before, I knew it was in him yes, but I didn’t think it would be at Badminton.” Burton said of the relatively inexperienced horse at this level – Graf Liberty has only competed at one other 4* event before. Chris rode the horse for every mark with an accurate and confident test, while the horse showed an immense amount of balance and relaxation under the masterful skills of the Australian.
Ingrid rides her stalwart championship partner Horseware Hale Bob OLD, and this combination have a good history here at Badminton Finishing 2nd here in 2015. But can she go one better this year? “For sure that’s why I’m here, but I’m not the only one to want to win the trophy,” She laughed. “Bobby did a wonderful job and has enough experience being 13 years old, he’s done enough big courses so I trust him and am looking forward to it. Plan A is to just keep going straight but I will be flexible when I feel what is underneath me.” She said of her plans for Eric Winter’s cross country course tomorrow.
Finding himself in third place overnight is Ireland’s Jonty Evans, who has set a record of the best Irish dressage score in 4* history with 37.2 penalties. Clearly emotional coming out of the arena, Jonty remarked that his Rio Olympics partner, Cooley Rorkes Drift, is his horse of a lifetime. “I’m delighted with him, he tried so hard and it’s fabulous to do it in the right place. We’ve worked hard on the horse’s dressage after Rio,” Jonty said of the 11 year old Irish Sports Horse.
Having now walked the course in the company of none other than Olympic eventing legend Blyth Tait. It is widely unanimous that every fence is huge and intimidating, requiring a vast amount guts and accuracy in equal measures. According to Blyth, you are going to need a bold horse with a lot of scope, that you trust implicitly as there is no room to regain confidence if you have an error or a scary moment out there.
“It’s the sort of course where you are scared about every fence but you can see a clear way through every one.” Said the overnight leader, Burton, of the track. But as Germany’s best lady rider put it, “this is not a dressage competition for sure, our scores are all so close together. So throw the dressage sheet away, tomorrow is another day and then we will see who is in the lead.”