After the completion of a very soggy day two of dressage at the Badminton Horse trials 2023 presented by Mars Equestrian, a new combination tops the leader board on the day of King Charles’ coronation. Amy Powell reports on the day’s events.
With very different ground conditions inside the white boards today and as the rain teemed down, it is all change at the business end of the competition as Ros Canter takes the lead with the horse she piloted to runner up spot here last year, Lordships Gruffalo, on a score of 22.1 penalties. The 2018 world champion was full of praise for the 11-year-old British Sports Horse after a tricky start to their week at the event, “He came out extremely fresh and excited, very jolly, giving way too much all the time and I didn’t know whether I would get it [a good test] in there, but then he goes in and he loves it.” she said beaming. “The crowd could stand up and start stamping their feet and he would just prick his ears and enjoy it even more. He just never has any fear and that what makes him so great.” Unlike some combinations who unfortunately struggled in the testing conditions, Lordships Gruffalo handled the ground in the arena extremely well, “he danced his way through it, he is light on his feet and is a beautiful horse to ride, and I just think the world of him.”
Just 0.2 penalties behind Ros are last year’s dressage leaders Kitty King and the 14-year-old Selle Français gelding, Vendredi Biats. Having knocked a frangible pin on the cross country course in 2022, taking them down the rankings, Kitty is hoping for better fortunes tomorrow, “it would be wonderful if luck was on my side this time,” she said with a smile. But of her test, Kitty analysed, “I am just proud of how he comped today, he was super in the arena, he’s a fantastic mover and it was nice to have all that room to show him off, the test suited him and he coped with the ground very well.”
Managing to maintain a spot in the top three going into the cross country phase tomorrow, is day one leader, Oliver Townend on Swallow Springs who took an early lead in the competition yesterday on a score of 23.2. Oliver’s second ride, his Tokyo Olympic mount Ballaghmor Class who competed this afternoon in the worst of the ground slots into sixth place, giving him two horses in the top ten and double the opportunity to tackle Eric Winter’s imposing cross country course. “I would l have like to been in the lead still!” He laughed, “but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the same three people sitting here [in the press conference] tomorrow, or if equally it was an entirely different top three . It’s not going to be a dressage competition and the cross country is going to be very influential.” to which Ros agreed, “I’ve only been riding at this [CCI-L5*] level for four or five years and can confidently say I have never ridden in conditions like we’re going to see tomorrow beyond three or four star level. It’s nice to be at the top now, but with such small differences in the scores, it will probably be a bit irrelevant tomorrow.”
Rounding out the top ten after dressage are Gemma Stevens with Jalapeno, Olympic individual silver medallists Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser, his Tokyo teammate and last year’s winner Laura Collet with her Badminton first timer Dacapo, Badminton stalwart William Fox-Pitt with the 11-year-old 5* debutant Grafennacht, Harry Meade with Tenareze and Tim Price with Vitali (who sat in third place yesterday after day one of dressage).
Due to the sheer amount of rain falling today, there have been a number of changes to the cross country course in preparation of the anticipated ground conditions. The B element has been removed from fence 17, the Lemieux Mound, the A element has also been removed from fence 27 at the Horse Quest Quarry – the last of the testing fence combinations on the track – and the water level will be lowered at the Badminton Lake for fence 21. With an optimum time of 11 minutes 26 seconds – one of the longest CCI-L 5* courses we have seen in recent years – and a more ‘old school’ feel to a lot of the track, with fewer tricky “headscratching fences” as Oliver put it, and more big, bold fences that require strong riding, there is certainly all to play for and a lot of action to come tomorrow.