Eventing legend Armada began to say farewell to Badminton by producing another brilliant cross-country performance.
The 17-year-old, ridden by Oliver Townend, is nearing the end of his four-star career, but he once again delivered the goods as this year’s event reached its pivotal phase.
Townend, this year’s cross-country pathfinder, jumped clear inside the time to put himself in sight of a top 10 finish.
“He (Armada) is different to what he used to be,” Townend said. “He has changed a lot with age. He has definitely got very clever with the ones (fences) that he doesn’t have to put much effort into!
“Of course, he has got a huge amount of ability, of course he wants to still do it, but I think he is the equivalent of a 70-year-old man now! It’s a huge thrill for him to have a last Badminton like that.
“If he is fit and wanting to do it, he isn’t going to have any other job apart from an event horse, so what do you do? He jumps out of the field when he is bored these days!
“We are coming towards the end with him, for sure. There were not particularly comfortable feelings at times, but at the same time, it was a very safe feeling. He always felt like he was going to happen one way or another.”
Germany’s Michael Jung led the way approaching the halfway stage of cross-country after conquering the course inside the time on the brilliant La Biosthetique-Sam.
It means he remains on his dressage score of 34.4 penalties, and will win £320,000 if he jumps clear in Sunday’s final showjumping phase.
Badminton has a top prize of £80,000 while Jung will also secure an additional £240,000 if he lands the Rolex Grand Slam for landing consecutive Burghley, Kentucky and Badminton titles. No German rider has ever won at Badminton to date.
Image: Oliver Townend and Armada at a past edition of the Badminton horse trials, by Kit Houghton, courtesy of the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials