There are perhaps no real surprises, as in the names of riders at the top of the leader-board at the end of the dressage at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, although perhaps the order wasn’t quite as predictable. The lead is slender however and with just 8 penalties dividing the top 15 combinations one thing is for sure the outcome is unlikely to be decided in the dressage arena.
On the other hand the going is perfect and the consensus of opinion is that the course is easier this year and will ride better this way round. So may be those at the top will come home inside the time.
Still a lead is a lead and it has to be a good feeling to be at the top of the board and who knows, when every second round the cross country counts, that 1.2 penalties in-hand might be all it takes to keep Andrew Nicholson at the top of proceedings.
One thing for sure Andrew (53), has proved that it is never too late to up your game and improve your dressage, no matter how long you have been riding at Badminton (32-years) or how many times you have completed (33). I for one would love to see this New Zealander lift the Mitsubishi trophy if for no other reason that after so many years at the level without a win here, he deserves it.
If anyone can get Chilli round Badminton then William can and the two clearly have a great partnership
William Fox-Pitt is of course no stranger to the top echelons of the leaderboard – it would be a surpise to find him anywhere else. He is however slightly leaping (literally) into the unknown tomorrow, riding a stallion that has not competed here before – although he did complete Burghley with his former rider Nick Gauntlett in 2011. But if anyone can get Chilli round Badminton then William can and the two clearly have a great partnership.
Third placed Oliver Townend is as competitive as they come and currently in flying form so I suspect will not be here for the beer and would love another Badminton title to add to the one he won in 2009.
Thankfully both these two have slightly saved the face of the British in this phase especially as we have the most riders on the start list. One therefore has to be impressed that the three German riders taking part have all made the top nine – including the youngest in the field and first timer 20-year-old Niklas Bschorer and it will be fascinating to see how this confident young man gets on tomorrow.
He, like his compatriots, does have the benefit of several years training with Christopher Bartle – a winner here in 1998 – who undoubtedly, is a man who leaves no stone unturned and nothing to chance, so will have walked every step of the way round the course and 30 fences with the young German.
And Jock Paget has proved yet again that he is as consistent as they come – with both rides side by side and just 0.4 penalties separating the two New Zealand bred thoroughbreds.
One imagines the nerves have started jangling and that the atmosphere back-stage in the lorry park might start to get a little tense this evening – except perhaps Mark Todd who always seems as laid-back as they come.
The stage is certainly set for an exciting day of cross country action and who will be at the top of the leader-board this time tomorrow is anyone’s guess.
It has to be one of those in the top ten, but who? I wouldn’t like to put money on it.