Twenty-six riders tackled the final phase this morning at Badminton Horse Trials, over a course that has proved tight on time.
Several Badminton first-timers were thrilled to add a completion to their competition records. 23-year-old Imogen Murray was one such rider, who rode out of the arena hugging her horse Ivar Gooden after their stylish double-clear.
“It all seems a bit surreal at the minute,” she laughed. “To complete at 23, riding a 10-year-old horse, is more than I ever imagined. We worked out that if you add my age, my horse’s age and my groom’s age together, we’re still younger than Mark and Andrew!”
Ireland’s Cathal Daniels was thrilled to complete with Rioghan Rua. Cathal is just 20, and the mare is just shy of 15.2hh – but they have proved throughout the competition that they’ll be a pair to keep an eye on. They finished on 103.6.
Two of the morning session’s competitors will jump again this afternoon. Oliver Townend added eight penalties to finish on 89.7 with Samuel Thomas II, while Tina Cook added a single time penalty for a final score of 105.8 with Calvino II.
Jonty Evans, who produced one of only five double clears in the first session, was pragmatic about his week of mixed fortunes with Cooley Rorkes Drift. A personal best dressage score of 37.2 had put them into third place on the overall leaderboard, but an unfortunate misread line saw them notch up 20 penalties across the country. Perennially positive, Jonty aimed to ride faster than yesterday’s demons could run.
“He hasn’t had a pole in a three-day event in a long time, and I really didn’t want one today, even though we didn’t have the greatest result yesterday,” he said. “It was very important to me to try to jump clear. We did that together – it maybe wasn’t our best ever round, but what we did, we did together. I was told before I went in to ride as though I was in the top three, and that’s what we did.”
“This year’s Badminton has been amazing – I think I’ve probably learnt a lot. I went back this morning and walked the line where I made the mistake. I won’t do it again, so if Eric would like to build that fence again next year, I’ll do it better! It’s given us a huge amount of confidence that we can compete with the very best. The dressage was undoubtedly a highlight; the horse has come on so much. We’ll definitely be looking towards the Europeans now. It’s been a long time since we’ve had an Irish medal, so it would mean so much to the sport in Ireland if we can bring one back.”
Jonty’s classy finish puts him on the lowest final score of this morning’s competitors. He sits less than a rail outside of the top twenty.
This afternoon’s competition will see the top 20 on the leaderboard jump in reverse order of placings. There’s little room to breath at the top – with only less than a penalty point between the top three, a double-clear will be necessary to clinch the win. Will Ingrid Klimke become the first woman to win Badminton since 2007? Or will Michael Jung pip her to the post and win the second leg of what could be his second Grand Slam victory?
The top 20 is peppered with incredible come-from-behind success stories. Oliver Townend climbed 40 places after cross-country, and currently sits in 7th place on his four-star debutant ODT Ghareeb. Gemma Tattersall moved 56 places from joint-67th to 11th. And New Zealand’s Tim Price, showing phenomenal form, made a 30-place leap to move from 34th to 4th. So how’s he feeling ahead of this afternoon’s final phase?
“I’m quite relaxed – maybe that’s the sunshine!” he said. “Xavier Faer is a good jumper and he feels very good this morning. Those two things combined is often what we don’t have on the Sunday. Now I’ve just got to put on a brave face and pull it off – I’m not saying we’ll necessarily go in and jump a sterling clear, but I’ve got a good bit of horse to work with.”
Tim has done his homework over the winter, taking his top horses to Spain’s Sunshine Tour to contest international showjumping classes.
“This horse was a case in point of why that was so valuable – he’s a green horse and last year he only jumped two clear showjumping rounds, but this year he’s jumped three out of three clear. The Sunshine Tour was great, so I feel like we’ve come here very prepared, so I’m hoping he’ll come out here and show what he can do. But it’ll take more than just a clear round to keep the Germans out of the top spots!”
Five riders will receive the coveted Armada dish this afternoon, which is earned upon five completions at Badminton. Blyth Tait, Izzy Taylor, Bettina Hoy, Joseph Murphy and Louise Harwood – whose completion today is, in fact, her sixth, all on homebred horses – will be honoured in the main ring today.
We’ll be bringing you live updates from this afternoon’s showjumping on our Twitter and Instagram accounts, as well as a full report after the competition ends. For live results, visit the Badminton website. And, if you’re visiting Badminton today, be sure to pop by our stand in the World of the Horse pavilion.