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Badminton 2018: Oliver Townend almost achieves a dressage best

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Image credit: Kit Houghton / Mitsubishi Motors

The second day of dressage at this year’s Badminton Horse Trials caused a real shake-up in the leaderboard. H&R reveals what happened


The final dressage day at Badminton brought more surprises, personal bests and leaderboard shuffling. The removal of the dressage multiplier of 1.5% means the scores are very tightly bunched, but rider after rider pulled an great score out of the bag.


The rider who probably received the loudest cheer as they entered the ring was Jonty Evans. The successful crowdfunding campaign last summer to preserve his partnership with Cooley Rorkes Drift (Art) catapulted the pair onto many peoples’ radars, and it’s likely that several of the horse’s 6,800 ‘owners’ were in the stands to see them in action.


“He knows they’re clapping for him,” said Jonty afterwards. “He loves the atmosphere.”


Jonty felt a certain degree of expectation to follow up on their personal best score here last year, which saw them sit in third place at the end of the first phase. And follow up they did, achieving a new personal best of 24.1, putting them into second going into the lunchtime break.


The ground conditions on the cross-country course are playing on everybody’s minds. Thanks to the recent wet weather, the track has been left soft and sticky ­– course designer Eric Winter has claimed he’d like to have two horses inside the time, although some riders don’t think even will be possible. However, one rider who’s not worried is Sam Griffiths.


“When it was raining at the start of the week, I thought to myself that she’s the one horse it won’t really effect,” he said of his ride, Paulank Brockagh. “She’s really fit, she can gallop all day. As long as I don’t make a silly mistake, I hope to be right up there at the end of the day.” It’s true that when the pair won Badminton, in 2014, was the last time Badminton was really muddy and the pair climbed the leaderboard after the cross-country phase. They’re currently sitting in equal fifth with fellow Aussie, Paul Tapner after equalling their career best dressage score.


Sir Mark Todd, who briefly led with his first horse, Leonidas II, on the first day, managed to repeat this feat with his second ride, Kiltubrid Rhapsody, late in the day. “In the last six weeks, I’ve really started to feel he’s coming into his own and able to do a good test,” said Mark, who first won here 38 years ago. “I’m absolutely thrilled with him.”


However, he didn’t hold onto the lead for long. Much has been made about the fact that Oliver Townend is here not just competing for his second Badminton title, but also aiming to be the third rider ever to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing. He certainly rode Ballaghmor Class like a man on a mission and it paid off – they rocketed into first place, achieving the second best score ever seen at Badminton of 20.8.


“It felt like I was in control of every single step and he was on my side,” said Oliver afterwards. “I’m seriously happy with him, he gave me everything I wanted and more.”


Here’s the current top ten going into the cross-country…

1. Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class (GBR) – 20.8

2. Mark Todd and Kiltubrid Rhapsody (NZL) – 23.4

3. Ros Canter and Allstar B (GBR) – 23.9

4. Jonty Evans and Cooley Rorkes Drift (IRL) – 24.1

=5. Paul Tapner and Bonza King of Rouges (AUS) – 24.4

=5. Sam Griffiths and Paulank Brockagh (AUS) – 24.4

7. Will Coleman and OBOS O’Reilly (USA) – 24.6

8. Michael Jung and La Biosthetique-Sam FBW (GER) – 24.7

9. Yoshiaki Oiwa and The Duke of Cavan (JPN) – 24.9

=10. Lauren Kieffer and Veronica (USA) – 25.0

=10. Piggy French and Vanir Kamira (GBR) – 25.0


One thing that everybody can agree on is that this won’t be a dressage competition. Tomorrow is another day, one that will undoubtedly prove to be hugely influential and, with only 4.2 penalties separating the top top, every second over the optimum time will count. The leaderboard will certainly look completely different in 24 hours time.


You can keep up to date with everything that happens by checking out the Horse&Rider website and social media feeds.

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