Young British rider Emily King produced the performance of the day on Brookleigh and is in second place behind Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam FBW at the end of the dressage phase at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials.
The youngest rider in the event, King scored 36.8 in a beautiful test on the 13-year-old Westphalian Brookleigh on Friday and is 2.4 penalties behind the Olympic champion, who retains pole position going into Saturday’s cross-country at Badminton, the fourth leg of the FEI Classics series.
King’s riding was calm and mature and she and the hogged black gelding made an elegant picture. “I feel really proud,” she said.
“Brookleigh can do a good test, but he also has a tendency to get behind the leg or be lively, and it was great that this time he was exactly as good in the arena as he had been in the warm-up.
“I’m excited rather than nervous – at the moment! This will be his longest course but the good ground should suit him.”
King, whose mother, Mary, won Badminton in 1992 and 2000, finished fourth on her CCI4* debut at Pau in France last year. She said: “I’ve been coming to Badminton every year since I was born, and this has always been the most important event to me.”
Andreas Ostholt (GER) and Francis Whittington (GBR), who performed their dressage tests on Friday, are now in third and fourth places.
As anticipated, Christopher Burton (AUS) and the 11-year-old Nobilis 18, a horse originally produced by Jung, are among the leaders, in fifth place on 40.3.
Their test had some lovely moments, with just the odd mistake coming in the half-pass and one flying change.
Although the absence of two of Britain’s best riders, former winners William Fox-Pitt and Pippa Funnell, who was injured in a fall last weekend, the younger generation have certainly risen to the occasion.
Dani Evans (Raphael ll) and Izzy Taylor (Allercombe Ellie) are in joint sixth place and Oliver Townend is eighth on the New Zealand Thoroughbred Black Tie, once a winning racehorse on the flat.
New Zealanders Clarke Johnstone and Jesse Campbell, both on debut at Badminton have both remained in the top 10. Johnstone and Balmoral Sensation are on 40.8, while Campbell and Kaapachino is right behind on 41.1.
Several experienced riders are clustered together on scores in the mid-40s, just a little off the pace of the leaders, and some have expressed disappointment with their performances.
Bettina Hoy (GER), 14th on a score of 44.0 with Designer 10, lost marks for tension and a mistake in a flying change, and Sir Mark Todd (NZL), 17th on 44.8 penalties, reported Leonidas ll to have been “uptight”.
“The horse worked in really nicely and is capable of doing a test in the mid 30s but he got in there and lost his concentration,” Todd said. “He saw himself on the big screen and that freaked him out a bit so we were battling a bit from there on in.”
Jock Paget is just behind Todd in 9th place on Clifton Lush with 45.2. Tim and Jonelle Price are back to back at 30th and 31st respectively.
Tim the big atmosphere had made the difference for Ringwood Sky Boy. “The horse is so much more capable than that … it is nice to try and better your personal bests in this game so happy but a little disappointed,” he said. “I think the atmosphere is the impact for him … but you can’t emulate that anywhere other than in the ring.”
Jonelle said she was “happy enough” with the efforts of her showy mare Classic Moet.
Laura Collett (GBR), 37th on 48.2, looked as if she would challenge the leaders with Grand Manoeuvre before mistakes crept in, and Zara Tindall (GBR), 36th on 48.0, who is chasing Olympic qualification on High Kingdom, said the 15-year-old was “a bit too jolly” after an 18-month absence from major competition.
Beautiful sunny weather has created a relaxed atmosphere at the famous British venue, but the atmosphere is expected to hot up when riders tackle Giuseppe della Chiesa’s challenging cross-country course.
The Kiwi riders are describing it as “big, bold and long”, with Todd commenting that the course called for concentration and accuracy.
“There is a big course out there to jump. It is a testing course and we have to hope we don’t lose any more ground,” he said.
Tim Price says the “huge” course should suit his horse well. “Suits him down to the ground. It will be a matter of placing him well and doing a good job and keeping a good rhythm for the clock. I like the track. It has a lot of challenges.”
Andreas Ostholt, who is in third place, said: “I think the ground will be perfect for the cross-country, so the conditions can’t be better. If it stays like this tomorrow too, I think we will have a great day and enjoy the day.”
Oliver Townend will show the way on one of the world’s most experienced horses, Armada, at 11.30am.
Images below © Mike Bain
Additional reporting: Diana Dobson, Rod Kohler
Results after Dressage
1 Michael Jung/La Biosthetique Sam FBW (GER) 34.4 penalties
2 Emily King/Brookleigh (GBR) 36.8
3 Andreas Ostholt/So Is Et (GER) 38.2
4 Francis Whittington/Hasty Imp (GBR) 40.0
5 Christopher Burton/Nobilis 18 (AUS) 40.3
6= Dani Evans/Raphael ll (GBR) 40.4
6= Izzy Taylor/Allercombe Ellie (GBR) 40.4
8 Oliver Townend/Black Tie (GBR) 40.7
9 Clarke Johnstone/Balmoral Sensation (NZL) 40.8
10 Jesse Campbell/Kaapachino (NZL) 41.1