New Zealand eventer Jonelle Price has ridden Classic Moet to the top of the Badminton Horse Trials leaderboard after an impressive cross-country run.
They were the fastest combination on course, going over time by just a second and picking up 0.4 penalties to finish the day on 28. Overnight leader Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class picked up 7.2 time penalties to also finish on 28 but in second place as Price was closest to the optimum time.
There were 44 clear rounds from 77 starters over Eric Winter’s 32-fence course. Huntsman’s Close (fences 6abc), put paid to several leading contenders’ chances, including previous winners Pippa Funnell (Billy Beware) and William Fox-Pitt (Fernhill Pimms), who both ran out at the tricky third element.
“She is some horse at cross country,” Price said of Classic Moet. “Her speed is quite phenomenal. There really is no other like her and to show that time and time again is really special.”
Price finished just one second over the optimum despite a heart-stopping moment in the Lake (fence 9abc) when the mare got too close to the brush in the water and twisted in the air.
Townend received a warning from the ground jury for his “over-use of the whip on both horses” and said the horses would be carefully checked at the inspection on Sunday morning for their fitness to compete in the jumping phase.
He is in the running for eventing’s Rolex Grand Slam, after winning the four-stars at Burghley and Kentucky in succession. His second ride, Cooley SRS, currently lies in fifth.
Britain’s Rosalind Canter and Allstar B led were third by the end of the day on a score of 30.3. Her round was a brilliant exhibition of bold, attacking riding coupled with precision and great care. Her 6.4 time penalties were just about as fast as anyone managed in the morning.
Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam FBW are within striking distance of the leaders in fourth place on a score of 30.7. They survived a heart-in-mouth moment at the Outlander PHEV Mound (fence 14) when a misjudgment at the first corner left Jung having to cling on like a limpet.
Mark Todd, the oldest rider in the field at 62, has two horses in the top 10. Kiltubrid Rhapsody lies sixth and Leonidas II, 10th. The USA’s Lauren Kieffer lies seventh with the much-admired mare, Veronica, while Gemma Tattersall (Arctic Soul) sit in eighth.
Eleven of the 16 first-timers completed, including ninth-placed Padraig McCarthy and Mr Chunky and Alicia Hawker and Charles RR (54th).
Of the other Kiwi combinations, three came home clear. Defending champ Andrew Nicholson and Nereo are in 12th on 37.5, with Tim Price 14th on Ringwood Sky Boy with 38.2. Caroline Powell was clear with both her horses and sits in 33rd spot with On the Brash on 65.1 and trailblazer Up Up and Away, who sits in 36th spot on 67.7. First-timers Virginia Thompson and Star Nouveau picked up 11 faults for a frangible pin activation and some time penalties to finish on 70.2 in 39th, with Dan Jocelyn and Dassett Cool Touch on 81.4 in 44th. Andy Daines and Spring Panorama were eliminated late in the course.
Eric Winter’s course was as riders had predicted – not the toughest, but with some challenges and a tight time. Forty-four combinations came home clear, but all with time penalties. Three picked up 11 faults for frangible pin activation and nine had jumping faults. Nine retired on course, with 11 eliminated.
For the final showjumping phase there is less than a rail between the top four, and fewer than two between the top nine.
Images from the dressage: