May 6, 2007

Joe Meyer and Snip.

Andrew Nicholson and Henry Tankerville.

Caroline Powell and Lenamore.

Andrew Nicholson and Lord Killinghust.
Photos: Kit Houghton/Badminton Horse Trials

Just 0.2 of a penalty mark separates the top two horses at the end of cross-country day at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials.

The day was marred by the death of two horses; neither related to a cross-country jump.

After completing his round Andrew Downes's Skwal died of a suspected heart attack. And Jean-Lou Bigot's Icare D'Auzay suffered an arterial injury when he was speared by a flag as he ran out at the Vicarage Vee. Despite emergency treatment on course and after being transported to a local centre of Veterinary Excellence he could not be saved.

Lucinda Fredericks (AUS) and Headley Britannia sit in pole position. If she stays there the 15.3hh mare will be the first mare to win Badminton since Bambi in 1954 ridden by Margaret Hough 53 years ago.

The pair took several of the longer routes and came home just two seconds outside the optimum time. Despite adding 0.8 time penalties to their leading dressage score, the combination cannot be beaten today and will remain in the lead for Sunday's show jumping.

"She is such a feisty mare. She was much stronger than at Burghley - we didn't have the hills to slow her down and she is so fit. I did a few slow routes as I had to as she would have got too strong but towards the end she was jumping so well I was able to angle the Rolex table and save some time. You don't get a horse like this very often," said Lucinda.

"The further she went the better she jumped," said an ecstatic Lucinda after her ride. "I wanted to get the feeling of how she was jumping before I made decisions as to which routes I would take. I used the early water jumps as training exercises and by the time we got to the lake she jumped that brilliantly. I didn't have quite the easy ride I had at Burghley as she was strong - she felt as though she could have gone on."

Next week the mare, who is by Jumbo, the same sire as Andrew Nicholson's sixth placed Henry Tankerville, and bred by Mike and Betty Hounsell of the Headley Stud in Berkshire who are at Badminton to watch her, will be going to stud herself for embryo transfer.

"She is not retiring - you don't get one like her very often - I love this little horse," said Lucinda who was born in Britain but adopted Australian nationality in 2000 after marriage to Australian rider Clayton Fredericks.

American Kim Severson and Winsome Adante on their first visit to Badminton remain on their dressage score and in second place. "I am very happy with my horse and myself," said Kim who could be the first American to win Badminton since David O'Connor and Custom Made in 1997. "Dan is a truly amazing horse and I am fortunate to have him. I just aimed to get into a rhythm and it all went pretty much to plan and it feels really cool to have done it."

If however third placed Hinrich Romeike and his lovely grey Holstein registered gelding Marius Voight-Logistik, who are just four penalties - one show jump down - behind the leaders, pull it off tomorrow they would be the first mainland European to win Badminton since Capt Hans Schwarzenbach in 1951 - 56 years ago.

Hinrich, who is a dentist by profession, had one heart-stopping moment on the course when he lost his reins going into the bounce at The Colt Pond. "I saw him attacking this hedge infront of me. I directed him like a lawnmower and he got over it but I have no idea how he did it," said Hinrich.

A fast clear round brought Sarah Cohen and Hide and Seek II (no. 82) up from 16th to 7th place and the combination is the best of the British contingent. "I had a fantastic ride. You have to allow him to gallop but he jumps out of it. He is very honest and has the scope," said Sarah who is also in 28th place with The Wexford Lady.

Contrary to anxiety before the cross-country about the ground, the great effort put in by the Badminton management produced an excellent track. From the 56 starters cross country 43 completed of those 33 went clear - 18 within the time.

"I would like to say a big 'thank you' to the team led by the Willis Bros and Mike Etherington-Smith and all the tractor drivers and farmers on the estate who worked so hard to make the improvements to the course," said Event Director Hugh Thomas.

Overall there were 43 completions, and 33 clear rounds on the cross-country, 18 within the time.

Lucinda Fredericks and Headley Brittania.
Photo: Kit Houghton/Badminton Horse Trials