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Debut rider leads Badminton Horse Trials

April 23, 2011

By Kate Green

British rider Laura Collett made a dream start to her debut at the Badminton Horse Trials, when heading several more experienced riders at the end of the first day of dressage.

Laura Collett and Rayef, leaders after the first day of dressage at Badminton. © Mike Bain

Collett, 21, is renowned for having a cool head and a tidy style - she was a successful rider of show ponies as a child - and she presented a neat and pleasing picture on the 12-year-old Dutch-bred Rayef, the horse on whom she won Junior and Young Rider European titles in 2007 and 2009.

"That's his best test ever," said a delighted Collett on learning of her score of 36.5 penalties, which gives her a 3.3 lead over Germany's Marina Köhncke.

"Yogi Briesner (trainer) told me to ride as if I was at home. Rayef didn't make any mistakes and he was soft and attentive. It was nice to sit on.

"My whole life has been about getting to Badminton, so to be here for the first time on such a good horse feels amazing."

Collett bought the gelding, of unknown breeding, with the proceeds from selling her pony team gold medallist, Noble Springbok, who is now owned by Jason Houghton. Rayef spent 2010 on the sidelines due to a minor tendon injury, and Collett made her CCI4* debut at Burghley on Ginger May Killinghurst, finishing 30th.

German riders had a good day and are lying second, fourth and fifth. Marina Köhncke (nee Loheit) led the dressage at Badminton way back in 1994 on Sundancer, and was ecstatic at being back in the limelight, with a good score of 39.8 on the attractive mare Calma Schelly, a 12-year-old by Chambertin.

"I'm still shaking," said Köhncke. "It's unbelievable to be back riding here again. I never thought I could do another 4-star after having two children. I took Calma Schelly to Burghley and she seemed a little shocked by it, but she's trained so well over the winter and is such a wonderful horse that I decided to come to Badminton."

Susanna Bordone (ITA) is in third place on the Australian-bred Carrera despite the judges, Anne-Mette Binder (DEN), Sue Stewart (GBR) and Christian Landolt (SUI) having to award her two penalties for an error of course after she added an extra loop to the serpentine movement.

Bordone commented: "For Carrera, the dressage is the easiest part, so we'll have to see what happens. She is only half-bred so isn't the fastest across country and I have to take tight lines on her which can lead to mistakes. My husband is a racehorse trainer, so we have done some work on her speed and fitness, but she is 15 now and we'll have to see."

The 38 riders who have completed their dressage tests all know that results could change, with riders of the calibre of Britons Mary King, Pippa Funnell and William Fox-Pitt, and New Zealanders Mark Todd, Caroline Powell and Andrew Nicholson on their second horses, plus such noted dressage experts as Ruth Edge (GBR) and Lucinda Fredericks (AUS), still to come.

Riders have been assessing Hugh Thomas's cross-country course, where it will be interesting to see how some of last year's most testing accuracy fences, such as the HSBC FEI Classics Corral (fences 7-8), the Colt Pond (14ab) and the open corners at the HS1 Farmyard (15), work when jumped in a clockwise direction.

Dressage marks may prove influential. Andrew Nicholson, who says he is unworried at being first to go across country, on Avebury, predicts that the fast going will result in a large number of rounds inside the optimum time.

Work is ongoing on the footing, as Badminton continues to be bathed in unseasonably hot sunshine, with watering and vertical spiking to loosen the earth.

Badminton stats

Former winners
This year's Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials field includes seven previous winners: Mary King, Lucinda Fredericks, Oliver Townend, Mark Todd, Pippa Funnell, William Fox-Pitt and Paul Tapner.

There are 22 first-timers in the field, including 13 overseas combinations. Lauren Shannon (Zero Flight and Quixotic), Joy Dawes (Finnisterre), Izzy Taylor (Briarlands Matilda), Laura Collett (Rayef), Flora Harris (Law Choice), Ben Hobday (Uptons Who), Lucie McNichol (Zeus Of Rushall), Sarah Stretton (Lazy Acres Skip On) and Alice Pearson (Beau Bear) make up the British contingent, while Ireland's first-timers are Aoife Clark (Vaguely North and Master Crusoe), Joseph Murphy (Electric Cruise) and Louise Lyons (Murphys Miracle).

For France, Karim Laghouag (Havenir D'Azac), Didier Dhennin (Ismene Du Temple), Gwendolen Fer (Leria Du Ter), Helene Vattiere (Jubal) are all making the trip to Badminton for the first time, while first timer Jrina Giessuein (Thunder III) is Switzerland's sole representative. For the USA, Buck Davidson (Ballynoe Castle RM) and Jennifer Wootten (The Good Witch) are making their debuts here, as are Canada's Selena O'Hanlon (Columbo) and Stephanie Rhodes-Bosch (Port Authority).

There are eight mares in the field: Prada (Lucinda Fredericks), FRH Fantasia (Andras Dibowski), Quixotic (Lauren Shannon), Briarlands Matilda (Izzy Taylor), The Good Witch (Jennifer Wootten), Calma Schelly (Marina Kohncke), Roma ML (Fiona Hobby) and Carerra (Susanna Bordone).

At 21, Laura Collett is the youngest competitor in this year's line-up by just one week - Camilla Speirs, who rides the smallest horse in the field, the 15hh Portersize Just A Jiff, also has an August birthday, while Emily Llewellyn is the third 21-year-old in the field. The oldest rider is France's 57-year-old former World Champion Jean Teulere.



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