There was a thrilling climax to Cross-Country day at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials – the first leg of the HSBC FEI Classics™ – when Mark Todd (NZL) returned to a hero’s welcome, having produced a masterful display of riding to bring the inexperienced NZB Land Vision home clear and into the lead.
However, the three-times Badminton winner and double Olympic champion will need all his renowned skill in tomorrow’s Jumping phase for, in a remarkable result, the price of one fence covers the top 12 riders.
“Land Vision is a good horse but he’s relatively young (10) and he did feel green,” said Todd, whose last appearance in a CCI4* press conference was 12 years ago when he finished second on Word Perfect.
“He definitely felt tired after Huntsmans Close and I had to nurse him home, but he felt really genuine. I had to give him a bit of a shake-up in the Quarry but he picked up and that’s the sign of a good horse.”
Marina Köhncke who, coincidentally led Todd in the Dressage back in 1994, could yet make history as the first German rider to win Badminton. She is lying second on Calma Schelly.
In a dramatic afternoon, she was held on course while officials attended to Louise Skelton (GBR) and Partly Pickled, who fell at the Sunken Lane (16). “I wasn’t that cool about being held, because I don’t do this (riding at 4-star level) that often!” said Köhncke.
“But everyone was telling me at the start that I had to go faster this time. Finishing so well at Badminton is a dream for me. It’s fantastic to be back.”
Pathfinder Andrew Nicholson (NZL), who is lying fourth on Nereo, gave a typically confidence-giving display to his peers, coming home seven seconds inside the optimum time of 11 minutes 15 seconds on Avebury, despite taking the long route at the Farmyard (fence 15). But the time proved much harder to achieve than predicted, with only seven of the 76 starters crossing the finish line penalty free.
Dressage leader Ruth Edge (GBR) got as far as the bounce of hedges in Huntsmans Close (fence 24) before Two Thyme stopped and Emily Baldwin (GBR) and Drivetime, fifth, got no further than the Lake, an obstacle that has been their downfall before.
Oliver Townend (GBR), seventh, had a near-miss when Ashdale Cruise Master pecked in the Lake, and it was all over when the grey fell on landing over the third element of the Quarry (fence 27).
Aoife Clark (IRL), eighth, had a frustrating ealy run-out at the Hillside (fence 6) on Master Crusoe, and Susanna Bordone (ITA), ninth, lost her chance when Carrera tripped up the step out of the Lake and incurred 20 penalties.
Ingrid Klimke (GBR), equal 10th, was taken to hospital in Bristol for a precautionary look at her leg after Butts Abraxxas tipped over the second log element of Huntsmans Close. Selina O’Hanlon, on the same Dressage score as Klimke, dropped out of the reckoning with two refusals at the Sunken Road (16).
After a horse fall at the same fence, Elizabeth Power (IRL) was also taken to hospital for a check-up after being knocked unconscious but was reported to be recovering well.
There were, however, 50 clear rounds and 59 horses will go through to tomorrow’s Jumping phase in what promises to be the most exciting finale ever.
1 Mark Todd/NZB Land Vision (NZL) 36.8 + 6.8 = 43.6
2 Marina Köhncke/Calma Schelly (GER) 39.8 + 4 = 43.8
3 Nicola Wilson/Opposition Buzz (GBR) 44.0 + 0 = 44.0
4 Andrew Nicholson/Nereo (NZL) 44.3 + 0 = 44.3
5 Piggy French/Jakata (GBR) 36.0 + 9.2 = 45.2
6 Laura Collett/Rayef (GBR) 36.5 + 8.8 = 45.3
7 Mary King/Imperial Cavalier (GBR) 44.2 + 1.6 = 45.8
8 Sam Griffiths/Happy Times (AUS) 46.3 + 0 = 46.3
9 Niklas Lindback/Mister Pooh (SWE) 46.7 + 0 = 46.7
10 Caroline Powell/Lenamore (NZL) 47.2 + 0 = 47.2
11 Andrew Nicholson/Avebury (NZL) 47.2 + 0 = 47.2
12 Kai Rüder/Le Prince des Bois (GER) 44.8 + 2.4 = 47.2