You had to be an early riser to catch some of the best dressage on day two of the Badminton Horse Trials in the UK.
The start of competition was pulled forward an hour to allow the spectators to watch King Charles III’s coronation, taking place in Westminster Abbey, on large screens throughout the showgrounds.
Britain’s Tom McEwan and Kitty King both rode early in the day and took fifth and second place respectively on Toledo De Kerser and Vendredi Biats.
The normally pristine white Vendredi Biats was mud spattered up to his hocks as the rain, which had fallen most of the night, continued throughout the day. The weather did not phase “Froggy,” as he’s known at home.
“He really quite enjoys sloppy, dirty ground—he loves getting himself filthy, so he was in his element!” said King. “The new test suited him well, he’s very good at half passes so it was nice to have all that space to show him off.”
Rosalind Canter (GBR), already in the top ten on her first horse Pencos Crown Jewel after Friday’s dressage, came in late in the day on Lordships Gruffalo, an imposing 17.1hh gelding by Grafenstolz, to take over the top spot on a score of 22.1. The huge horse made light of the deep going, delivering Canter’s best ever five-star dressage score. The result has moved the pair from a 14% win chance coming into Badminton to now a 23% win chance, according to the Equiratings Prediction Centre.
“Walter is very light boned and very light on his feet so he handles the ground as well as any,” said Canter. “I was delighted with him. He’s been improving all winter and it was exciting to show him at his best.”
Overnight leader Oliver Townend (GBR) held onto third place with Swallow Springs and also slotted into sixth place on Ballaghmor Class, his Lexington and Burghley winner.
The scores are incredibly tight at the top with only five marks separating the first 12 combinations, but as Townend remarked Friday, the competition is not going to be decided in the dressage arena.
Townend spoke glowingly of course builder Eric Winter’s track, even with the now wet conditions.
“Obviously we will have to ride reactively—if your horse slips on a turn, you need think quickly. However, all the distances are true distances and the lines are all very true lines but it is a proper five star track. It’s a big, big jumping effort and with the softening ground it’s going to be even more of an effort for us—it’s going to be hard work!”
Gemma Stevens (GBR) and Jalapeno lie fourth. The striking liver chestnut mare looks very alike her sire, Badminton winning Chilli Morning.
Last year’s Badminton winner, Laura Collett (GBR), is in seventh place on the black gelding Dacapo, and two-time Badminton champion William Fox-Pitt is in eighth on Grafennacht, a mare who, like Lordships Graffalo, is sired by Grafenstolz. Fox-Pitt rode Chilli Morning to victory in 2015 and also won eleven years earlier on the diminutive Tamarillo.
Sixty-four horses advance to Sunday’s cross country phase. The forecast is for dry weather overnight and Sunday, which will hopefully dry the ground slightly.