Rosalind Canter and her hugely popular horse Lordships Graffalo lit up a damp coronation day when producing a superb dressage test to take the lead at Badminton Horse Trials, presented by Mars Equestrian.
Ros, the 2018 world champion, scored 22.1 with Michele Saul’s 11-year-old by Grafenstolz, giving her the slimmest of leads after the first phase. She has a 0.2 penalty advantage over Kitty King and Vendredi Biats – 1.5 penalties covers the top five before a cross-country day that riders anticipate will be influential.
First-day leaders Oliver Townend and Swallow Springs are now third, Gemma Stevens (Jalapeno) is fourth and Tom McEwen (Toledo de Kerser) is fifth.
Ros was full of praise for Lordships Graffalo (“Walter”), a horse that seems to revel in his job. “He loves it, he just loves it,” she said. “If the crowd had stamped their feet, he’d have danced even more. That’s why he’s such a wonderful event horse.
“It’s great to be at the top today, but with such small differences in dressage scores it will probably be a bit irrelevant tomorrow. It’s a great cross-coutry track and it will just be a case of getting stuck in and riding sensibly according to the conditions.”
Kitty King led the dressage at Burghley last year and still managed to finish in the top 10 despite hitting a frangible pin on the cross-country course. “It would be wonderful if luck was on my side this time,” she said.
Oliver Townend is also in sixth place and close contention on his second ride, Ballaghmor Class, who scored 24.7. “I’m happy with the position I’m in, and there isn’t the pressure of being in the lead now!” he said.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the same top three sitting here tomorrow but, equally, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a totally different top three. We will just have to ride reactively to the conditions.”
The price of one cross-country pin (11 penalties) covers the top 40 riders and the price of a run-out (20 penalties) covers virtually the whole field of 64. A few alterations have been made to the cross-country course and two elements of combination fences removed in deference to the heavy rainfall.
The cross-country is due to start at 11.30am tomorrow and will be livestreamed on Badminton TV.