Overnight second out of Badminton after cross-country fall; early report on first few riders
There was drama at the start of the Badminton Horse Trials cross-country, at the event presented by Mars Equestrian. One of the favourites to win, Tom McEwen, and his Olympic gold medallist Toledo De Kerser, paid the price for their boldness when they had a fall two-thirds of the way round.
Tom produced a personal best dressage score on Thursday morning, and looked well on course to maintain his position when he tipped up at the final bounce element of the Lightsource bp Solar Farm, fence 24C.
The horse had been travelling so strongly, eating up Eric Winter’s tricky track. But there was a portent of what was to come when he took a stride out at the third element of the LeMieux Leap at 18C. Having negotiated the daunting Vicarage Vee complex with ease, he came too strongly into the solar panels, took another stride out before the bounce and couldn’t quite get all his legs up in time. Both the horse and rider were up on their feet instantly.
Tom was fourth out on the track, which even at this early stage was already proving tricky. The pathfinder Kirsty Chabert looked to be having a lovely time on her mare Classic IV, but the cumulative effect of all the big fences seemed to take its toll and she had three run-outs at the second or the Nyetimber Corners (fence19B).
William Fox-Pitt showed just why he holds the record for the winning-most five-star rider to bring Oratorio home just seven seconds outside the time. William started out in 27th place on the 13-year-old by Oslo, and moved into the lead at this early stage on 34.2.
“I’m feeling quite emotional, it was quite exciting,” said William, 53. “I was dreading it – at my age, thinking, ‘what the hell I am doing? Do I really want to be here today on Saturday morning and not in my own bed?’.
“I’m lucky, he’s a lovely classy horse, and he’s got some experience now. He’s done Badminton before and many horses here haven’t.
“He’s quite fizzy to ride, I like a much more peaceful horse. He’s quite opinionated so it wasn’t very relaxing. He takes time to slow down, so I felt a bit incompetent wasting time as he’s a galloping machine and should be able to get round inside the time. He’s a total Burghley horse in my opinion and here I am getting time-faults at Badminton. I have to learn to pull less!
“It’s a fair, in-front-of-you track, but there is quite a lot of yanking beforehand with lots of whoas. So you need a horse that listens on the turn.”
Padraig McCarthy proved the track was jumpable as the first to finish, riding Fallulah. Their round looked a little backward, but they stayed between the flags.
“She got tired but she kept jumping safely,” he said. “She was fantastic, she’s dressage-bred so she shouldn’t even be here. She really got tired but I let her have a breath, and came up in front of the fence.”
Padraig’s fellow Irishman Joseph Murphy was another early rider to complete. His horse Cesar had an early run-out and looked a little overwhelmed by the size and intensity of the fences. Joseph opted to take the much easier long alternatives at the Vicarage Vee to allow the horse to enjoy the experience.
“It was a big step for him, he was a good four-star horse but long term we need to find out if he’s up to this level,” he said. “He struggled a little bit, like a rabbit in the headlights to make an early mistake which I blame myself for. The horse learned a lot, and after that I clicked into gear. He kept answering the questions, and I think he will be OK at five-star.
“He showed a great attitude and at the end of the day, we want a willing partner.”
Read our full Badminton form guide in this week’s issue of Horse & Hound (issue dated 5 May 2022). Our bumper 20-page Badminton report will be in our 12 May issue and keep fully up-to-date with all the action during Badminton week via horseandhound.co.uk, where a host of features and reports will be published.
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