Eric Winter’s Badminton Horse Trials’ cross country course proved to be every bit a true 5* overnight, with some spectacular riding amongst more challenging rounds.
Badminton winner Jonelle Price produced a masterclass with her double clear aboard Classic Moet, who refuses to acknowledge she’s 19 years old. EquiRatings were quick to crunch the numbers on this formidable partnership, and say they have a perfect five-star cross country jumping streak – the longest on record, with seven of 11 rounds inside time. The combination, who won Badminton in 2018, were one of just six to come home clear and inside time, charging up the leaderboard from 27th equal to seventh spot on 31.4 penalty points.
“I was delighted with Classic Moet today,” said Jonelle. “She really did give me a super ride – what more can I ask for? She is one of the best in the business when it comes to the cross country and she showed that again today. Full credit and admiration to this tough and courageous mare.”
It’s a Brit domination at the top with Jonelle the only one in the top 11 from outside Great Britain. Laura Collett and London 52 produced a perfect round to remain at the front on 21 penalty points, with world no.1 Oliver Townend second and third with Andrew Nicholson’s former rider Swallow Springs on 25.7 and Ballaghmor Class on 25.9.
Tim Price and his old mate Ringwood Sky Boy were clear and added just 8.4 time to finish the day in 17th spot on 37.5 with Badminton first-timer Amanda Pottinger and Just Kidding adding only time to sit in 27th on 44.3.
Five star debutant Lauren Innes and Global Fision M were also clear, adding time penalties to move 33 spots up the leaderboard on a score of 63. Bundy Philpott and Tresca NZPH retired after two uncharacteristic runouts.
There were 13 eliminations and eight retirements on course, but 50 combinations jumped clear. Oliver and Swallow Springs were initially eliminated at the end of his round after a rather hairy effort at fence four but were later reinstated when the footage was examined. Unusually, the basket fence at 27 was removed from the course, after a particularly nasty fall for Nicola Wilson.
Tim said he was very happy with his “fairly senior” horse. “He chipped around really good, came home very healthy and has recovered well,” said Tim. “The time was disappointing but I am still very happy with him overall. Everything is a bonus at this stage of his career.”
True to form, he was rapt for his wife. “Jonelle and Classic Moet were just amazing. They stormed around and made it look easy. There was a lot of trouble today but you wouldn’t’ have thought it watching them go round, so that was a real spectacle for all of us.”
Amanda felt a little ticked she had to take the option but praised Just Kidding. “He had a bit heart today,” she said. “I was glad to get through the finish flags.”
Lauren was ecstatic. “I had the most incredible ride,” said the fulltime accountant. “He was so brave everywhere and after a lot of problems from top riders early in the day I really had to stick to my plan and trust him but he ate it up. I am so happy.”
ESNZ high performance manager Jock Paget felt there were many positives to take from the day. “It started tough out there,” he said. One of the biggest shocks had been seeing Tom McEwen (GBR) and Toledo De Kerser, who had been in second spot after the dressage, go down. “There were some weird things happening to good horses,” he said.
Jonelle’s round had been a standout. “She is just so economical, fast and hits everything. You could have watched them jump the first two fences, walk away, and know they would be clear and inside time. Jonelle does it all so well. On a day when everything is going wrong for people she rubs her hands together. She really is amazing.”
Jock felt it was hugely beneficial for the other Kiwi combinations to be around her and watch her do her thing. “She is under a huge amount of pressure too – she is riding a horse the world has such high expectation for on cross country day and yet she still does it so well. They are one of the best cross country combinations you will ever see.”
Tim had produced a masterclass aboard Ringwood Sky Boy. “You could see him taking care of his old mate who he has done so much cool stuff with,” said Jock. “It was really impressive to watch. You always expect Tim to be awesome and the job today was as classy as ever.”
He heaped praise on the “tough and gritty” Amanda. “She took all the info in and went out and rode a horse who was very much at his limit in terms of jump,” said Jock. “She did exactly what she needed to do. The horse really believes in her and they just made no mistakes.”
Amanda had coolly taken an option just two strides out from a jump. “That’s just not what you see at a first Badminton,” said Jock. “She has maturity, skill, and grit . . . their competitiveness is just awesome. That horse is still young so will just get better.”
Newly minted Kiwi Lauren had ridden the course really well. “They are an awesome combination and you can see they are so strong together, know each other so well and it was a lot of fun to watch them.”
He felt for Bundy and Tresca NZPH. “She rode like a legend. She had a plan and was sticking to it everywhere around which is hard to do at that level. They were economical and ticking all the boxes when they had a run off the first of the two open corners out the back and then a second when they took the option. It was out of character for that horse.”
All combinations will face the second horse inspection this evening before the all-important showjumping test.
Cross country day at Badminton attracted a crowd of 110,000 – it seems it’s not just the riders who are happy the iconic event is back after a two year hiatus.
THE HORSE DETAILS:
Just Kidding – owned by The Pottinger Family
Ringwood Sky Boy – owned by Tim and Jonelle Price and Sophie Hearnden
Classic Moet – owned by Trisha and Sophie Rickards and Jonelle Price
Tresca NZPH – owned by Bryan and Bundy Philpott
Global Fision M – owned by Lauren Innes
By Diana Dobson – HP Media Liaison
Photos by Libby Law/ESNZ