And still the sun shone which meant the crowds were enormous at Badminton today and we queued to get in from the M4 this morning even though it was 7.30 am and the cross country didn’t start until 11.30.

Hanging out in the sun at a three day is the best thing ever and with memories of last years saturated event still very much in the forefront of everybody’s minds it was much appreciated.  Ginny Loisel and her team hosted a fabulous breakfast cooked by lead chef Beaney Davidson and the NZ/Keyflow tent was packed with supporters from all over the world which made a great start to the day for everyone. Those with lunch tickets settled down for the duration whilst the rest of us headed out to the collecting ring and the closed circuit TV.

The early stats from Equiratings showed a 50% clear round rate which was a bit surprising and time was proving tough which was not surprising.  When Jonelle headed out mid way through the field the surprise leader was William Fox-Pitt and Grafennacht who had sped around with just 2.4 time and there had been a whole heap of issues and the usual 5 star “OMG” moments.  Grappa Nera ( Grape) looked feisty in the hand over the first third of the course but she is a smart cookie and she listened to Jonelle and was having a cracker of a round.  Jonelle had always planned to go straight at the Mars Sustainability water although nearly all had opted to turn a circle and one had made an erratic trip through.  Grape landed a bit flat footed in the water so Jonelle simply held her in trot, aimed for the difficult approach ( made much more difficult by a big tree on the right of the exit) and Grape popped it like a schooling exercise in the arena.  It was class riding!

Grape came home as good as she went out and despite getting a bit tired kept her superb technique and jumped the fences beautifully.  13.5 time saw her move from equal 22nd to 11th and a well deserved pat from Jonelle.

Plenty of pressure on Tim and Vitali by the time they left the start box.   House leader Ros Canter and Izilot DHI had had an off day and had held up their hand at the Lake, rookie Irish rider Lucy Latta at her first 5 star had scorched around her debut Badminton just 1 second over time to lie in second.  Vitali and Tim headed out looking on song and it was probably the best round they have had at 5 star with an exceptional ride though the Mars Sustainability bay when they jumped in, landed the drop, aimed for the straight route and made it look so easy it was amazing! They came home with just 4 time to take the lead by just 2.4 marks and one hell of a reception in the main arena which just goes to show the esteem  Tim is held in in Europe….you would have thought it was a Brit from the cheers!

Back in the stables a couple hours later and Vitali had his cheeky face on, nudging passers by for treats and looking like the dude he is.  Grape looks like she owns the place and we have finished the day with 4 Kiwis inside the top 12 which is a real testament to the crew.  Congrats to 6th placed  Caroline Powell and Greenacres Special Cavalier (Cavy), and Jesse Campbell and Cooley Lafitte (Henry) in 12th.  Lauren Innes and her own Global Vision M jumped another clear round at 5 star and our only casualty was Caroline Powell’s 9 year old CBI Aldo who quite understandably found it all a little too over whelming like many others today!

It was an exceptional day for the public perception of the sport.  The riders were all mindful of the testing ground ( which rode better than expected) and despite some  pins being triggered there was not a single hold all day.  A couple of really bad falls were prevented by the pins at Huntsman’s Close corners and there was a single horse fall which was the result of a scramble and not any form of rotational.

We always say Burghley is where dreams are made but a little black mare made a dream come true for Jonelle in 2018 so who knows what little black Vitali has in store for tomorrow.   We will keep that dream in all of our pockets tonight and see what tomorrow will bring.

NZL-Jonelle Price rides Grappa Nera during the CCI5* Cross Country. 2024 GBR-MARS Badminton Horse Trials CCI5*. Gloucestershire. Great Britain. Saturday 11 May. Copyright Photo: Libby Law Photography

Otis and Abel take sides!  Credit Charlotte Bond.