Well we might have had to wait a couple of years for that unique feeling of cross country day at Badminton but my oh my it felt good this morning to be back!
Traffic was queuing to get in from 7.30 am and the good weather meant that the sold out crowd wanted their moneys worth for a full day. It was beyond busy in the public spaces and it was awesome to have the ESNZ tent lakeside which was run by Ginny Loisel and her team with fabulous catering from Beanie Davidson and her team. It was busy for breakfast, had a sold out lunch and this evening was simply buzzing with a huge crew in situ with yet more canapés being served as I took a huge serving of paella down to the stables for the grooms and the Horse Health team.
But to the cross country…it was not a great start with the hotly fancied to win Tom McEwen and his individual Silver medal winning (Tokyo) Toledo de Kerser hitting the deck swiftly followed by a horrible fall for reigning European Champion Nicola Wilson and J L Dublin at 26C. It’s fair to say the on site crew were way too slow with the screens, the camera stayed on a prone Nicola far too long and the Beaufort Hunt stalwarts managed to pull the bridle off J L Dublin from their mounted horses leaving him both riderless and bridle-less in the middle of the Park. Luckily he seems a very amenable horse and waited patiently for someone to put the bridle back on.
Nicola was later reported to be ‘stable’ and awaiting trauma scans in Southmead Hospital. As the competition continued it became clear that there was no particular bogey fence just a tough ( as it should be) track that took no prisoners and suited the bold brave clever combinations with lots of experience.
And if Carlsberg made experienced horses and riders…when Classic Moet ( Molly) and Jonelle set off out of the start box it was a gear beyond everyone else. They simply ate up the track with Molly’s ears so tightly pricked as she sussed out every question and bounded through he flags like an over trained labrador. The only way to describe their round was pure magic from start to finish and she was the only rider to finish pulling up as she checked her watch a few metres from the finish flags. Molly is without doubt a legend but the fact that she teamed up with Jonelle is what made her so as the pair of them just clicked and went from strength to strength.
Molly deservedly rose 20 places to eventual 7th at the end of today with one of only 6 clear in time. She was in the stables tonight with her head as high as it would go reliving her dream round again and again in her mind.
Jonelle went relatively early and was then able to enjoy her afternoon but poor Tim had to wait until late in the afternoon to start as no. 86 on Ringwood Sky Boy ( Ozzie). Some notable scalps had been taken by the track at this point but there were also some stand out rounds and as Tim and Ozzie headed to the quarry Jonelle commented that all was normal with Ozzie jumping over his front end! He was foot perfect through Huntsmans Close though and we only had one or two “oooh’ moments as vintage Ozzie is so much cooler to watch than youthful Ozzie some 10 years ago. He jumped into the dew pond and was like, “yeah, big drop in, turn left, fence in the water, keep turning left, fence on rising ground out” as he is entitled to. They were pure class to watch and although Tim was disappointed to pick up 8.4 time it was a classy round and he lies in 17th overnight.
So yet again a classic Badminton. Laura Collett leasts with a showjump in hand but here are plenty right behind that gap. The ground was firm enough and the lack of wifi and phone signal at the event has driven everyone absolutely crazy and is not really good enough in this day and age of hiring portable masts. All the horses made it home okay and that is always a good day for the sport. And tomorrow is another day. Here’s hoping our two 19 year olds get a good nights sleep!