Bubby Upton bounces back at Badminton

British rider Bubby Upton made an emotional and triumphant return from what could have been a career-ending injury to take the lead after the first day of the MARS Badminton Horse Trials in Gloucestershire.

Bubby, 25, was greeted by loud cheers from the appreciative crowd as she exited the dressage arena, having nailed the good score of 27.3 on her mother Rachel’s Cola, on whom she finished eighth last year.

Seven months ago, Bubby broke several vertebrae in a schooling fall at home and, after months of uncertainty, she began riding again in January.

“I kept pushing the markers forward and here I am,” said Bubby. “It was a very uncertain period for all of us and I certainly come to events with a different perspective. Every day I feel so lucky to be doing what I love. There is pure happiness and the joy of disbelief.”

US rider Boyd Martin, 44, the world number three, is in second place on the 17-year-old Trakehner gelding Tsetserleg TSF – a ‘legend horse’ –  with a score of 29.0. Despite contesting all the world’s seven five-star horse trials, Badminton remains an unfulfilled ambition for world team silver medallist and Olympian, as he failed to complete on his only other visit, back in 2016.

Fellow American Tiana Coudray, 35, who hasn’t competed at Badminton for a decade, was literally dancing a jig – she is a former international Irish dancer – at her third placing on Cancaras Girl with a mark of 29.8.

“I can’t believe it,” she said. “When the phone rang to say I was wanted at the press conference I just laughed. The horse gave me everything today; it was the test of her career and what a day to do it.

 “Years ago I lived the dream, riding at Badminton and competing at the Olympics, but then I had to grow up and start buying and selling and it’s a bit of luck that I have Cancaras Girl. It’s really special.”

The legendary British rider William Fox-Pitt, who has won all of the northern hemisphere five-stars, is in equal fourth place with a score of 30.6 on Grafenacht, and has hinted that the historic occasion of Badminton’s 75th anniversary is likely to be his last ride here.

He first competed here in 1988, has completed 25 times on 16 different horses and has won twice, on Tamarillo in 2004 and the stallion Chilli Morning in 2015, after which he returned from a serious head injury to compete at the Olympic Games. Grafennacht is the first mare he has ridden at this level.

“I am never going to say never again, but I think it is the right thing to do,” he said, “but it will be tough to give up if this turns out to be a good Badminton for me.”

William’s friend Harry Meade has also returned from injurious falls and is the only competitor in the field with three rides. He is lying 12th at this stage on Away Cruising, a 17-year-old he has ridden since a four-year, and 23rd on the mare Cavalier Crystal, with Red Kite the last of tomorrow’s 34 runners.

“I am just trying to do them all justice,” Harry said. ‘They all deserve to be here and I don’t want to do any of them out of their chance.”

Dressage starts again tomorrow at 9am with Louise Harwood first into the arena on Native Spirit.

Follow the live scoring here

Badminton, which is a 5-star international event (the highest level, CCI5*), was founded in 1949 and takes place on The Duke of Beaufort’s estate in Gloucestershire. It celebrates it’s 75th anniversary in 2024.

Admission tickets must be bought in advance. Click here for the Box Office.

All the action, along with analysis and interviews, will be shown live on Badminton TV. Click here 

More information on visiting can be found here

Release supplied by event.

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