NEWs

Tim Price holds narrow lead over William Fox-Pitt after cross-country

A thrilling finale is guaranteed at the MARS Badminton Horse Trials tomorrow as the top New Zealand horseman Tim Price holds only a miniscule lead over the legendary British rider William Fox-Pitt after a gripping day’s cross-country sport.

Tim, 45, has ridden at all the world’s seven five-star events but has never won Badminton; William, 55, has won five of the northern hemisphere three-day events including Badminton twice, in 2004 and 2015, has come back from a serious head injury eight-and-a-half years ago and has inferred that Badminton’s 75th anniversary will be his last competitive appearance here 25 years after his first.
In contrast in current third place is 27-year-old Badminton first-timer Lucy Latta from Ireland, a one-horse rider who holds down a full-time job in a drinks marketing company; she rose from 46th place on RCA Patron Saint after dressage with the fastest round of the day, finishing just one second over the optimum time of 11 minutes 19 seconds.

Tim, who added four time penalties to his dressage score on Vitali, does not have a show jumping rail in hand over William tomorrow. The final phase has thus far been Vitali’s weakest, but Tim said: ‘He is the all-round event horse who hasn’t showed it in all three phases yet, but he will.

‘He gave everything he had today – he was just class. His show jumping has been good recently and I think I’ve got a bit of a plan in place. He’s buzzing with fitness and wellness so hopefully that will help tomorrow, but I’m just going to enjoy it for today.’

William, who has won Badminton on a gelding and a stallion, is now riding a mare, Grafennacht, for the first time at this level: ‘She’s a cracking mare – anyone could ride her; she always says “yes”. She’s not put a foot wrong and is a great old man’s conveyance.

‘I was optimistic about today because she has never had a cross-country fault. I did take a long route and circle at the Dew Pond (between 17b and 18) and Tim didn’t, so that serves me right!’

‘I set out at a good pace because I knew he’d stay the distance,’ said Lucy, whose cousins are the event rider and Grand National-winning jockey Elizabeth and Robbie Power respectively. ‘My horse “Paddy” was phenomenal out there and gave me a great feeling over the Vicarage Vee. He’s a good show jumper, but he’s never done such a long, big course so we’ll have to see what happens tomorrow.’

There was a 48% strike rate of clear rounds over course-designer Eric Winter’s track and horses finished well in front of the cheering crowds enjoying the sunshine. Forty-one of the 62 cross-country starters completed, but the dressage leader Ros Canter with Izilot DHI retired after hitting a frangible pin at the Lake.

Emily King, daughter of dual winner Mary King, achieved her first cross-country completion at Badminton and is in fourth place on Valmy Biats. In a good day for the Emerald Isle, regular team member Sarah Ennis is in fifth on Grantstown Jackson, just ahead of Kiwi Caroline Powell, sixth on Greenacres Special Cavalier, and Swiss rider Felix Vogg (Cartania, seventh).

British riders Tom Jackson (Capels Hollow Drift), Pippa Funnell (MCS Maverick) and Alexander Bragg (Quindiva) complete the top 10.

The final horse inspection takes place at 8.30am tomorrow, followed by the start of show jumping (first part) at 11.30am. The afternoon session, which will be attended by HM The Queen, starts at 2.55pm.
Ends

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