Image: Kit Houghton
Olympic gold medallists Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser, took an early lead at the beginning of today's dressage phase at Badminton Horse Trials, presented by Mars Equestrian, and remained unchallenged at the end of the day after a superb performance for the excellent score of 23.4.
'It's a shame he didn't do that test in Tokyo,' quipped Tom, who also won the Olympic individual silver medal there. 'He was phenomenal, the half passes were lovely, he was smooth in his body and kept up a great rhythm, and it was pretty well mistake-free. It's lovely to be back here at Badminton,' he added.
Tom holds a 1.4-penalty lead over Kitty King and the smart grey Vendredi Biats, who scored 24.8. Kitty was visibly emotional about the performance of her 2021 European team gold medallist. 'He was tricky yesterday, breaking in all his medium trots, which made me a bit stressed,' she admitted. 'He was much more “with” me when I rode him this morning.''
Kitty earned a 10 for a halt: 'I didn't know about the 10, so when there was a gasp from the crowd as I went into medium canter I thought “yikes, where am I going?”. I'm not used to getting 10s!'
Just 0.1 of a penalty behind Kitty, and completing a British one-two-three, are 2021 Luhmuhlen five-star winners Mollie Summerland, 24, and Charly Van Ter Heiden, who unfortunately picked up an injury after his big win. 'He means the world to me and just to be here with him – to ride in that arena with him — was a privilege,' said Mollie.
'I've found it tough since Luhmuhlen, putting pressure on myself with altered expectations. To be honest I feel a little bit shell-shocked. I've never ridden in front of crowds like that and I'm so proud of him. He deserves that score.'
American first-timer Tamra Smith, riding Mai Baum, is in fourth place, ahead of defending champions Piggy March and Vanir Kamira, fifth, and 2009 winner Oliver Townend with new ride Swallow Springs, who finished fifth with New Zealander Andrew Nicholson in 2019.
A further 42 combinations will perform their dressage tests tomorrow. Austria's Katrin Khoddam-Hazrati riding DSP Cosma, will be first into the arena tomorrow at 9.30am, with the final competitor, Kylie Roddy on SRS Kan Do, trotting up the centre line at 5.08pm.
Representatives of the presenting sponsor, Mars Equestrian, pronounced themselves delighted with the first day. Geoffrey Galant, Vice President, said: 'This is the perfect fit for us. It's great to see such an international field, and to see the home audience cheering loudly for all of them. I promise we are in it for the long haul.'
Full result on www.eventingscores.co.uk