The dressage phase at Badminton is done and dusted – and Australia’s Chris Burton is the current leader going into tomorrow’s cross-country.
‘Gives me grief’
Chris produced an elegant test with Graf Liberty to score 32.9, which puts him 3.5 penalty points ahead of Germany’s Ingrik Klimke who is second with Horseware Hale Bob Old (36.4).
“I’m absolutely over the moon,” said Chris. “I’m so proud of the way he followed me through the test – was a really great feeling.
“I know he’s got a good test in him, but he gives me grief at one day events and makes me work for it. One of his owners reminded me that he always does a good test at big competitions, so I’m absolutely stoked.”
With seven different nationalities taking the top seven spots it’s certainly an international line-up. Ireland’s Jonty Evans is third with Cooley Rorke’s Drift (37.2); Belgian star Karin Donkers is just behind him with Fletcha van’t Verahof (37.3); in joint fifth place on 38.0 are the USA’s Lauren Kieffer with Veronica and New Zealand’s Andrew Nicholson with his experienced Nereo. Yesterday’s leader Thibaut Vallette now lies in seventh place (38.7).
In an unexpected turn of events, last year’s winners Michael Jung and La Biosethique Sam are in ninth place.
The highest placed Brit is still Alex Bragg, who is a full time farrier and events in his spare time.
Saturday is cross-county day and talk among the riders is that this year’s Badminton won’t be won or lost in the dressage arena. Anything could happen on Eric Winter’s new course, which was described by Oliver Townend as the “toughest Badminton” he’s ever seen.
So will Chris Burton hold onto his place at the top of the leaderboard? He won Burghley last year, so certainly has form at the big events, although that was with Nobilis 18. Can Graf Liberty help him do the double and put him on target for the Rolex Grand Slam?