Kai Rüder (GER) and his powerful stallion Le Prince des Bois held an appropriately regal lead at the close of Dressage at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (GBR), the second leg of the HSBC FEI Classics™. Rüder, 39 and making his Badminton debut after a 20-year quest, has a 5.8-penalty lead over first day leader Ruth Edge (GBR) on Two Thyme ahead of what is predicted to be an influential Cross Country day due to the forecast heavy rain.
The leading duo finished 10th at Burghley (GBR) last year – when Rüder won the HSBC Training Bursary for the best 4-star debut – and have spent the last month based in England with German team trainer Christopher Bartle (GBR).
Le Prince des Bois, who performs a reliably expressive Dressage test, is by Yarlands Summer Song, the stallion ridden with such panache at Badminton in the 1990s by France’s Marie-Christine Duroy.
“I don’t think I’ll be going as fast as Marie-Christine,” smiled Rüder, “but my horse is a similar type – a strong and powerful Cross-Country horse. But the course looks pretty big to me; I’ll be very happy if I’m still in the top 10 at the end of tomorrow.”
No German rider has ever won Badminton before, although Ingrid Klimke (whose former ride Sea Cookie is lying 6th with William Fox-Pitt) was runner-up in 2006 and Andreas Dibowski, who is handily placed with Euroridings Butts Leon, was 2nd in 2007.
Kristina Cook (GBR), the reigning European Champion, has had a similarly long wait for Badminton success and in 17 years has never finished in the top three. This omission may be rectified on her dual Olympic bronze medallist Miner’s Frolic, whose first Badminton appearance has been keenly anticipated.
“I’m excited and nervous,” admitted Cook, 40. “He’s potentially one of the best horses here. He loves galloping and he’s a careful show jumper. But there are plenty of places to make a mistake – I just hope they’re not mine.”
Riders have been unanimous in their praise of the presentation of Hugh Thomas’s (GBR) imposing Cross Country course. An early concern is the Quarry complex (fences 3-6), where the third fence involves a log at the bottom of a precipitous slope where riders will have to “feel” their stride rather than counting it. “It’s an old-fashioned question,” said Kristina Cook, “so old that it’s from before my time! My horse has never seen anything like that before.”
Ninth-placed Andrew Nicholson (NZL) commented: “I think Hugh’s done a great job. The dewpond fence (16) is clever. It’s a big rail in with a steep landing into water which horses won’t see until the last second and then an acute angle out. I also think the first log at the Quarry (3) is a big drop and the fence out of the Lake, an upright brush, is tricky too.”
Whatever the weather, the omens are good for a thrilling day’s sport and an excitingly international line-up.
Results (after Dressage)
1 Kai Rüder/Le Prince des Bois (GER) 33.8
2 Ruth Edge/Two Thyme (GBR) 39.0
3 Kristina Cook/Miner’s Frolic (GBR) 41.7
4 Neil Spratt/Upleadon (NZL) 41.8
5 Francis Whittington/Sir Percival lll (GBR) 42.2
6 William Fox-Pitt/Sea Cookie (GBR) 42.7
7 James Robinson/Comanche (GBR) 43.5
8 Andreas Dibowski/Euroridings Butts Leon 43.5
9 =Kitty King/Boondoggle (GBR) 44.3
9 =Andrew Nicholson/Avebury (NZL) 44.3
Follow the competition on www.badminton-horse.co.uk
HSBC FEI Classics™ Standings (updated after 1 of 5 events)
1 William Fox-Pitt (GBR) 15 points
2 Phillip Dutton (USA) 12
3 Becky Holder (USA) 10
4 Boyd Martin (USA) 8
5 Stephanie Rhodes-Bosch (CAN) 6
6 Karen O’Connor (USA) 4
7 Selina O’Hanlon/Colombo (CAN) 3
8 Hawley Bennett-Awad (CAN) 2
9 Michelle Mueller (CAN) 1
HSBC FEI Classics™ Calendar of Events in 2010
1. 21-25 April - Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event (USA)
2. 30 April - 03 May - Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (GBR)
3. 17-20 June - Luhmühlen CCI**** presented by E.ON Avacon (GER)
4. 2-5 September - Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (GBR)
5. 4-7 November- Les Etoiles de Pau (FRA)
HSBC will contribute US$ 1million to the series over the next three years. Prize-money is awarded, as follows, to the top five riders on the leaderboard after the fifth and final event:
WINNERS OF THE 2009 SEASON
1. Oliver Townend (GBR) - US$ 150,000 (Series champion);
2. Dirk Schrade (GER) - US$ 75,000;
3. Andreas Dibowski - (GER) US$ 50,000;
4. William Fox-Pitt (GBR) - US$ 33,000;
5. Sam Griffiths (AUS) - US$ 25,000