The leaderboard at the lunch break on day one of the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials could, perhaps, have been predicted. Last in to the arena this morning were the reigning Olympic champions and 2015 Burghley winners Michael Jung (GER) & La Biosthetique Sam, and they turned the competition on its head.
A fluent, accurate test was marred only by a missed flying change, and the pair was awarded a mark of 38.9 by the Ground Jury, which this year comprises Katarzyna Konarska (POL), Martin Plewa (GER) and Harry Payne (GBR). At this stage of the competition Michael has a lead of over seven penalties.
“Sam is on good form, and a very good horse in all three disciplines. I didn’t have him quite enough in front of my leg for the [flying] changes; you have to be 100% perfect in all phases to win and this was not our best performance in dressage – but I think the cross country is tough enough to change the result,” said Michael.
Paul Tapner (AUS) lies in second place with Bonza King of Rouges on 46.2. Paul admitted that he had hoped for a lower score, saying: “The horse did as good a test as he could do, I rode as good as I could do – and I can be as grumpy as I want with the judges…”
Just 0.3 of a penalty behind Paul is Tim Price (NZL) riding Xavier Faer while another half mark off the pace is the best British rider, Willa Newton and Chance Remark.
Not everyone had the smoothest of rides. Oliver Townend admitted that Samuel Thomas II’s test had been: “an experience, and one I don’t want to have again! [Samuel Thomas] has the ability to make me look a real monkey. He did his best ever work outside the arena, but it was a case of damage limitation once we got in there.” Angus Smales had an equally trying time on a recalcitrant MJI Mount Echo, Roo Fox the only other rider with a score the wrong side of 60 at this stage courtesy of Fleet Street.