Ros Canter and her rising star Izilot DHI will be the overnight leaders heading into tomorrow’s cross-country day at the MARS Badminton Horse Trials in Gloucestershire after an impressive dressage test.

The 2023 winner, world number two and reigning European champion has enjoyed a brilliant run of form and, for the second year running, heads the leaderboard at the end of the dressage phase on a new Badminton ride, her own and Alex Moody’s 11-year-old bay gelding.

The pair are already winners at this highest, five-star level, following a victory at Pau, France, last autumn, plus they captured the four-star at Blenheim last September.

Ros has played down her status as favourite for a second consecutive win, saying, “Izilot is an exceptionally brave horse so I feel very confident sitting on him, but it’s his first time at a big event like this and he won’t have seen this length of course before [an optimum time of 11 minutes 19 seconds]. At Pau, we were held on the cross-country course, which gave him recovery time.

“I will go out with the intention of going fast and clear, but at the same time listen to what he’s telling me because I know I have a great horse for the future.”

A woman riding a grey horse on the grass.

Jessica Phoenix and Wabbit. (HPAG photo)

Thursday’s leader, Bubby Upton, who has made a heroic return from breaking her back seven months ago, is now in second place, just two penalties in arrears, on Cola.

“I never thought I’d be sitting here after dressage,” said Bubby. “Cola just thrives on the atmosphere and I am so thrilled to be up here with these guys.”

British-based New Zealand Olympian Tim Price, who has yet to add a Badminton win to his stellar CV, is in third place on Vitali.

He said, “Being here on the podium is a good place to be at this stage and it’s going to be fun trying to work my way up the leaderboard.”

Canada’s only entry, Jessica Phoenix with Wabbit, are currently in 62nd place with 40.3pp and are scheduled to head out on cross-country at 1:07 pm (8:07 am EDT).

The closeness of the dressage scores means that there is all to play for tomorrow in what should be a thrilling and fascinating contest. Veteran British names such as former winners William Fox-Pitt (lying eighth) and Pippa Funnell (12th) alongside first timer Max Warburton (10th). Cross-country time is going to prove crucial: the cost of 10 time penalties covers the top 30 riders.

Sixty-seven horses will start the cross-country phase tomorrow, which starts at 11.30am.

Results after dressage here.

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