Oliver Townend leads Badminton after day one of dressage

Olympic gold medallist Oliver Townend has made a strong start to his quest for a first Badminton Horse Trials title since 2009.

The Shropshire-based Yorkshireman leads after day one of dressage, guiding Swallow Springs to a score of 23.2 penalties from an early morning draw.

Townend, a member of Great Britain’s eventing team that won gold at the Tokyo Games, holds a narrow lead over Gemma Stevens and Jalapeno, with world number one – New Zealander Tim Price – lying third on Vitali.

Gemma Stevens
Gemma Stevens and Jalapeno in action at the Badminton Horse Trials (Tim Goode/PA)

Townend’s Tokyo ride Ballaghmor Class is among a raft of Badminton contenders in dressage action on Saturday, when his Olympic team-mates Tom McEwen, riding Toledo De Kerser, and Laura Collett with Dacapo will also enter the arena.

And there is also likely to be a strong challenge launched by 2018 world champion Ros Canter, who returns aboard last year’s Badminton runner-up Lordships Graffalo in pursuit of a £105,000 top prize.

Sunday’s demanding cross-country test will be pivotal to the final outcome before the concluding showjumping phase on Monday.

Badminton Horse Trials
The Badminton Horse Trials’ top prize is £105,000 (Tim Goode/PA)

“That was a very good start to the week,” said Townend, who was third on Swallow Springs at Badminton 12 months ago.

“I have two older horses here and I don’t think they have ever felt better, which is a great tribute to my team at home.

“I am very happy with the draw for Swallow Springs and think it will suit him. He is the quickest event horse I have ever sat on.”