British rider Laura Collett rode into the record books at the FEI Eventing World Championships at Pratoni del Vivaro (ITA) with a superb display of harmony between horse and rider. She has taken the lead after a thrilling first day of dressage with the outstanding mark of 19.3 penalties on Karen Bartlett and Keith Scott's London 52, a 13-year-old Holsteiner by Landos.
It is the third best dressage score in world championship history, following Bettina Hoy (GER) and Pippa Funnell (GBR) at Jerez de la Frontera (ESP) in 2002, and the crowd knew they were seeing something special, breaking into loud cheers as the mark was announced.
'What a horse,' exclaimed Collett afterwards. 'He is just such a pleasure to ride. I am one of the luckiest riders in the world to be sitting on him.'
The partnership's rise to glory began in 2019 with victory at Pau CCI5*; they were members of the gold-medal British team at the Tokyo Olympic Games and this year won Badminton CCI5*.
Collett, 33, heads an all-female top three. British individual Yasmin Ingham, riding Banzai du Loir in her first senior championships, also presented a glorious picture of balance and harmony and they are in second place on 22.0.
'When I was younger, I was watching the people I am now in a team with and I wanted to be part of that,' said Ingham, 25, who won Blenheim CCI4*L last year and was runner-up on her CCI5* debut at Kentucky in April. 'I'd never expected to be at my first world championship with those people I look up to and respect.'
Monica Spencer (NZL), who is lying third on Artist, an elegant full thoroughbred bay gelding, has made a fantastic impression at her first championship, especially as she had to make an 18,000km, 50-hour journey to Europe, the longest of all competitors.
Spencer, who has twice won at CCI4*-L level in New Zealand, scored 25.6 at her first competition in Europe. 'It's one thing being able to do it at home, and another when you come onto a big stage like this, but my horse was a trooper,' she said. 'He's a true gent, always the grooms' favourite.'
Spencer, 35, who comes from Taupo and has never competed out of Australasia, bought Artist as a four-year-old. He is bred in the purple, a grandson of Montjeu, the 1999 Arc de Triomphe winner, but proved too slow as a racehorse.
Defending world champion Ros Canter (GBR) is in fourth place on new ride Lordships Gruffalo, putting Great Britain in the lead in the team competition at this early stage, but it is an exciting international line-up, with eight nations represented in the top 12 on the individual leaderboard and Evelina Bertoli best of the home side, Italy, in 11th place.
New Zealand are a close second to Britain in the team competition, followed by the USA, France and Japan.
Germany, the 2006 and 2014 champions, are currently seventh. Sandra Auffarth's test on Viamant du Matz started promisingly with some high marks but it unravelled when the horse unexpectedly spooked at a dressage marker that blew over in the wind. Germany's fortunes are likely to change, however, when Olympic champions Julia Krajewski and Amande de B'Neville perform their test tomorrow, plus this year's Kentucky CCI5* winners Michael Jung and FischerChipmunk FRH.
The second part of the dressage phase starts at 9.30am tomorrow morning.
Laura Collet GBR - © Massimo Argenziano