The steppe began to shake this morning when 192 hooves began beating the ground as the start flag rose. At 11:13 Derby chief Katy Willings gave the command to start the race and the riders began their 1000km odyssey.
It was a glorious sunny morning that began in the most auspicious way possible with the riders bridles being blessed by an incense bearing llama. Pre-race nerves were seen off without too much difficulty, Sarah Cuthbertson was temporarily thrown from her horse, but managed to remount quickly. Mikael Eriksson and Ann-Therese Helgesson both inadvertently had the chance to experience the cantering capabilities of their steeds as they lost control waiting for the start.
The riders' luck continued as they raced to Urtuu 1, with only two riders finding trouble. Anna Christina de Jonquieres and Luke Berry fell from their horses, picking up a one hour penalty in the process for taking assistance to recover them.
So far Charles Van Wyk's prediction of the American dominance is holding true with the charge being led by Sam Jones, Brent Aubino, Lisa Youngwerth and Jade Sevelow-Lee.
The course closed at 8:30pm local time before sunset in the interest of horse welfare. The Day 1 leader-board is to follow shortly.
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