Once again, the world’s best event riders are vying to for the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials Trophy. Riders from 12 nations will be competing at the world-famous event so Eventing Worldwide takes a look at this year’s key contenders.
Winner in 2016, and second here in 2017, Michael Jung brings his double Olympic Champion partner, La Biosthetique Sam, for what is likely to be their last four-star competition. Their record in top competition speaks for itself and they are one of the most consistent pairings at this event with two seconds and a first in their three completions. They started the year with a third place in the CIC*** at Pratoni de Vivaro and were lying second at Kreuth when as is customary, Jung pulled both his horses up before the final fence, opting to save Sam for the big occasion.
Last year’s winners Andrew Nicholson and Nereo are back to defend their title, making it the first time in many years that the previous two defending title winning partnerships have participated in the same year.
Nereo and La Biosthetique Sam also happen to be the oldest horses in the field. Like Sam, Nereo had a quiet run at Tweseldown in the Advanced Intermediate, coming second behind another of Andrew’s horses, followed by a run in the advanced at Belton where they were fourth. Nicholson only has one mount at this year’s competition after withdrawing
A host of fellow New Zealanders will be hot on Andrew’s heels. Former winner Mark Todd comes here with Leonidas II (sixth last year) and Kiltubrid Rhapsody, Caroline Powell with Up Up and Away and On, Tim Price, who was third last year and fifth with his Badminton contender Ringwood Sky Boy at Burghley, and wife Jonelle with Classic Moet.
Another former winner is Sam Griffiths with the ever consistent Paulank Brockagh. The winners from 2014 were tenth the following year. They are a quality pairing who cannot be discounted; they showed their class with fourth at the Rio Olympic Games and eighth at Pau last autumn.
Perhaps the strongest threat from America comes in the form of Lauren Keiffer and Veronica. The pair were 12th at Burghley last Autumn having already placed in the top 20 at Badminton in the Spring. In the run up to Badminton this year, the pair have already placed 10th in the CIC*** at Redford and took a win in the Advanced class at The Fork just a few weeks ago so they come to the UK on top form. Will Coleman and Obos O’Reilly will be another American pairing to watch out for. Twelfth at Luhmulen last year, they were sixth in the CIC** at Raeford earlier this year and could be ones to watch for a good performance.
Another contender from the other side of the Atlantic is Canada’s Selena O Hanlan who brings Foxwood High – the United States Eventing Association’s 2017 Advanced Horse of the Year. The pair come to Badminton with an impressive run of form – winners at the Elkton CCI*** and fourth in the CIC*** at Tallahassee.
Japan’s Yoshiaki Oiwa is quietly setting the eventing world alight – he was the first Japanese rider to win Bramham Horse Trials last year (with Calle 44). With The Duke of Cavan, with whom he was eighth here last year, he recently won the CCI*** at Barocca D’Alva (finishing fifth in the CIC** the week before) and they followed this up with third in the CIC*** at Strzgorm. With three international wins to his name already in 2018 Yoshiaki is showing he has the horse power and fine form coming into Badminton as one of the most prepared in terms of runs.
But what about the Brits? There are a host of home-grown riders who could take the prestigious title.
Oliver Townend won here in 2009 (with Flint Curtis) and was the winner of last year’s Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials. He brings to Badminton his Burghley champion Ballaghmor Class and Cooley SRS. Since their victory at Burghley last September, Ballaghmor Class has had three light runs in the UK, their last in the Advanced Intermediate at Kelsall Hill where they were third.
Could he be on for a shot at the Grand Slam of Eventing? He certainly has a good chance with MHS King Joules and Cooley Master Class entered for the Land Rover Kentucky Three Day Event the previous week.
After their second place at Burghley last Autumn, Piggy French and Vanir Kamira have to be one of the top British contenders. The mare competed here in 2016 (finishing 18th with Paul Tapner). Piggy is currently ranked as the top British Rider in the British Eventing rankings (correct at time of writing)
Tom McEwen brings two horses to Badminton. Toledo de Kerser was fourth at Burghley and 11th here last year. Strike Smartly will be stepping up to CCI**** for the first time but has impressive form at three star, having won Camphire CCI*** and Chatsworth CIC*** in 2017.
Gemma Tattersall and Arctic Soul cannot be discounted. Finishing seventh and third at Badminton and Burghley in 2017, the pair were also third here in 2016. They have proven four-star form and with more emphasis placed on the jumping phases with the removal of the dressage coefficient they are likely to be in the mox from the start. Gemma also rides Pamero 4. This was a new ride for her in 2017, but the pair clicked being placed in the top ten on each of their four three star runs, including fourth in the CIC*** at Blenheim.
Izzy Taylor and Perfect Stranger were a new partnership in 2017. But they made an impact winning four of their eight starts and finishing no lower than third. Two of their wins came in Ireland – the CIC*** at Mallow and the CCI*** at Millstreet.
This year will be a close fought competition. Following the rule change which removes the 1.5 penalty co-efficient from the dressage phase, scores will be much closer. This means the jumping phases will play a crucial role in deciding the winner, and the time on cross country will of particular importance.
There’s not long to find until the riders do battle and we get the new Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials Champion.