French takes Badminton victory in dramatic finale

Sarah Wells – Gaston..

Piggy French has been crowned the winner of the final Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials with Trevor Dickens Vanir Kamira – only the seventh mare in the competition’s 70-year history to win.

It was a nail-biting competition right to the end. With just fourteen clear rounds from the 56 show jumping starters – and only 11 of those within the time, securing one proved hugely valuable. And it was a perfectly executed ride from French that saw her leaving the show jumping arena in no lower than second place on their score of 26.8 penalties.

This then put the pressure on overnight leader Oliver Townend, who had 5.3 penalties in hand as he entered the show jumping arena with Ballaghmor Class. Using up his advantage at fence 12 where the pair had a rail down, Townend looked to have sealed his second Badminton win as he crossed the finish line without further problems, but the clock stopped four seconds over the time allowed, and with a resulting 1.6-time penalties to add, victory was handed to French – her first CCI5*-L win.

This was the World Equestrian Games Team Gold medallists 25th attempt at winning an event at five-star level.

An emotional French said afterwards; “To be honest it hasn’t sunk in. I Just cannot believe it. I’ve got so used to congratulating everyone else that I can’t quite believe it. And to be fair to Oliver – he’s very hard to get in front of. I started to half dream this morning and then I walked the show jumping course and I thought ‘not a chance’. I thought it was one of the most difficult show jumping tracks I’ve ridden and although Vanir Kamira is a real trier she’s not naturally talented in this phase. She’s better on a twisty course rather than having to deal with too many related distances. She’s such and amazing little mare. She doesn’t find it easy; she busted a gut – fair play to her. I probably don’t believe enough, but the whole team back at home are just great.

Townend and his 2017 Burghley champion finished on a score of 27.1 to give Great Britain two podium places. Townend, who also finished sixth with Cillnabradden Evo, was gracious in defeat.

He commented: “First of all I’d like to congratulate Piggy. It’s an unbelievable achievement, especially on a horse she wouldn’t necessarily have expected it on. When Ballaghmor Class hung towards the gate I had to chase him over the planks and that meant I had to strangle him a bit to the double and again to the next upright, which he had down. I ended up adding two more strides overall than I would have liked and that cost me time and, ultimately, the title.”

Australia’s Christopher Burton clinched third with Cooley Lands and fourth with Graf Liberty. Cooley Lands had been lying in fifth place going into the final phase behind his stablemate, Graf Liberty, but when the latter slid into the water tray and then clocked up six penalties (four jumping and two time) Cooley Lands hopped up the order. Chris Burton also collected the William Miflin Memorial Trophy for the rider of the horse with no cross-country jumping penalties and closest optimum time for his round with Graf Liberty.

Burton commented: “Cooley Lands is a real trier and I’ve always loved him. I’ve never had much luck at Badminton before, so I’m rather stoked with the way this week has gone. I kept telling myself in the lead-up that it was ‘just another event’, but as soon as you arrive here you realise that it really does matter as it’s the biggest event in the world.”

Andrew Nicholson and Swallow Springs finished in fifth place following eight jumping penalties which saw them move down one place. Kristina Cook moved up the ranks from 10th to seventh after a clear round on Billy the Red. There were further strong results from British combinations as Imogen Murray produced one of the rare clear rounds on Ivar Gooden. With only 1.6 cross country time faults, their double clear jumping record here saw them rise from 65 after dressage to complete today in eighth place, and once again saw them collect the Glentrool Trophy for the horse and rider who have made greatest improvement on their dressage placing having won it in 2018.

British eventing and Badminton stalwart, William Fox-Pitt, sneaked inside the top ten on Little Fire. Picking up just four faults from today put them in ninth place with his second ride, the Oratorio Syndicate’s Oratorio, also collecting four penalties to collect 13th place.Burghley 2018 champions Tim Price Ringwood Sky Boy added 12 jumping and 1.2 time penalties to their score to complete the top ten for New Zealand.

Nicky Hill and MGH Bingo Boy were the best placed first timers, finishing in 18thplace. She collected the Laurence Rook Trophy for the best placed British rider who has not previously completed Badminton, the Silver Jubilee Plate for the best placed Owner/Rider and the Cotswold Life Trophy which is awarded to the best local rider.

David Britnell and Continuity made history by becoming the first partnership to complete the British Eventing Grassroots Championships (now known as the Mitsubishi Motors Cup) and the CCI5*-L competition. They were fifth in the BE100 Championship in 2013 and finished this year’s event in 38th. He said: “It is everything you would hope it would be. He really rose to the occasion.”

This year was the end of an era, marking the last time Mitsubishi Motors will act as the title sponsor of the competition.

Rob Lindley, Managing Director of Mitsubishi Motors in the UK, summed up the day: “Moments like these will stay in our memories for a very long time as Mitsubishi Motors in the UK sponsorship comes to an end. Thank you to the organisers, competitors and everyone who has been part of this wonderful event as we bow out of what has been a rewarding partnership, and not least wonderful, loyal customers we have met here and have made the past 28 years so rewarding for us.”

Images courtesy of Tanzy Lee

Additional Prize Winners

· Butler Bowl for the highest placed British rider:Piggy French
· Laurence Rook Trophy for the best British rider not previously completed Badminton:Nicky Hill
· Worshipful Company of Saddlers saddle for the rider with the best score who is under 25 on 1/1/20 and who has not previously won a Company saddle in the calendar year:Alicia Hawker and Charles RR (30th).
· Silver Jubilee Platefor the best Owner/Rider: Nicky Hill (18th).
· Glentrool Trophy – Horse and Rider who have made greatest improvement on their dressage placing: Imogen Murray & Ivar Gooden (65thafter dressage, finished 8th).
· Frank Weldon Memorial Trophy for the Rider of youngest British owned and ridden horse in top 12: William Fox-Pitt for the 10-year-old Little Fire (9th).
· Cotswold Life Trophy -Local rider’s trophy:Nicky Hill and MGH Bingo Boy (18th).
· The William Miflin Memorial Trophy – To the rider of the horse with no cross-country jumping penalties and closest optimum time: Chris Burton for Graf Liberty (4th).
· Retraining of Racehorses £1000 – The highest placed former racehorse which must have been raced under the rules of a recognised racing authority worldwide:Won’t Wait, ridden by France’s Clara Loiseau (28th).
· Farriers Prize – plaque to the owner and farrier of the best shod horse: Antony Marris for Izzy Taylor and owners Tom & Sara Strong with the horse Call Me Maggie May.
· Stud Voucher £500 to the owner of the highest placed British owned mare: Trevor Dickens for Vanir Kamira.
· Mark Holliday Memorial Trophy – Groom of winner:Amy Phillips for Vanir Kamira.
· David Beaufort Memorial Trophy awardedto the person who has contributed to the running of the Horse Trials over many years: CrossCountry controller for many years, and now supervisor of the Prize Givings, George Weldon.
· Embryo Transferto the highest placed British bred or domiciled mare to be in the top 20%, courtesy of Tomlinson Equine:Vanir Kamira.
· Breeder of the winner – Kathryn Jackson.
· Armada Dishes: Jonelle Price, Michael Jung, Sir Mark Todd, Gemma Tattersall, Harry Meade, Tom McEwen, Caroline Powell.

Read Previous

Oliver Townend maintains his lead …

Read Next

EQUILIBRIUM – Massage Therapy, Magnetic Therapy, or Both?