Oliver Townend will be the pathfinder at this year’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (21-25 April).

The draw was revealed on Wednesday to coincide with the annual press day, which is also the first chance for the media to see the cross-country course.

Oliver still has four horses entered, of which he can only run two, so officially the first equine to compete could be Carousel Quest, ODT Master Rose or ODT Sonas Rovatio.

However, he revealed at Belton last weekend that “plan A” is for ODT Master Rose to go to Luhmühlen, while ODT Sonas Rovatio is entered for Kentucky, so the likelihood is that 2009 Burghley winner Carousel Quest (pictured) will lead the way at this year’s Badminton.

Oliver’s second ride, near the end of the draw, will then be Ashdale Cruise Master, who won the Grantham Cup at Belton last weekend.

Oliver, who triumphed at Badminton in 2009 on Flint Curtis, is one of seven former winners running this time, assuming Lucinda Fredericks (Prada) gets in from the waiting list. The others are William Fox-Pitt, Pippa Funnell, Mark Todd, Mary King and last year’s victor Paul Tapner.

Lucinda (drawn as number 99) is the next rider to get in from the waiting list when someone else withdraws. So far, only five horses have been accepted from the waiting list this year — an unusually low number as 31 to 43 have eventually been accepted each year from 2008 to 2010.

This year is likely to be the lowest yet for acceptances from the waiting list, unless there is a late surge. Horses are accepted to replace withdrawals until 6pm on Tuesday, 19 April and all the wait-listed horses have been given a number in the draw in case they get in.

H&H blogger Ben Hobday has been drawn at number 54 with Uptons Who, so he is likely to have a first-day dressage time. The first debutante to take on the Badminton course will be Ireland’s Aoife Clark, who had both her Badminton rides in the placings at Belton and is number 10 with her first horse, Vaguely North.

There will be plenty of excitement right until the end of the competition, with Pippa Funnell’s Redesigned and Mark Todd’s second horse the final two runners. Mark has three horses still entered, but Major Milestone is entered for Kentucky, so his Badminton contenders are likely to be his world team bronze medallist NZB Grass Valley (number 18) and last year’s Blenheim CIC*** winner NZB Land Vision (number 130).

Meanwhile William Fox-Pitt has narrowed his initial five entries to three, with Pau runner-up Navigator, Burghley runner-up Seacookie TSF and world silver medallist Cool Mountain still in the running. It would therefore appear that Idalgo and Neuf Des Coeurs are his first choices for Kentucky (Navigator and Seacookie are also entered).

Don’t miss H&H’s Badminton preview next week (14 April issue): former winner Andrew Hoy walks the course, the equine characters who have won the Glentrool Trophy, what’s new this year, plus where to shop.