Who will win Badminton Horse Trials? With the dressage starting in just a couple of weeks time, excitement is mounting around the big spring showdown (6-10 May).

For me, William Fox-Pitt is the favourite with the stallion Chilli Morning (pictured). But I reckon there are about 15 pairs with a realistic chance of challenging for the top spot. The frontrunners are William’s other ride Parklane Hawk, Andrew Nicholson’s Nereo, plus 2013 winners Jock Paget and Clifton Promise.

If you want a longer-priced tip to impress your friends I would favour Andrew Hoy on Rutherglen or Laura Collett on Grand Manoeuvre. Both do a smart dressage test, so if the riders have their foot down across country they could be very competitive.

Kentucky-bound

I would add Zara Phillips and High Kingdom to the frontrunner list if they start at Badminton, but their plan A is to head to Kentucky — by the time you read this the horse should be in the States.

All the Brits heading over — Nicola Wilson with two mounts, plus William Fox-Pitt,  Zara and Francis Whittington (Easy Target) — are potential winners.

But they will have to take out Germany’s Michael Jung, who rides La Biosthetique-Sam FBW or FischerRocana FST, as well as Tim Price (Wesko) and the home side stars. These are led by Boyd Martin, Phillip Dutton and Buck Davidson, who have three horses apiece.

Jennie Brannigan and Cambalda are my less obvious ones to watch — prolific three-star winners, they have been unlucky at Kentucky so far. In 2013 the horse was injured when he got loose being lunged at the venue before he could start, while last year he was eliminated for jumping the wrong side of a flag.

I’m fortunate enough to be going to Kentucky this year — via a flirtation with the dressage and showjumping World Cup finals in Las Vegas — which means I missed the Badminton press day (15 April).

I’m sad as they serve the most amazing baked eggs — oh, and of course because it’s a first chance to see the cross-country track.

Rumour says that designer Giuseppe della Chiesa has held his nerve with another strong test, which is great news. If Badminton is blessed with less energy-draining going, the ratio of finishers should be up from 2014 while the cross-country phase retains its influence. I can’t wait.

Thanks to our volunteers

I spent a recent Saturday fence judging at South of England with my mum, something I do about once a year and always enjoy.

We were well briefed, but isn’t it funny how you think the speaker has covered every possible angle, but something unusual still crops up? This time it was a rider who refused our fence, held up her hand and walked off course, then trotted back a few minutes later and asked to restart.

We took advice from control by radio, but it was a timely reminder that we rely on the quick wits and common sense of our volunteers, as well as their incredible generosity with their time.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 16 April 2015