The next instalment of our countdown series on the Badminton Horse Trials honours looks at the prize given to the best British first-timer
The Laurence Rook Trophy at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (7-10 May this year) is given to the highest-placed British rider “who has not previously completed this event”.
The trophy was given by 1953 Badminton winner Major Laurence Rook’s widow, Jane, after his death in 1989.
In an interview with Eventing magazine in 2005, Jane said: “I wanted there to be something with Laurence’s name at Badminton as he was on the committee until he died. Hugh Thomas suggested the trophy went to the highest-placed British rider who had not completed before.
“I thought that was a brilliant idea as having been involved with the Pony Club and pony teams I was happy that it rewards an up-and-coming rider. I was particularly delighted when Polly Jackson won it in 2002 [she finished 15th on Limestone Rise] as I think she was the first ex-pony rider to receive it.”
Paul Sims was the only British first-timer to complete Badminton last year, and so took the trophy after finishing 28th on Glengarnock. The previous year it went to Tom McEwen (19th on Dry Old Party). In 2011, Laura Collett earned the trophy with an outstanding eighth place on Rayef.
Laurence Rook won the European Championships at Badminton in 1953 on Starlight XV. The pair won team gold at two further European Championships, before Starlight blew up in the dressage at Badminton 1956 — to the extent that Laurence took him out of the arena without completing the test.
This was the final trial for the Stockholm Olympics, but while Starlight was never offered a place on a squad again, Laurence won team gold at these Games on Ted Marsh’s Wild Venture. He retired from competition in 1956, but continued to hunt. He later became an FEI technical delegate at championship level and chairman of the official British Horse Trials Committee. He was dressage steward at Badminton for many years.
This prize often, but not always, goes to the same person who takes home the Worshipful Company of Saddlers saddle, which is presented annually to the best-placed Badminton rider who is under 25 on the 1 January.