Whoever is writing the script for this year’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials is a genius. Cross-country day was as exciting as the sport of eventing gets, and it’s pretty damn exciting on a beige day.
Michael Jung (pictured above) came here to win, as I understand it. They say he wouldn’t have bothered coming otherwise. So it’s a good job his chances didn’t end with a glance off in the water, which could well have been the case had he not gathered his knitting [reins] with such lightening speed and given Sam enough of a hint which fence was up next.
I’m glad he’s not even got a fence in hand over Jock Paget in the showjumping tomorrow, and I wish it was less. I felt Sam’s test was a smidgen overmarked yesterday — it’s a super horse, and it was a super test, I just didn’t think it was that much more super than Italian Stefano’s. But I think the finale will be exciting enough all the same, right?!
What could be more heartracing than the two Rolex Grand Slam contenders sitting in third and fourth positions. I know Sam’s unlikely to have a fence down, but this is sport and it’s eventing — anything could happen, so let’s not mark this down as a foregone conclusion. It’s entirely feasible that either William Fox-Pitt or Andrew Nicholson could be $350,000 better off tomorrow on account of a Grand Slam victory. I don’t know if I can handle the excitement.
I’m thrilled for Jock to be a serious contender, too. With Andrew and Toddy as mentors he rides in a similarly serene way, which is wonderful to watch.
That said, Andrew raised a few gasps in the press tent during his round — a smoother run through Huntsman’s Close would have kept our temperatures down. Having seen Bettina come unstuck here when her horse caught a leg, we didn’t want to see Nereo replicate the sequence.
But there’s another reason I’m going to label this the best Badminton ever. There were some unfortunate falls, but to see everyone back on their feet, with no holds of course for air ambulances or horse ambulances, but rather for frangible pin replacements — well, halcyon days.
I’ll be visiting my 90-year-old grandfather tomorrow, who is not an out-and-out equestrian fan. Normally we watch Formula One motor racing together instead of showjumping. But I’ll be asking if we can tune in.
I’ll be explaining that Michael Jung is the Michael Schumacher of the sport, and hoping that a Grand Slammer or a young New Zealander can give him a run for his money. Not because it isn’t great to see a master in action, just because it wouldn’t be the most exciting result — and I stopped watching Formula One when Michael Schumacher started winning everything.
Oh hey, it would still be pretty damn exciting, wouldn’t it?! Whoever you’re cheering for — enjoy!