Badminton Horse Trials entries closed at midday today and Twitter has been abuzz with riders marking the fact they’ve thrown their hat in the ring for the big one.
I’m not quite sure what to expect on numbers of entries for this year’s event (4-8 May). Last year was the smallest entry for the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials for some time, despite it being a European Championships year. Traditionally, riders are more willing to take on Badminton in a Europeans year than when they are targeting a World Championships or Olympics later that season.
The Rio factor will certainly play a part in this year’s entry list, with some people choosing to target CIC3*s as their build-up route rather than a CCI4*. Kitty King is one who has already said this will be her way with Persimmon and Ceylor LAN, revealing her plans in an H&H interview before Christmas.
Of course, plans can also change and discussions with performance managers of every nationality have been ongoing. But I certainly don’t expect to see a big entry from mainland Europe at Badminton this year — the Germans and French tend to concentrate their Badminton firepower in non-Olympic seasons.
Andrew Nicholson told H&H earlier this week that he has entered, while I also fully expect to see William Fox-Pitt on the list.
Neither have yet competed since their serious injuries last year, but making an entry gives you options to compete or withdraw, while there is no opportunity to make a late roll of the dice if you leave it past the deadline. There’s an interesting idea — should riders be able to pay a premium to make a later entry to big events, as happens in racing? Of course, it would play havoc with the waiting list system…
No final trial at Barbury
Talking of Rio, I had a nosy through the eventing selection policy on the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) website. The most interesting part is that 8 July is named as “The latest date by which the selectors will nominate to the BOA [British Olympic Association], through the BEF, the four athlete/horse combinations recommended for selection to the team, plus a reserve.”
Why is that interesting? Simply because 8 July is the Friday of Barbury weekend — which means Barbury will not serve as the Brits’ unofficial final selection trial this year, as it has so often for championships over the past decade. Cards will have to be on the table before then.
In reality, that means Bramham (9-12 June) and Luhmühlen (16-19 June) are riders’ last big chances to impress. Hopetoun, the same weekend as Luhmühlen, is the only competition above two-star level in Britain after Bramham but before the selection date.
Different nations have slightly different dates for selection ahead of the deadlines for entries being in. Australia have plumped for 4 July — the Monday before Barbury. New Zealand’s selections will be done by 20 June — straight after Luhmühlen.
All nations are working to a final deadline of 18 July, the “Rio sport entry deadline”, but of course there are processes to go through between selectors saying “it’s you” and entries actually going in.
In the meantime, we look to interim milestones. Badminton, and the week before Badminton, Rolex Kentucky (28 April-1 May). The US four-star publishes its entries as they come in and so far there are three Brits on the list — Panda Christie (Little Leo), Michigan-based Philippa Humphreys (Sir Donovan) and Oliver Townend (Black Tie II).
Oliver no doubt has other horses for Badminton and his 2014 World Equestrian Games ride is a true top of the ground performer, so going to Kentucky — where dressage and showjumping are on a surface and the chance of wet cross-country ground is less than at Badminton — makes complete sense. “Tonti” is a smart little horse and it’ll be interesting to see how he goes if he gets his preferred conditions.
Meanwhile, eyes peeled for the Badminton entries going live…