Britain’s big guns will be doing battle against each other to try and keep the Mitsubishi Trophy on home ground for the eighth year in succession, but will 2005 be the year that the title heads abroad?
HHO users don’t think so — early indications in our online poll show that the public’s favourite remains eventing’s golden girl, Pippa Funnell, despite her only having the one ride following the recent retirement of Supreme Rock. But what a horse to have in Primmore’s Pride, who has looked a class apart this spring. The long-format and galloping nature of Badminton will suit him much better than the course in Athens last year. Winner of Burghley and Kentucky in 2003, a victory at Badminton would complete the set, although it is the first time he has faced this particular challenge.
Second favourite in the HHO poll is defending champion William Fox-Pitt, who, with Tamarillo, forms one of the most outstanding combinations in the sport today. Tamarillo gave William a “dream ride” through the swamp last year; how much better could he go in fine conditions? If Tamarillo’s natural exuberance can be channelled the right way in the dressage, a back-to-back win is realistic. And it would be just reward for the way they have regrouped after the dreadful disappointment of their non-completion, due to injury, in Athens. William is also riding Ballincoola.
A close third in the survey comes Olympic champion Leslie Law, who has been second, third, fourth and fifth at Badminton in the past and is riding both of his flying greys. To win both the Olympics and Badminton has only been achieved by three riders so far — Richard Meade, Mark Todd and David O’Connor — so it’s not easy, but would be an extremely popular result. One good omen is that his autobiography, Shear Gold, is launched at Badminton. Pippa and William both won following their book launches…
The best-backed international rider in our survey is Andrew Nicholson, who is bidding for an unprecedented 23rd completion at Badminton. Andrew has a stunning record on Lord Killinghurst. The pair has scored two thirds and a second in its past three four-star runs, but this horse’s courage across country in unfavourably heavy conditions does deserve to be rewarded by his preferred fast going. However, they were easy advanced winners in the mud at Weston Park. Andrew also rides the good jumper Fenicio, whose unexpected lack of form in Athens should not count against him.
Considerable sentimental interest will accompany Mary King, one of Badminton’s most popular riders, although she is only in sixth place currently in our survey, as she takes over Call Again Cavalier from the late Caroline Pratt. With King Solomon retired from this level, it’s lovely to see Mary on such a good horse. Despite a misunderstanding at Belton, they look great together. Mary has arguably the best Badminton record of anyone — two wins, two seconds and a third — and this horse could add to it.
If Jeanette Brakewell could produce an outstanding dressage performance from her long-time partner Over To You, then they could be well be in the running in what is expected to be this combination’s last Badminton together. Over To You is now 17, although you wouldn’t believe it to watch him work as he is as sharp as ever and bids for a record eighth consecutive appearance on the British squad this year.
On a roll with the Burghley win and eighth place at Kentucky last weekend, surely this must be Andrew Hoy’s turn for a top-three finish. It’s an anomaly that this lovely horseman has never finished higher than fifth (in 2004 on Mr Pracatan), but success here has proved strangely elusive, despite being in the top three after dressage and cross-country on a few occasions. Both rides, Master Monarch and Mr Pracatan, have excellent four-star records — they just need some luck.
Marie Ryan misses out
British rider Marie Ryan, wife of Olympic gold medallist Matt Ryan, will not be competing in this year’s event after Sparrow Hall was sent to the holding box during yesterday’s trot-up and subsequently failed on representation. First-time rider Penny Lane will also be missing from the starting line up after withdrawing Hakuna Matata III just prior to the trot-up.
Stay in touch
Badminton fans that can’t make it to the event have a host of ways to keep up to date with all the latest news this year. HHO will be publishing daily updates from the event, while the latest scores will be available on www.badminton-horse.co.uk.
A new mobile phone text service, which sends the top three placings after each phase to your mobile has been launched by EVENTTEXT. The service also allows subscribers to follow the progress of a specific rider. For full details visit: www.eventtext.net
The BBC is offering interactive coverage of the event for the first-time, allowing digital viewers to watch all the cross-country action as it happens by pressing the red button on Saturday. Non-digital users can catch highlights of the first two phases of the competition, followed by the live conclusion of the show jumping on Sunday Grandstand from 2.00pm on BBC TWO.
Spectators at the event, who wish to take the weight off their feet, can also watch all the action on the Horse & Hound-sponsored big screen beside the catering area.
Check the weather
Before heading off to Badminton, check the weather forecast for the area with HHO’s new online weather service, which has been launched in time with the big event.
On arrival at Badminton make sure you head straight for the Horse & Hound stand (17) with a copy of today’s issue (5 May) for your chance to win a £3,000 Bombadier Rally quad bike from Jets Marivent.
There are also brilliant offers on subscriptions and a heap of other prizes to win — a Jeffries Bridle, £1,000 of Harry Hall gear, a Funnell rug, Maxwell Scott leather goods, plus a number of stable products.