H&H eventing editor Pippa Roome attended the press preview day for the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials 2013 yesterday
When I discovered I was sitting next to the Duke of Beaufort for lunch at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials press preview yesterday, I have to admit I cringed. Nothing against His Grace, but last time I sat next to a Duke at a meal, I broke a wine glass in my plate. But that’s another story.
I’m happy to report there were no such mishaps today. The Duke was utterly charming. He even went so far as to say he enjoyed his lunch with two lovely ladies — Country Life managing editor and frequent Horse & Hound freelancer Kate Green, who had kindly given me a lift, was on his other side.
Lunch aside, the mood at today’s preview day was one of cautious optimism. I say cautious, because last year it was one of unrestrained optimism. We had an Olympics in the offing and the prospect of a pre-Games showdown on this beautiful estate — what could possibly go wrong? Well, we all know the answer now — torrential rain washed out the event, along with so much more of last year’s season.
Today, director Hugh Thomas was at pains to point out that the conditions which led to the cancellation were “truly extraordinary”. Apparently whenever there are a few drops of the wet stuff now, people start panicking.
At present, while the ground is good, lack of rain actually means there is little grass on the course (see picture below). Normally on preview day you can clearly see the green ribbon of the track running through the park. Today, you could barely pick out the route from the rest of the grass, which was all tinged with yellow. A sprinkler was running, to wash in the fertiliser which had been spread on Monday to try to stimulate the grass.
Meanwhile, optimism seems to be spreading among the public too. Last year, the event had record advance ticket sales at this point. This time, Hugh put that down to a pre-Olympic boost and pessimistically budgeted for less. Confounding expectations, another new record has now been set for advance sales this far out.
Hugh described the line-up for this year’s Badminton as a “star-studded cast”, and he’s not wrong. It’s easy to get carried away before a four-star, but to have 14 of the 15 team medallists from London entered is a mouth-watering prospect.
In more good news, the weather seems to have turned in the past few days. Yes, it’s still chilly, but it’s definitely a few degrees warmer. You get a little insulated from the real world in London, but seeing lambs frolicking in the fields on the way to Badminton today, I felt spring really is on the way.
“See you in three weeks,” said journalists and Badminton officials as we bid goodbye. Is that really all it is? I’ve got two preview issues to get to press before then. Looks like I’d better get to work…
Badminton preview issues of Horse & Hound magazine are out on 25 April and 2 May