Oliver Townend will blaze the trail at Badminton Horse Trials

  • Oliver Townend will be the pathfinder at this year’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (3-7 May).

    The draw, published yesterday evening, has Oliver as the first out on either Armada or ODT Sonas Rovatio. Oliver is one of several riders with more than two horses currently entered, although each competitor can only start on two horses.

    Oliver is likely to choose to ride Armada as one of his two, so Paul Ridgeon’s chestnut – who the rider took on from New Zealand’s Andrew Nicholson at the start of the season – will probably be first horse into the dressage arena on Friday, 4 May and first out on Hugh Thomas’s cross-country track on Sunday, 6 May.

    As always, the early and late parts of the draw are filled with stars because this is where the “two-horse riders” – generally the most experienced competitors – appear.

    124 horses have been given numbers, but this includes all the “double-entered horses” and all those on the waiting list – a maximum of 85 horses will actually start. So far, horses down to 15th on the original waiting list have been offered the chance to run, with a further 29 remaining on the list.

    First-timer Louisa Milne Home (King Eider, number 76) and popular combination Rosie Thomas and Barry’s Best (number 65) are next to be offered spaces when riders withdraw and, with more than a week still to go until the cut-off, will almost certainly get the opportunity to compete.

    World and European champion Michael Jung makes his Badminton debut at number 70, so is likely to do his dressage with Leopin FST on the second day (Saturday).

    H&H blogger Lauren Shannon will be on the first day of dressage having been drawn at number 36 with Zero Flight.

    William Fox-Pitt has narrowed his entries – numbering six at one stage – down to four now, with the withdrawal of Jane Kier’s 2008 Luhm ¼hlen winner Macchiato. His likely runners are Neuf Des Coeurs (number 9) and Seacookie (number 114).

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