Ginny Elliot recalls her ride on Priceless at Badminton in 1985
Priceless was a special horse across country because you could turn him on a sixpence. He never missed a stride and jumped with total accuracy. Ian Stark once described him as being like a motorbike.
You could thread him through the eye of a needle and he wouldn’t budge from his line, so if a course had tricky angles I would have the confidenceto know that I could always do the direct routes.
We did a good dressage test at Badminton to lie fourth and we had a terrific steeplechase round. Priceless had completely recovered by 1km into Phase C and in the 10-minute box the vet said that his heart rate was perfect.
This gave me the confidence to crack on across country. We had one of those amazing rounds where nothing goes wrong – well, apart from making too tight a turn in Huntsman’s Close and getting smacked in the face by a branch.
I was on automatic pilot, Priceless just kept jumping and galloping and we finished a minute inside the time.
We lay third, behind Mark Todd on Charisma and America’s Torrance Watkins-Fleischmann (Finvarra). There were only about 20 clear rounds and only three of us had made the time – myself, Mark and Mary King – so I felt thrilled.
I always found show jumping the most nerve-racking phase and, although Priceless tended to jump clear, he only did as much as he had to. He popped round as usual, tail swishing, and I felt: ‘What more can I ask?’
It never occurred to me that I would win. After my round I was just chatting and feeding Priceless horse nuts (he didn’t like mints). There was some terrible “oohing” from the crowd, which I now know was because Torrance and Mark had fences down, but it wasn’t until Mark came out of the arena that I realised what had happened.
I just remember bursting into tears, because I hadn’t thought I could do it. And my overriding feeling was: ‘It doesn’t matter if I never win anything else now.’
I still have Priceless at home and although I hate having to choose between my horses, it’s fair to say that Priceless gave me the least stress.
He wasn’t perfect – you still can’t catch him in the field, and if you touched him with a stick he’d buck until kingdom come. But he never had a single cross-country fault and that makes him a pretty special horse.
Don’t miss this week’s Horse & Hound (25 April) where Paul Nicholls talks about his “ride of a lifetime” on Playschool, or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week.