Diarmuid Byrne: There’s a clear favourite to win Badminton this year *H&H VIP*

Opinion

Another year, another chance to predict the Badminton winner. Not an easy task with many of the best horses in the world doing battle, but I am more confident this year that I have the formula.

Let’s start with the magic number of 28. At CCI4* (now CCI5*-L) level in 2018, we saw winning scores of 28.7 (Kentucky), 28 (Badminton), 28.3 (Luhmühlen), 27.3 (Burghley) and 29.5 (Pau). It is obviously not an exact science, but I am confident that if you can’t finish in this region, you can’t win Badminton 2019. And so, we narrow down the field from 85 to one winner.

From 85 to 25 — dressage below 30

Let’s start with horses with the potential to score below 30 in the first phase, of which there are about 25 from 85 starters.

These are the ones I’m working with to find a winner. It is likely that Oliver Townend (Cillnabradden Evo) and Nicola Wilson (Bulana) will be close to the top on Thursday evening, with Ingrid Klimke (SAP Hale Bob OLD) the dressage leader by the time the phase completes.

From 25 to 12 — cross-country speed

Only two combinations have made the time on an Eric Winter-designed Badminton course (Michael Jung and Tim Price, both in 2017). To stay on our list as a contender for the win, we considered only those who were ranked (on the EquiRatings Speed Rating) in the top 25% of the field. This removed more than half of our original 25 contenders.

The fastest horse in the sport, Classic Moet, will set the benchmark and a very tough time test would bring her into the mix. Others still in play at this point include the fastest rider in the world Chris Burton (Graf Liberty), Badminton regular Harry Meade (Away Cruising), Canadian rider Selena O’Hanlon (Foxwood High) and Oliver Townend on Ballaghmor Class (fifth place last year).

From 12 to nine — no more than one pole down

It is 16 years since we had a Badminton winner with more than one pole down (William Fox-Pitt and Tamarillo) and seven of the past 10 winners have jumped clear. With that in mind, we removed anyone from the list with more than a 50% chance of having more than one pole. That brought the list down to nine contenders.

From nine to six — cross-country jumping clear

Any horse can pick up jumping faults on Saturday, and no doubt a few will fall foul of the 15-penalty flag rule, too. All of our nine remaining horses could jump clear cross-country, but to reduce the list to a manageable six, we went for those most likely to produce a clear jumping round.

From six to one — pick a winner

The most likely winner is within this six: Ingrid Klimke on SAP Hale Bob OLD, Laura Collett on Mr Bass, Nicola Wilson on Bulana, Tim Price on Ringwood Sky Boy, Tom McEwen on Toledo De Kerser and Piggy French on Vanir Kamira.

But Badminton director Hugh Thomas (who believes I will never pick the winner) wouldn’t let me get away with a list this long. So, from six to one.

At this point, we enlisted the help of our partners SAP, with whom we have spent much of the off-season building new predictive technology for eventing. This allowed us to run the Badminton 2019 field through 10,000 simulations. The model predicted one very clear favourite — Ingrid Klimke and SAP Hale Bob OLD (and yes, the model knows about that rider fall in Kreuth CCI3*-S a couple of weeks ago!).

SAP Hale Bob OLD has six five-star runs with an average dressage score of 25.8 (which is still improving). They have experience at the venue and jumped clear on both of their previous cross-country rounds here (once within the time).

A lot will be made of their last Badminton showjumping round, which didn’t end well. Maybe people will have that final pole at Tryon in mind — but “Bobby” has jumped clear in three of his six showjumping CCI5* rounds.

There are a huge number of contenders but on numbers, we have a clear favourite. Incredible in the first phase, reliable and fast in the second, underestimated in the third — Badminton 2019 will be a redemption story for Ingrid Klimke and SAP Hale Bob OLD.

Ref Horse & Hound; 25 April 2019