Badminton 2016 was a very happy, positive weekend for the sport.
Michael Jung looked formidable all weekend and was definitely a deserving winner. His cross-country round on Sam was incredible and it’s the dressage we have to master to catch him up because he doesn’t make mistakes after that.
Well done to the Brits in the top 10 — Gemma Tattersall, Tina Cook and Izzy Taylor — all of whom rode terrifically well. But I don’t think Yogi Breisner will be alarmed that there were only three of them. Badminton wasn’t part of the planned preparation for many of the top Rio contenders, British or otherwise, this year. Yogi had discussed with us all what we wanted to do, and certain people wanted to go to Badminton and others preferred to take a different route.
Badminton and the Olympics are so far removed from each other these days that you wonder what Badminton’s role in the selection process is now. I think a horse’s performance — how it copes with the occasion, how it behaves — will count for more than the finishing score.
That’s not to dismiss the results of those who did well; Gemma in particular, but also Tina and Izzy, will have forced the selectors to look up and take note.
I’m sad for Nicola Wilson — a good result here for One Two Many would probably have nailed her Rio spot. Emily King nearly went extremely well, and it was very strange that poor Jeanette Brakewell had such a crashing fall at the end of what looked like a great round.
Did riders panic?
The Vicarage Vee caused an inordinate amount of trouble. It’s been the same fence for such a long time — I jumped it at my first Badminton on Steadfast in 1989. There was obviously feedback after a few of the first riders out on course had trouble there, and perhaps some people then rode out of character and panicked about it. At this level, that was a surprise.
It was a touch disappointing that the long route there wasted so little time — riders could take it and still make the optimum time. I did hear that competitors thought the track was wheeled generously. I could understand that two weeks ago, when the ground was so wet, but I don’t know why it wasn’t altered on Tuesday when it was obvious the going would be spot-on.
It was a good course with a lot of ups and downs that tested balance and control, and was certainly demanding, particularly in the intense middle section. After the Shogun Hollow, the final third of the course didn’t offer many questions, though — The Lake was as soft as I’ve known it, for example.
And I don’t remember there being so many showjumping clear rounds for a long time. It was definitely a lesser test than normal — time wasn’t a factor, and the distances were kind and forward. In perfect weather and on perfect ground, riders could have been given more of an “A level” test.
But I was only a spectator; those of us not at Badminton who hope to challenge for Olympic places will face our own examinations soon enough.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 12 May 2016