21 pairs to watch at Badminton Horse Trials: will one of these riders win this week’s five-star?

  • Who are the favourites among the Badminton Horse Trials riders and horses at this week’s competition, presented by Mars Equestrian? Here are 21 pairs you should keep a close eye on…

    Badminton Horse Trials riders and horses: the top 21 contenders

    (List in number order)

    7. Tom McEwen, 30, GBR

    Toledo De Kerser, 15-year-old bay gelding, Diamant De Semilly x Papillon Rouge, owners: Fred & Penny Barker, Jane Inns & rider’s mother Ali

    This Gloucestershire-based pair start as many people’s favourites. They are Olympic team gold and individual silver medallists, world team gold medallists, five-star winners at Pau 2019 and have been in the top 11 here three times. Probably won’t quite lead the dressage, but should be near enough to give them a very good shot at the podium as the week unfolds.

    8. William Fox-Pitt, 53, GBR

    Oratorio, 13-year-old brown gelding, Oslo Biats x Topanoora, owners: Oratorio Syndicate

    A son of William’s Pau five-star winner Oslo, who was bred by his owners out of a pointing mare. He was 13th here in 2019 and was unlucky last year when he fell at Kentucky, had a nosebleed at Bicton and then 20 jumping penalties at Pau. William, who had a compulsory three weeks away from competition this spring after being knocked out, has won here twice.

    9. Nicola Wilson, 45, GBR

    JL Dublin, 11-year-old dark brown gelding, Diarado x Cantano, owners: James & Jo Lambert & Deirdre Johnston

    This horse had a stellar 2022 when he won the CCI4*-L at Bicton, Hartpury CCI4*-S and then the individual and team golds at the European Championships. It’s his five-star debut but he should be prominent from the off and could be set for a big result. Nicola’s best results here are three sevenths, two with Opposition Buzz and one with One Two Many.

    10. Ros Canter, 36, GBR

    Allstar B, 17-year-old bay gelding, Ephebe For Ever x Ekstein, owners: rider & Caroline Moore

    The 2018 world champions, who had a tough year in 2022 when they filled the unenviable alternate spot at the Tokyo Olympics and then had a couple of run-outs at the European Championships. They have been third and fifth here and a similar – or better – result is certainly possible. It would be an incredibly popular result for this understated rider.

    13. Oliver Townend, 39, GBR

    Ballaghmor Class, 15-year-old grey gelding, Courage II x unlisted, owners: Karyn Shuter, Angela Hislop & Val Ryan

    This pair have an extraordinary record – Olympic team gold medallists and fifth individually, two wins at five-star, four other top-five placings at the level. They’ll run their Tokyo team-mates close in the race to start as favourites and it would be a surprise if they don’t feature at the sharp end. Oliver won in 2009 on Flint Curtis. Ballaghmor Class could run at number 109 depending on Oliver’s final choice of horses.

    14. Oliver Townend, 39, GBR

    Swallow Springs, 14-year-old grey gelding, Chillout x Cult Hero, owners: Paul & Diana Ridgeon

    This horse has been fifth here and third at Burghley with Andrew Nicholson. Oliver took over for 10th at Blenheim CCI4*-L last year, when Andrew announced his retirement from the top level. As a combination they recently won Burnham Market CCI4*-S; we’re excited to see what they can do here. Oliver is a former Badminton winner. Swallow Springs could run as number 110 depending on Oliver’s final choice of horses.

    15. Pippa Funnell, 53, GBR

    Billy Walk On, 13-year-old bay gelding, owners: Billy Mexico x Golden Bash, Barbara & Nicholas Walkinshaw

    A horse who promised much through the young horse levels, Billy Walk On was pulled up on his five-star debut at Badminton 2019 as he was losing confidence, but led the dressage at the Bicton five-star last year, finishing second. Pippa doesn’t show her hand much at one-day events, but never rule her out. The three-time Badminton winner is based in Surrey.

    19. Piggy March, 41, GBR

    Vanir Kamira, 17-year-old bay mare, Camiro De Haar Z x Dixi, owner: Trevor Dickens

    The defending champions, although it’s a strange thing to say when it’s three years since they won. “Tilly” is a tricky mare to manage, but she lives for five-star and she and Piggy have five top-five finishes at the level, including at Bicton last September. It’s unlikely everything will come together for this pair to repeat their victory, but don’t rule them out.

    26. Tamie Smith, 47, USA

    Mai Baum, 16-year-old black gelding, Loredano 2 x Rike, owners: Alexandra Ahearn, Ellen Ahearn & Eric Markell

    This horse has won nine FEI events with Tamie (full name Tamra), helped by his extra-smart dressage. He lost a chance to win Kentucky last year when he broke a frangible, finishing ninth. Their first-phase prowess means they are serious contenders, if quite inexperienced at the level. Tamie tried to make her Badminton debut in 2019 but Wembley failed the first trot-up.

    40. Christoph Wahler, 28, GER

    Carjatan S, 13-year-old grey gelding, owners: Clearway x Galant Vert, Lena Thoenies & rider

    Germany’s only starters this year. They may not be terribly familiar to British fans – their win at Houghton CCIO4*-S in 2019 feels a while ago – but they were second on their first five-star cross-country start at Luhmühlen last year and have been 20th (2019) and seventh (2021) at the last two European Championships as individuals. Don’t rule them out.

    43. Mollie Summerland, 23, GBR

    Charly Van Ter Heiden, 13-year-old bay gelding, Contendros Bube x Escudo II, owner: rider

    One of the most exciting debuts this year because Mollie and Charly are already five-star winners, having taken Luhmühlen last year after an epic journey through quarantine. Also 10th at their first start at the level at Pau 2020. Inexperienced despite their Luhmühlen victory, but their superb dressage means if it goes right, they will be very competitive.

    44. Kitty King, 39, GBR

    Vendredi Biats, 13-year-old grey gelding, Winningmood x Camelia De Ruelles, owners: Diana Bown, Sally Lloyd Baker, Sally Eyre & Samantha Wilson

    This pair have had two top-10 finishes at European Championships and were team gold medallists there last year. Kitty had a fall on Vendredi Biats’ only other Badminton start, in 2019, but he has more experience now. Seventh on her 2005 debut with Five Boys remains the Wiltshire rider’s best Badminton result, but she could change that this time.

    52. Jonelle Price, 41, NZL

    Classic Moet, 19-year-old black mare, Classic x Bohemond, owners: Trisha & Sophie Rickards & rider

    The 2018 Badminton winners, who have since been in the top eight at two US five-stars last year. Cross-country speed is Classic Moet’s forte – she’s likely to be off the pace in the dressage and can have a rail down. Probably won’t win again but another top 10 would be popular. Shares the honours for oldest horse with stablemate Ringwood Sky Boy.

    70. Laura Collett, 32, GBR

    London 52, 13-year-old bay gelding, Landos x Quinar Z, owners: Keith Scott, Karen Bartlett & rider

    Eighth on her 2011 debut with Rayef is still Laura’s best Badminton result, but she has a strong chance of bettering that or even winning this year. She and London 52 won at five-star at Pau in 2020 and went on to be team gold medallists and ninth individually at the Tokyo Olympics. The Gloucestershire-based pair have also won five times at four-star.

    79. Tina Cook, 51, GBR

    Billy The Red, 15-year-old chestnut gelding, Balou Du Rouet x Stan The Man, owners: Elisabeth Murdoch & Keith Tyson

    Billy The Red has been seventh and 10th here, in the top 10 at two championships and a European team gold and silver medallist. Sussex-based Tina lives for five-star and championships and has been under the radar since Covid kicked off, but she’d love to get back in the selectors’ eyeline. Her star turn in 17 finishes is fifth on General Jock in 1995.

    86. Tim Price, 43, NZL

    Ringwood Sky Boy, 19-year-old bay gelding, Courage II x Sky Boy, owners: rider, rider’s wife Jonelle & Sophie Hearnden

    Ringwood Sky Boy is a grand campaigner who has 11 top-15 finishes at five-star, including a win at Burghley 2018. Ninth in 2014 is his best Badminton and he could be top 10 again. Shares the honours for oldest horse with stablemate Classic Moet. Third in 2017 on Xavier Faer, who was withdrawn from this year’s event, is Tim’s best Badminton result.

    101. Harry Meade, 39, GBR

    Away Cruising, 15-year-old grey gelding, Cruise On x Able Albert, owner: Charlotte Opperman

    Away Cruising had been 15th and sixth at Burghley, plus 16th here, by Badminton 2019 and looked poised for a big result, but a bad reaction to a routine injection in his neck put paid to that. He’s done very little since, so it’s hard to predict how he’ll go, but could this year be his redemption? Harry lives just a stone’s throw from Badminton and was third in 2014.

    105. William Fox-Pitt, 53, GBR

    Little Fire, 13-year-old bay gelding, Graf Top x Heraldik, Jennifer Dowling & rider

    The man from Dorset has won Badminton twice, in 2004 on Tamarillo and 2015 on Chilli Morning. This horse – who was ninth here in 2019 and won Houghton CCI4*-S last year – is one of the reasons William’s still competing at the top level, having come back from a serious head injury in 2015. William believes he’s a five-star winner – and he should know.

    106. Ros Canter, 36, GBR

    Lordships Graffalo, 10-year-old bay gelding, Grafenstolz x Rock King, Michele Saul

    A very exciting five-star debut for a young horse who won two CCI4*-Ss last year at Aston-le-Walls and Blair and was second at Bicton and Blenheim CCI4*-Ls. Ros, the reigning world champion, may not put her foot down because of his inexperience, but if she does, the sky’s the limit. The Lincolnshire rider has been third and fifth here with Allstar B.

    111. Pippa Funnell, 53, GBR

    MGH Grafton Street, 14-year-old bay gelding, OBOS Quality x unlisted, Jane & Jonathan Clarke

    An impressive young horse when he won Burghley in 2019 on his top-level debut – the last British five-star before Covid. He hasn’t done much since, but Pippa knows all about producing horses for the big time and on his best form he’s capable of leading from the front. Pippa won Badminton in 2002, 2003 and 2005 and had a confidence-giving last week at Kentucky.

    115. Tom McEwen, 30, GBR

    CHF Cooliser, 12-year-old chestnut mare, Womanizer x Ramiro B, Vicky Bates & David Myers

    This mare was under the radar until last year, when she followed third at Millstreet CCI4*-L with second on her five-star debut at Pau. She broke the 30-barrier in her dressage there – and finished on that score – so could be set for something smart if she can repeat that. Double Olympic medallist Tom’s best result in six completions here is seventh in 2018.

    For similar details on every Badminton Horse Trials rider and horse, plus score sheets to fill in as the week progresses, buy this week’s magazine, out Thursday 5 May. 

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