Find out who didn't realise they wouldn't be jumping the Vicarage Vee this year and who has a portaloo reserved for cross-country day, as revealed at the Badminton preview evening in aid of Watershed RDA
“There’s no Vicarage Vee this year? I didn’t know that! I’ll buy everyone in the room a drink after finding that out,” said Oliver Townend at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials preview evening held in aid of Watershed Riding for the Disabled Association on Wednesday, 26 April.
Neither Oliver nor his fellow panellist Andrew Nicholson may be active social media users, but many of the packed room at the King’s Head, Cirencester had watched previews of course-designer Eric Winter’s first Badminton track and listened intently as he described his thought processes as he created it and the way it took shape.
“I’ve never put out a course so early – it was up by mid-February – nor walked it so many times since,” laughed Eric. When asked about the pressure he will feel on the morning of cross-country, Eric joked that he had reserved a disabled portaloo that he could lock himself into if necessary…
They were joined by Badminton director Hugh Thomas and former top-level rider Ros Bevan, who coaches many of today’s stars, including the evening’s compere, Jonty Evans.
Ros will have five riders competing at Badminton next week – Jonty, former winners Sam Griffiths, Paul Tapner and Andrew Hoy, and first-timer Alexander Bragg.
Who will finish on top?
Alexander was one of Eric’s picks when the panel were asked to name their ‘top five’ at the end of the competition. Andrew Nicholson made it into everyone’s list – including his own – as did last year’s winner and dual individual Olympic gold medallist Michael Jung.
Hugh, Eric and Oliver also tipped up Germany’s Ingrid Klimke, while Oliver added Sir Mark Todd and Gemma Tattersall to his list and Andrew threw in a curve-ball in the shape of Frenchman Cedric Lyard.
This year's track has a new look —…
The top rider is recovering at home after…
Ros discussed the different pressures of being a coach at such a major competition.
“The riders want to be very successful. It’s my job to keep everything real and in perspective,” she said. “I will do my damndest for them to win a competition I never won myself – that’s what I live for.”
Jonty, who will ride his Olympic mount Cooley Rorke’s Drift at Badminton, asked Oliver if riding just two horses at an event like Badminton was a bit of a holiday – after all, he was competing 20 horses at various events this week.
Oliver replied: “It will take two days to get one of my rides on the bit, so it won’t be that much of a holiday!”
Andrew interjected: “Perhaps the fact that you are riding 20 this week has something to do with that!”
Other comic moments included Andrew telling the audience that he was “a natural with mares…”, which was followed by silence and then a gale of laughter from the predominantly female audience.