Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing: the $350,000 prize Oliver Townend could win at Badminton

  • Oliver Townend’s win at the Defender Kentucky Three-Day Event last week on Cooley Rosalent, following his victory at Defender Burghley Horse Trials last autumn on Ballaghmor Class, means that he goes into the Mars Badminton Horse Trials (8-12 May) with two legs of the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing completed. If he can take the Badminton title, he will become the third event rider to complete the Rolex Grand Slam.

    Need a refresher on what the Rolex Grand Slam bonus is and who has won it in the past? Read on…

    What is the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing?

    The Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing is a cash prize, given by watch-makers Rolex, to any event rider who can consecutively win the three biggest four-stars events in the sport — Badminton and Burghley in Britain and Kentucky in the USA.  The events can be won in any order. Badminton and Kentucky take place in the spring each year, with Kentucky usually the week before Badminton (two weeks in 2024), and Burghley in September.

    A rider can use the same or different horses for each event, but in reality a minimum of two horses are needed to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing because the same horse would not run at Kentucky and Badminton as they are too close together.

    How much is the prize money for the Rolex Grand Slam?

    $350,000 (around £255,000). The prize was initially $250,000 when the Rolex Grand Slam was conceived in 1999, but was increased to $350,000 in February 2008.

    Who are the Rolex Grand Slam winners?

    There have only been two Rolex Grand Slam winners.

    Britain’s Pippa Funnell completed the challenge in 2003 — she won Kentucky 2003 on Primmore’s Pride, Badminton on Supreme Rock and Burghley on Primmore’s Pride.

    Germany’s Michael Jung won the Rolex Grand Slam in 2015/2016 — he started by winning Burghley 2015 on La Biosthetique-Sam FBW, then in the spring of 2016 won Kentucky on FischerRocana FST and Badminton on La Biosthetique-Sam FBW.

    Have any other riders come close to winning it?

    Yes. Four other riders have won two legs of the Rolex Grand Slam, but fallen at the final hurdle – and one of them, Oliver himself, has been in that position twice before this 2024 attempt.

    In 2006 Australia’s Andrew Hoy took Kentucky on Master Monarch and Badminton on Moonfleet. He led until the showjumping at Burghley, but 12 faults in the final phase meant he and Moonfleet ended up second behind Lucinda Fredericks on Headley Britainnia.

    In 2009, Britain’s Oliver Townend won Badminton on Flint Curtis and Burghley on Carousel Quest. He went to Kentucky with Ashdale Cruise Master and ODT Master Rose — with some drama, due to a volcanic ash cloud disrupting his travel plans — but was airlifted to hospital after a fall with Ashdale Cruise Master.

    In 2011, Britain’s William Fox-Pitt won Burghley on Parklane Hawk and he then won Kentucky 2012 on the same horse. However, Badminton that year was cancelled, so his attempt to complete the Rolex Grand Slam was deferred to 2013. Meanwhile, Andrew Nicholson won Burghley 2012 on Avebury and Kentucky 2013 on Quimbo, setting up a situation where both he and William were “live” in the Rolex Grand Slam and aiming to complete it at Badminton, a situation lent extra frisson by the history of rivalry between the two men. In the event, neither of them were able to achieve the final victory, with William finishing fifth on Parklane Hawk and Andrew third on Nereo.

    Oliver Townend had a second crack at the Rolex Grand Slam in 2018, after he won Burghley 2017 on Ballaghmor Class and Kentucky 2018 on Cooley Master Class. He came close, but not quite close enough to take the big prize with second on Cooley SRS and fifth on Ballaghmor Class, with Jonelle Price winning the event on Classic Moet.

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