Back-to-back Badminton dream ends for reigning champion while first-timer climbs from 46th to place on podium

  • There has been drama during the 2024 Mars Badminton Horse Trials cross-country phase as dressage leaders, Ros Canter and Izilot DHI have retired from the competition.

    From the off, the 11-year-old 2023 Pau winner Izilot DHI, who is renowned for his spookiness, looked to have his eyes on stalks. They were clear until the first part of the Mars Badminton Lake at fence 10ABCD, onto which he dropped his back legs, activating the MiM Clip. He then spooked his way out of The Lake and ran past at the final narrow triple brush. Ros decided to then school DHI Izilot around the long route at the final elements of The Lake before opting to retire.

    Five-star first-timer Lucy Latta, who rides for Ireland, has so far clocked the fastest round of the day, finishing just one second over the 11min16sec optimum time with Leslie Crampton’s 13-year-old RCA Patron Saint. This result slots them into second at this stage of cross-country day, 4.2 faults behind current leaders William Fox-Pitt and Grafennacht, having been 46th after the dressage.

    “He’s truly one of best cross-country horses out there,” said Lucy, who works full-time as a brand manager for a soft drinks company. “He doesn’t pull and is as brave as a lion and will keep galloping. He doesn’t have straight-line speed but is consistent throughout the round so I don’t need to waste time setting him up – he was unbelievable.”

    Lucy’s family is steeped in equestrianism and one of her cousins, six-time Badminton rider Elizabeth (Esib) Power has been a great support to 27-year-old.

    “Esib has helped me so much and offered me so much advice,” explained Lucy, whose only horse is RCA Patron Saint. “He was amazing out there – he just gallops all day long. He hasn’t done an event of this calibre before and he didn’t look at any of the crowds and stayed listening to me the whole way. He was so adjustable, so brave and just gave me everything that he had.

    “I had every faith in the horse to go well across-country but to pull it off is something else. I know he stays galloping and it helped that I did Blair and finished fourth in the CCI4*-L last year as that was on soft ground and it’s extremely hilly there too.

    “I’m only 5ft2 which helps and I’ve got myself as lean as I possibly can just so that those last few minutes will be made a lot easier on him.”

    Commenting on being an amateur rider, Lucy said: “There’s pros and cons to it. I’m not away at events for weeks at a time, which means I get to train myself and my horse all year round and so our partnership is extremely strong.

    “I like to think I have two jobs – my office one and riding my horse – and I do both as professionally as I can. I wouldn’t let myself off the hook just for being an amateur – I don’t think like that at all – and I don’t think you can come in to an event like this unless you are focused and really determined.”

    2018 Badminton winner Jonelle Price and the diminutive Grappa Nera cruised around the Eric Winter-designed Badminton Horse Trials cross-country to pick up 10.8 time-faults. They were originally awarded a 15-penalty flag penalty at fence 26ABCD, the Lightsource bp Mound, but that was removed, putting them into fourth at this stage of Badminton Horse Trials cross-country day.

    Grappa Nera had a long look going down the drop into the Mars Sustainability Bay, which meant she dropped into a trot through the water and could allowed her the time to take the direct route out, which very few have managed.

    “She jumped all fences very well – the speed was a little bit of an unknown for Badminton, but she stepped up and will be better next time round as a result,” explained Jonelle. “It feels like good ground to ride on there’s some obvious places down the avenues where it goes a bit deeper on the whole attack feels like good ground, but it obviously takes it out of them.

    “She’s ridiculously quick, athletic, sharp, intelligent, determined and brave – all those things and that’s what you need and we luckily get on rather well.”

    Nicky Hill and MGH Bingo Boy enjoyed one of the speedier rounds of the day so far, stopping the clock with 9.2 time-faults, which has pulled them up the leaderboard from 53rd to fifth at this stage of the Badminton Horse Trials cross-country competition.

    “He’s an absolute legend – he’s little and nippy and doesn’t get strong. He goes in a rubber snaffle and no spurs. If we’re not on perfect stride, I let him make the decision. I set him in a gear and we cruise around and I don’t fight him, which is why we’re so quick.

    “I went the long route at Huntsman’s Close as it’s on quite a forward distance and the ground is quite deep there now too, so I kept motoring around the long route. He’s so easy to ride cross country, so he deserves this result.”

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