Former Badminton title holder Oliver Townend will be the first rider out on to the cross-country course at the 2016 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (5-8 May). With multiple horses entered, Oliver has Dromigurrihy Blue, Armada and Black Tie to choose from as his first ride to impress the judges in the dressage arena on Thursday and gallop out of the start box on Saturday.
Competitors can ride a maximum of two qualified horses at Badminton and Oliver also has the option of Armada, Black Tie or MHS King Joules towards the end of the competition in 97, 98 and 99 place. Riders with two horses are drawn at the start and the end of the field, to allow them maximum time between their horses.
This year some former winners have just one ride entered, which automatically places them closer to the middle of the draw. This can lead to uncertainly regarding which day their dressage test will take place. Ultimately it will depend on how many more withdrawals occur between now and the start of competition.
Last year’s winner William Fox-Pitt has been drawn 43rd with Parklane Hawk, which may see him doing dressage late on Thursday afternoon. Fellow former title holder Sam Griffiths is likely to be doing his dressage test on Thursday after being drawn 26th with his 2014 winner Paulank Brockagh.
Michael Jung will be hoping his 29th place draw will help him to go one better than in 2013 when he finished second on La Biosthetique-Sam FBW. The Badminton title is the only major accolade missing from Sam’s glittering CV.
Zara Tindall (née Phillips) will be making her return to four-star competition with High Kingdom, after the horse was injured shortly before competing at Rolex Kentucky last year. She has been drawn 57th, which means it’s likely she will ride her dressage on Friday morning.
Meanwhile Andrew Nicholson can be confident of a Friday dressage test after being drawn 74th on Nereo.
Former Rolex Grand Slam winner Pippa Funnell will be the final rider to head out on to the cross-country course with either Redesigned or Billy Beware. She also has the choice of Redesigned or Second Supreme going within the first seven horses on course.
H&H blogger Simon Grieve has been drawn 23rd with Cornacrew, which means he will be among the riders doing dressage on the first day.
There are currently 12 horse and rider combinations still on the waitlist. These include H&H blogger Alice Dunsden, who is aiming to become the first rider to compete the same horse in all six four-star competitions around the world. She needs a further eight horses to be withdrawn in order to trot-up Fernhill Present on Wednesday 4 May.
Why does the Badminton Horse Trials draw matter?
Anecdotally dressage judges at four-star competitions appear to mark higher on the Friday, although the atmosphere is also greater, which can be an additional challenge for horses to cope with.
Being drawn towards the start of the field also means the horse and rider will be out on the cross-country earlier, typically getting the best of the ground, but then the rider doesn’t have the benefit of watching other riders tackle the course.
The draw doesn’t have an impact on the final showjumping phase as this is jumped in reverse order based on results from the first two phases.