He also claimed the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing, with its impressive trophy and prize of $350,000 (£240,000) for winning Kentucky, Burghley and Badminton in succession. This achievement has only ever been managed once before, by Pippa Funnell in 2003.
And just when you think there is nothing else that this formidable partnership of Michael and Le Biosthetique-Sam FBW can achieve, you realise that their score of 34.4pen is the lowest ever winning score at Badminton.
Michael had two rails in hand when he rode into the arena, but he didn’t need them, riding a stylish clear round that was simply beautiful to watch. When he landed over the upright at fence 11, everyone knew that the title was his.
Michael said: “This is a very special moment for me. Sam is in super form at the moment – we joke about Tokyo 2020 for him. Although he’s 16 we’re only looking forwards. He’s such a special horse to ride, he loves the cross-country and he loves to jump and I’m really looking forward to the future.
“It’s not easy when you have to wait the whole day, but once you’re working with the horse, then each jump in the warm up makes you feel happy and relaxed. This is a win for the whole team, who allow me to do this sport and ride so many good horses.”
In a great day for the Germans, they not only collected their first Badminton title, but Michael’s compatriot Andreas Ostholt finished second with So Is Et. Their round was all the more impressive as the gelding was wearing only three shoes after twice pulling one off in the warm-up.
Andreas said: “Badminton hasn’t always been lucky for me, so I feel really happy – it’s like a win to be second here. I hope that I’ve played a card which means they [the German selectors] will select me for Rio maybe.”
Gemma Tattersall rode one of the most impressive of the 18 clear rounds in the showjumping phase on Arctic Soul. This horse can be affected by the atmosphere in the final phase and Gemma rode into the arena with her finger to her lips in an effort to quell the excited crowd. Arctic Soul kept his composure to leave all the fences up and finish on his dressage score of 44.6pen for third place.
Gemma said: “Arctic Soul has been in the form of his life [in the run up to Badminton]. He did a personal best in the dressage and I couldn’t be more proud of him. He doesn’t like loud noises and the sound of clapping makes him nervous, and when he’s nervous that’s when he makes mistakes. But he kept his attention on me today and he jumped the best round of his life.”
Kiwis took the next three places with Mark Todd (Leonidas II) and Clarke Johnstone (Balmoral Sensation) both achieving clear rounds. Jock Paget had one down on Clifton Lush to drop one place to sixth.
Tina Cook leapt up the leaderboard with Star Witness from 42nd after dressage to eventual seventh place, while Izzy Taylor lowered just one fence with Allercombe Ellie for eighth. Ireland’s Camilla Speirs and the diminutive Portersize Just A Jiff finished ninth with a clear showjumping round while New Zealand’s Jonelle Price and Classic Moet rounded up to top 10.
The time proved unusually generous in the final phase with only one rider, Sarah Ennis riding BLM Diamond Delux, collecting a single time-penalty. Fence three, a 1.28m oxer, and the treble combination at fence 10 were most influential, causing 10 and 12 riders to fault respectively.
Don’t miss H&H magazine next week (12 May issue) for our full 24-page report including columns from Carl Hester, William Fox-Pitt and Mark Phillips.