Oliver Townend speaks out: ‘I’ve been first to go at Badminton too often, it’s beyond a joke’

  • Oliver Townend has criticised the draw process at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, saying it’s “beyond a joke” that he has been the pathfinder so frequently in recent years.

    Oliver was first into the arena for dressage today with Armada. Being first is traditionally seen as a disadvantage because the judges are not warmed up and are thought to give lower marks than later on.

    “To say it’s a draw is nothing but an insult — I’ve been first too many times now and it’s beyond a joke. Give someone else a go,” he said. “It’s no coincidence and it’s not helpful.”

    Oliver says that between Badminton and Burghley he has been pathfinder “about four years on the trot” and believes the draw should be done in public.

    “Why not make the draw a public spectacle?” he said. “This is the biggest event in the world and it would be another exciting part of it.”

    Oliver has been drawn as number one for four of the past six runnings of Badminton, from 2011 to 2016.

    Last year Australia’s Paul Tapner was the Badminton pathfinder, while Izzy Taylor was the first out in 2014. Oliver took the number one spot in 2013 on Armada and was drawn in the same position in 2012, when the event was cancelled. Oliver was drawn to go first at Badminton 2011, but ended up withdrawing three of his four rides, so he only actually competed near the end of the draw.

    Oliver was the pathfinder at Burghley last year. In 2014, Sarah Bullimore was the first into the arena there.

    Badminton press office Julian Seaman said: “The draw is done in a dead straight way. Oliver always enters two horses and there is only a pool of about six riders who do so, so the odds of him being number one are fairly high [because the riders with two horses always go at the start and end of the competition]. It’s a coincidence he’s been first a few times, but there is nothing untoward in it at all.

    “Unlike an FA Cup draw, the draw for Badminton would not be a public spectacle, however it was done.”

    This year 11 riders had multiple entries in the mix at the time the draw was done, so mathematically there was a one in 11 chance that Oliver would be the pathfinder.

    The draw was done in public at the European Championships at Blair last year, with anyone able to attend the event in a hospitality marquee on the Wednesday.

    Follow all our Badminton online coverage and make sure you buy next week’s magazine (12 May) for a full 24-page report.

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