Carole Mortimer: Why so few British-bred Badminton horses? *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    A list of statistics from the entry of the Rolex Kentucky CCI4* made for interesting reading, with one particular figure — the number of thoroughbred horses — catching my eye. The figure seemed quite high, so I couldn’t resist having a comparative look at the entries for the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials. Lexington had an entry of 62 and Badminton had an entry of 83 at the start of dressage.

    Basic stats revealed that the gelding/mare split was similar with 18% mares at Kentucky and 16% at Badminton. Irish sport horses (ISH) dominated both fields and, oddly, their ratio of 39% was exactly the same.

    At Kentucky, 19 of the entries were thoroughbred (31%) and at Badminton the number was nine (11%), but then American riders love their off-the-track thoroughbreds (OTTBs), not something British riders are into. I wonder why, as OTTBs do well in the sport. At Badminton, Australian-bred thoroughbreds Shanghai Joe and Simply Priceless, and the New Zealand thoroughbred Kaapachino were all bred for the track, as was the American entry Donner.

    Just four British riders were entered on thoroughbreds, all of them Irish-bred with two being OTTB. Galley Light (OTTB) and Balladeer Durban Hills were ridden by Ben Way and his partner Sarah Parkes, who both have experience of point-to-pointers, while Tina Cook — who has much racing experience — rode Star Witness, acquired from Doncaster Sales. The fourth Irish thoroughbred was Arctic Soul (also OTTB), third in 2016 with Gemma Tattersall, and seventh this year.

    Badminton bloodlines

    The Irish-based Holstein Limmerick sired three of the Badminton entries and the ISH-adopted Holstein sire Cavalier Royale was the damsire of four, while US breeder Jacqueline Mars managed the rare feat of breeding two Badminton entries — Landmarks Monte Carlo (by ISH Formula One) and Harbour Pilot (by Cruising), both registered ISH.

    At Badminton, nine French riders rode French-bred horses, four German riders rode German-breds and the 11-strong Irish contingent all rode Irish sport horses.

    It would be nice to report that the 28 British riders all rode British-bred horses, but sadly that was not the case. Depressingly, just six horses (7%) were British-bred and just four British riders were riding British-bred horses. Hats off to Louise Harwood, whose two entries Whitson (by Cameo’s Reflection) and Mr Potts (by Old Leighlin) are both British-bred, and Mr Potts is even home-bred.

    Xavier Faer (by Catherston Liberator), bred by owner Trisha Rickards, was the ride of Britain-based New Zealander Tim Price. They finished third.

    Conclusions: Irish sport horses are the current choice for eventing. Are British riders missing a trick in not seeking out OTTBs? And why does the number of British-bred horses continue to fall? My guess is that six is an all-time low, a disappointing figure for a sport that was once dominated by British-bred horses.

    Is the British-bred four-star horse about to become a dodo? If so, why? Are we now seeing the result in the downturn in breeding over the past 12 years or so, or do British riders just not buy British horses?

    I know there are many exciting British-bred event horses in the pipeline and breeders are now back breeding event horses, so let’s hope 2017 is just a hiatus.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 11 May 2017

    Stallions at Stud