Mark Phillips: ‘we were witnessing history that will probably never be repeated’ *H&H VIP*

  • Badminton truly lived up to its great history and reputation as “the great event”. It started back in 1949 when John Shedden jumped the Irish Bank in one and went on to win on Golden Willow. Since then, many great horses have adorned the roll of honour.

    Frank Weldon on Kilbarry, Sheila Willcox (Waddington) on High And Mighty, Anneli Drummond-Hay on Merely-A-Monarch, James Templer on M’Lord Connelly, Lucinda Prior-Palmer (Green) on Be Fair, Ginny Holgate (Elliot) on Priceless, Ian Stark on Sir Wattie, Pippa Funnell on Supreme Rock, William Fox-Pitt on Tamarillo and Chilli Morning are just some of the winners that spring to mind over the past 61 years. None though can compare to Michael Jung and La Biosthetique-Sam FBW.

    I know the sport has changed, but Michael and Sam are the only pair to have won Olympic, world and European individual titles. Now they can add four-stars at Badminton, Burghley and Luhmühlen. No combination in the history of the sport has ever achieved anything close to this “full house”.

    The crowd at Badminton is always special; a deafening roar of applause for every clear round. It was not surprising therefore that everyone rose to their feet to give Michael and Sam a standing ovation.

    We knew we were witnessing history that we will probably never see repeated. The fact that Michael added the $350,000 (£240,000) for the Rolex Grand Slam to the £80,000 first prize only added extra poignancy to a remarkable afternoon.

    Substandard riding

    So much of Badminton is about the cross-country day and this was real Badminton on near-perfect footing. Only 32 of the original 75 starters jumped around clear with just 11 inside the time. With eight horse falls and four rider falls, there were probably more bodies on the ground than we would have wanted. Having said that, there was a lot of riding that did not stand up to four-star examination.

    The Vicarage Vee was the same fence as when I jumped it 40-plus years ago. There has always been only one line there and this year was no exception. When I went back to look at the hoofprints the next day, many were a yard off the line — no wonder it was influential.

    Personally I would like to have seen more flow at the HorseQuest Quarry, the Swindon Designer Outlet Mounds, the Shogun Hollow and Mirage Pond, as I believe flow is the ultimate solution to a good picture. However, there were some excellent fences, including the Irish Horse Gateway Huntsman’s Close, the combination at the Gatehouse New Pond and the run home from The Lake.

    Tattersall in the big time

    The fact that Andreas Ostholt pulled the rabbit out of the hat to somehow manufacture a clear round from So Is Et to be second was almost irrelevant with Michael so far ahead.

    The strength of the German team ahead of Rio is onimous, with world champion Sandra Auffarth and Dirk Schrade waiting in the wings. They also have Ingrid Klimke and Horseware Hale Bob, second here last year, who pulled out of Badminton to focus on Rio as her best horse SAP Escada FRH is currently sidelined.

    New Zealand will be confident also — they were fourth, fifth and sixth here with Mark Todd, Jock Paget and Clarke Johnstone, plus Jonelle Price and Classic Moet were in the top 10 too.

    For the home team, Gemma Tattersall was outstanding; I really thought she came of age here on Arctic Soul. She was so impressive across the country and has Quicklook V and Chico Bella P as alternatives. Tina Cook was the model of consistency to pull up 35 places after dressage to seventh with her clear on Star Witness and she has Calvino II and Billy The Red as other Rio prospects. I’m not sure that Laura Collett’s performance on Grand Manoeuvre was quite ready for the Games, but she does also have Pamero 4.

    Then of course William Fox-Pitt was not here with Chilli Morning, nor was Kitty King with Ceylor LAN or Persimmon. Sarah Bullimore with Lilly Corinne, Flora Harris (Bayano) and Holly Woodhead (DHI Lupison) are also having a more conservative preparation.

    It was good to see my daughter Zara Tindall get her Rio qualification with High Kingdom. After a year off, the pair looked a little shy of their best in all three phases, but the run will have done wonders for the confidence of horse and rider. They look well on course to coming back to their best.

    The enduring memory though of this Badminton was Michael Jung and La Biosthetique-Sam FBW making history and completing only the second ever Rolex Grand Slam of eventing.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 12 May 2016