Mark Phillips: Make the questions more forgiving *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    Badminton has been part of my life since before I could walk. My parents used to leave me sleeping under a tree and collect me once they’d walked the course. As a kid, in the Beaufort branch of the Pony Club, I dreamt of riding there one day.

    How times have changed! My first win in 1971 earned me £250, and my rail down in 1968 cost me £100. Last weekend Andrew Nicholson took home £100,000 and Michael Jung’s rail cost him £46,000.

    History is made year after year at Badminton, but seldom have emotions been so stirred as by Andrew Nicholson’s win, especially following his comeback after breaking his neck at Gatcombe in 2015.

    Michael Jung and La Biosthetique-Sam FBW have won six four-stars, but this supreme partnership have to remain content with just one Badminton win and two seconds from their three starts. Ingrid Klimke went nearly two years in 2015–2016 without having a rail down with Horseware Hale Bob OLD in international competition. But this is “the great event” and the pressure turned the formbook on its head — or maybe it was the huge amount of prize money at stake.

    For the Brits, Rosalind Canter was the shining light on Allstar B. She seems to be gaining in confidence by the day under Chris Bartle’s tutorage and we are yet to see the best of this combination.

    Keep the best ideas

    I felt sorry for Eric Winter on his first attempt at four-star designing. I had helped him a little beforehand, but obviously didn’t get it quite right, as last weekend was the second most influential cross-country day on record at a modern Badminton, behind Giuseppe della Chiesa’s first four-star attempt in a wet and windy 2014.

    There were no unsafe fences, but the relentless unforgiving nature of the fences took its toll with 16 eliminations and 16 retirees. Once the string was in place, many of the turns to fences made the questions more intense than anticipated.

    Eric had many good ideas. I hope he continues with the best of them and doesn’t swing too far back in the other direction next year like his predecessor. Four-star designing is difficult and you can only learn it on the job. Eric will think long and hard about how to make the questions more forgiving in 2018.

    When you are having a bad day, you often have bad luck too. At the time of writing, Emily Gilruth was making progress after her fall at the third fence. All will wish her a full and speedy recovery.

    Shane Rose sadly lost Shanghai Joe, who fell at the Shogun Hollow. It’s lucky he didn’t hit anybody on his speedy return to the stables, but then he slipped and fell on the concrete, hitting the wall with his shoulder. The damage proved irreparable and he was put down last Thursday.

    Hills to climb

    This year’s Badminton belonged to Andrew Nicholson and Nereo. For the rest, there was disappointment for Germany and a realisation for Chris Bartle that he has a steep hill to climb with the Brits. David O’Connor also has a mountain to scale after a pitiful display by the large US contingent.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 18 May 2017