My Badminton preparation was very unorthodox this year. I managed to have one open intermediate run on NZB Campino before going to Australia for a month to run the racehorse I have been training, He’s Eminent, in two Group One races, and basically left my head girl Jess Wilson and Brazilian rider Rafael Losano to it.
Rafael rode him in one event and I flew back from Australia to compete him at Bicton, where he won, before heading out to Hong Kong for another Group One run. I think “Kinky” was more prepared than I was!
I felt pretty happy going into Badminton, but if there has ever been something that has been a problem for the horse it is small, sunken ditches.
He’s jumped the Vicarage Vee at Badminton and the Cottesmore Leap at Burghley, but put a hole in the ground in front of him and he thinks there are demons in it. He did stop at the ditch at the Shogun Hollow and, because he’s 17, there was no point in continuing.
But when I was walking back to the stables he went lame, and by the time we neared Badminton House it was so bad that I had to get off him. Last year he had a bone spur removed from the back of his knee because it was interfering with his tendons and ligaments, and we think it might have grown back and be doing the same again. He’s fine now, but we are going to do more tests on him this week.
Sadly, that was the end of my Badminton. The weather and the ground were perfect, and it was a good course. The result was very good, too, although Oliver Townend will be kicking himself for a while.
Piggy French is one of the best lady riders we have had in the sport for a long time. She is a classical stylist who is very good on the flat, fast and accurate across country and an excellent showjumping rider. She has a great eye, her horses go in a lovely rhythm and balance, and she is also very competitive.
Badminton has grown and developed hugely under Hugh Thomas’ directorship. Now that he is retiring, it will be interesting to see a new face at the helm and hopefully changes might include an increase in prize money.
A learning curve
I didn’t have a ride for Chatsworth, so my wife Carolyn and I took the opportunity to go to the breeze-up sale in Deauville.
He’s Eminent is home after his trip round the world and about to come back into work after a bit of a holiday. Training him has been a big learning curve; in hindsight there were a few little things we’d have done differently if we’d known him better. He’s very well and I think he has a good race in him.
We are looking to build up the numbers of the horses we have in training here. We bought an Iffraaj colt in Deauville, and there’s another breeze-up sale in Ireland in a couple of weeks we’ll have a look at.
It’s been fun getting back into racing and refreshing my knowledge of pedigrees and so on. It was amazing to bump into several ex-eventers in Deauville — there is more cross-over between the two sports than you might think.
Ref Horse & Hound; 16 May 2019