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Piggy March: ‘Badminton keeps everyone’s dreams in play’

*Opinion*

  • Piggy’s column went to press on Friday 24 May, for the 30 May issue of Horse & Hound magazine, before Georgie Campbell lost her life in an accident at Bicton Horse Trials on Sunday 26 May. Piggy’s thoughts are with Georgie’s husband Jesse and all of her family and friends at this terrible time.

    Badminton this year keeps everyone’s dream alive. There must be so many people wishing they had gone – the win was there for the taking and that made it very exciting.

    I was a bit flat beforehand, probably for the obvious reason that I wasn’t riding, but also because lots of favourites pulled out. I wondered whether it would still feel as exciting as normal, but it really did.

    It’s ironic that Ballaghmor Class missed his only ever three-day just when he was most needed by Oliver Townend, in his bid to try to clinch the Rolex Grand Slam. He has been such a soldier and looking at his previous five-star completion scores, he surely would have beaten the winning mark of 43.2. It wasn’t to be and that’s just sport and horses.

    Caroline Powell’s Greenacres Special Cavalier really did perform well and had such a wonderful expression on her face throughout. What a story to go from last of the finishers in 2023 to first this year. Everyone should keep believing – but it also helps having Caroline’s talent. She’s been at it for years and did a fab job.

    I was gutted for both Tim Price and “Long Will” (William Fox-Pitt). They are both unbelievable horsemen and to finish with 11 rails between them left me feeling very sad for them.

    I think any showjumper who doesn’t know what you go through on cross-country day would be watching on saying, “What on earth is going on here?” Little do they know that they are watching masters at work on horses with a very different agenda for that day. Those riders would have left the arena feeling broken, but anyone who knows anything will feel their pain and be supportive.

    Without doubt I will miss William at the big ones. All great things have to come to an end and William’s career is exactly that. He has offered me a great deal of support over the years and we have all been so privileged to watch his triumphs and be around a wonderful horseman and gentleman. I think everyone would agree his round on Saturday was as good as any he’s ridden.

    William and his family went through a rollercoaster after his head injury, but what a team to get through it all and back up to the top.

    What ifs

    There were what ifs when Bubby Upton’s frangible penalty and Gemma Stevens’ flag cost them victory. Bubby has made an admirable comeback, but slightly showed her inexperience at that fence, the blip in an otherwise very classy round.

    Gemma’s penalty was so close – I didn’t think she should have been penalised, but I’m not a ground jury member and maybe from the judging angle it looked very different.

    Alex Bragg’s round on Quindiva was one of the best. Last year in my post-Badminton column, I commented on the great job they did until the mare got a little tired and he pulled her up straight away, so she walked back to the stables wearing a big smile. He reaped the rewards for that with third and they were class acts in both jumping phases.

    Also, well done, Lucy Latta. She’s bred for the job, but also looked like she had spent many a day hunting, learning her craft and honing her instinct for terrain and survival. She rode with such a mature style.

    Well done, everyone. The sun shone, thank goodness, and we all enjoyed watching.

    Tough Olympic decisions

    Goodness knows how the selectors pick from here.

    The British horses in Kentucky went very well, too. Tom McEwen and Yasmin Ingham started with everything to lose and delivered, a massive relief. Oliver Townend didn’t have the same pressure which does make a difference.

    With only three slots at Paris, it makes it very hard to choose. Sometimes it happens naturally with soundness or sudden loss of form. Sadly I think there are going to be a few pairs left at home that are capable of winning an Olympic medal. That’s tough.

    ● Who rode the best rounds at Badminton? Write to hhletters@futurenet.com, including your name, nearest town and country, for the chance for your letter to appear in a forthcoming issue of the magazine

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 30 May

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