The Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, one of the most exciting weekends in eventing, is only a few days away. From promising first-timers to seasoned campaigners, here are the horse and rider combinations we think you should be paying attention to
Laura Collett and Mr Bass (GBR)
Laura Collett and Mr Bass at Houghton Interntional 2018. Photo: Tilly Berendt
After being somewhat surprisingly left off the British team for the 2018 World Equestrian Games (WEG) and missing Badminton and Burghley last year thanks to the horse not feeling 100%, Laura and Mr Bass will be champing at the bit to prove themselves at what’s generally accepted to be the most famous event in the world. They made their CCI4* debut last year at Luhmühlen (before it, along with all others at this level, was reclassified as a CCI5* – don’t worry, we still get confused, too!), finishing second on their sub-30 dressage score. They then finished fourth in their prep run at Belton, which is usually a reliable gauge of form, adding only a few cross-country time penalties to their dressage score because Laura claims she was running Mr Bass in second gear. He’s one of the most exciting up-and-coming horses on the eventing scene, so it’ll be interesting to see what this pair makes of Badminton’s much meatier track.
DID YOU KNOW?
Gossip Girl fans will appreciate Mr Bass’ stable name – he’s known as Chuck.
Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class (GBR)
Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class at Burnham Market International 2019. Photo: Rachel Dyke
From one young superstar horse to another – this time one piloted by the current World Number One, Oliver Townend. At his Badminton debut last year, Ballaghmor Class (known as Thomas) and Oliver pulled off a truly astonishing 20.8 in the dressage phase for eventual fifth place. The season that followed was a little up-and-down, but culminated in second place at Burghley – the event they’d won the previous year. What started out as rough diamond naivety is rapidly gaining polish and poise, and if Thomas can repeat last year’s dressage then he’ll almost certainly be in the lead going into cross-country – it’ll be a matter of holding his nerve to carry this through to the end. There are few riders hungrier for a victory than Oliver and, after clinching a back-to-back win at the Kentucky CCI5* this weekend with Cooley Master Class, he’ll be keen to add some more spring silverware to his already well-loaded trophy cabinet.
DID YOU KNOW?
Thomas’ stable takes pride of place at Oliver’s Gadlas Farm yard – Oliver claims he can see him from almost every window in the house, and he’s the first horse he goes out to see in the morning and the last one he says good night to in the evening.
Padraig McCarthy and Mr Chunky (IRL)
Padraig McCarthy and Mr Chunky at Belton International 2019. Photo: Rachel Dyke
Padraig’s meteoric rise to eventing stardom – his first affiliated competition was in 2013 – culminated in double silver at the World Equestrian Games (WEG) last year with this horse. Now, his sights are surely set on a CCI5* victory. A former showjumper, he took over the ride on Mr Chunky from his wife Lucy (nee Weigersma) in 2015 and the pair won what was previously the CIC3* at Chatsworth on their first outing. Since then they’ve proved to be fairly reliable in the jumping phases, especially cross-country, and they’re also capable of the all-important sub-30 dressage score – 28.9 at their first Badminton last year and 27.2 at WEG. If they can continue this form, they’ll be right up there on the final day.
DID YOU KNOW?
Padraig’s not just talented in the saddle – he has a PhD in Business and Sociology.
Andrew Nicholson and Swallow Springs (NZL)
Andrew Nicholson and Swallow Springs at Barbury Interntional 2018. Photo: Rachel Dyke
Despite only winning his first Badminton title in 2017, Andrew holds the record for the most completions – 37 to date – meaning he could probably do the event blindfolded and still finish in the top ten! After the emotional retirement of the stalwart Nereo in Badminton’s main arena last year, though, it’s time for some new blood. This year Andrew brings Swallow Springs, a gorgeous grey who finished third at Burghley last year and was the only horse to stay on his dressage score, despite it being his debut at the level. If they can repeat this form, Andrew will be furthering his record and making a play for a second attempt at the trophy.
DID YOU KNOW?
Swallow Springs is named after Swallowhead Spring – a river that runs through the Wiltshire town of Avebury. Sound familiar? Avebury was the name of Andrew’s three-time Burghley winner, who was christened after the town.
Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy (NZL)
Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy at Badminton 2018. Photo: Kit Houghton / Mitsubishi Motors
Last year’s winners, Jonelle Price and Classic Moet, might have made a last-minute withdrawal from the line-up, but there’s another Price to worry about. Tim, Jonelle’s husband, has two experienced horses entered at Badminton this year – Ringwood Sky Boy and Bango – but if you had to choose then it’s the former that you should probably put your money on. Tim and Ringwood Sky Boy (known as Oz) were winners at Burghley last year and have posted competitive results in their previous Badminton runs. They’re reliable in the dressage and classy across the country but, as with Classic Moet, it’s their showjumping that often lets them down. That being said, they jumped clear to win their Burghley title, so the capability is there.
DID YOU KNOW?
Ringwood Sky Boy arrived at Tim and Jonelle’s yard as a cheap project to be sold on. Thanks to his habit of bucking, Tim was never able to make that happen – which turned out to be quite fortuitous!
Gemma Tattersall and Arctic Soul (GBR)
Gemma Tattersall and Arctic Soul at Badminton 2018
If there’s ever a horse to challenge Classic Moet in the speed stakes, it’s ex-racehorse Spike. As well as going clear inside the time at WEG last year, he and Gemma have achieved double clears at their last three Badminton runs. Since 2016, they’ve been in the top ten at every CCI5* they’ve contested, including third at Badminton in 2016 and fourth last year. Basically, they haven’t yet built a cross-country track that’s big enough for him! However, it hasn’t all been easy – Spike is so sensitive that Gemma has to enter the main arena with her finger on her lips to ask for silence. This means the phase they find trickiest is the dressage, although their scores have been improving year-on-year and they’re now trending around the 28–32 mark. Could this finally be their year?
DID YOU KNOW?
Despite his speed across the country, Arctic Soul only raced four times in his previous career and never placed higher than 11th.
Piggy French and Vanir Kamira (GBR)
Piggy French and Vanir Kamira at Belton International 2019. Photo: Rachel Dyke
With top-five results in two of her three CCI4* runs with this mare (known as Tilly), plus her team gold at WEG with Quarrycrest Echo, Piggy is knocking – very loudly – on the door of a five-star win. She and Tilly took a tumble in Badminton’s lake last year, but they’re more than capable of pulling off a low-scoring dressage score and are normally quick, clean jumpers. Piggy’s season is off to a flying start – at Great Witchingham in March, she won all five sections she’d entered, plus also finishing runner-up in several of them. She finished 11th with Tilly at Belton, where they added just six time penalties to their dressage score – these should be taken with a pinch of salt, too, as Piggy typically runs conservatively at the Lincolnshire event in preparation for Badminton.
DID YOU KNOW
Piggy finish fourth at Kentucky CC15* this weekend with Quarrycrest Echo.
Harry Meade and Away Cruising (GBR)
Harry Meade and Away Cruising at Tweseldown Horse Trials 2019. Photo: Rachel Dyke
One of the most local riders at the event, this will be Harry’s eleventh run at Badminton and a second one for Away Cruising (known as Spot). They achieved a CCI4*-S (previously CIC3*) personal best in the dressage phase at Belton this season with 27.9 – a huge increase on their 30.5 in the same class last year. This follows a sub-30 dressage score at Burghley and ultimate sixth place. While Spot’s been clear in all of his top-level cross-country runs, he’s prone to having a pole or three in the showjumping, although Harry will have been working this fix this over the winter. The key for them will be a low-scoring dressage, then minimising how much is added to it, but they certainly shouldn’t be discounted from the upper levels of the leader board.
DID YOU KNOW?
Harry’s father, Richard Meade, was a triple Olympic gold medallist and the first British rider to win an individual Olympic title.
Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser (GBR)
Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser at Badminton 2018. Photo: Photo: Kit Houghton / Mitsubishi Motors
If you’re looking for classy horses who offer the whole package, look no further than the handsome Toledo de Kerser. The jockey’s not bad, either – Tom’s won team gold at Pony and Young Rider level, plus a team gold at WEG last year with this horse. A sub-30 dressage score is par for course and, in all their international runs together, they’ve only ever had three cross-country jumping faults and two poles. There have been concerns in the past about Toledo’s speed, but he and Tom stormed round a very tough cross-country track at WEG to go inside the time, contributing to Team GB’s gold medal and finishing 12th individually. If all runs as planned, you’ll see them in the top ten on Sunday and probably in the running for the victor’s spot.
DID YOU KNOW?
Tom’s had a busy season so far, as he’s taken on some of World Champion Ros Canter’s horses while she’s on maternity leave.
Tom Crisp and Liberty and Glory (GBR)
Tom Crisp and Liberty and Glory at Pau 2018. Photo: Tilly Berendt
A trip to Pau last year with this mare, known as Lori, earned Tom his best-ever CCI4* placing of sixth. This was all the more special when you consider that Lori was bred by Tom’s in-laws, who still part-own her, out of a mare that his wife, Sophie, had ridden to Advanced level. Shakespeare’s quote ‘though she be but little, she is fierce’ was made for pint-sized Lori – this pocket rocket has fire in her veins and Tom jokingly claims she could be his fischerRocana (Michael Jung’s three-time Kentucky winner). That being said, she’s notoriously tricky, particularly in the dressage – at Pau, they made a huge 54-place climb in the jumping phases after a dressage score of 37.8. This makes them one of the favourites to win the Glentrool trophy at Badminton, which is awarded to the combination showing the greatest improvement on their dressage placing.
DID YOU KNOW?
As if being an eventer wasn’t enough of an adrenaline kick, Tom is also a retained fire fighter in his spare time.
You can check out the full entry list for Badminton here. The competition gets underway with the first horse inspection on Wednesday afternoon, with the winner being announced on Sunday 5 May. The Horse&Rider team will be bringing you updates online and on social media, so stay tuned.
If you’re visiting Badminton this weekend, make sure to pop by the Horse&Rider stand in the World of the Horse Pavilion, where you’ll find subscription offers, and a great range of clothing, books and DVDs. Plus, we’ll have an exclusive course walk with Mary King on Thursday and celebrity book signings across the weekend.