With the Badminton draw now released and only a week until trot up it’s time to take a serious look at who is entered.
At this point in time the drawn order also contains riders with more than two horses as multiples, and also waitlisted combinations who may or may not make the start list. Currently 20 of the 26 on the wait list have been accepted, and any further withdrawals will continued to be replaced up until 2pm on Sunday 1st May. We won’t deny we would really like to see Alice Dunsdon and Fernhill Present creep on to the start list for their chance to make history, and they only need 1 more horse (not including multiples) to be withdrawn. It’s certainly possible, but with the vast majority having had their last prep runs, any withdrawals at this stage will most likely be due to injuries or training set backs, which we would expect to be few in number at this point in time. Another pair on the wait list are crowd favourites Ben Hobday and Mulrys Error. In their current position they require 2 combinations to withdraw in the next few days so it is unlikely they will make the trot up but there is certainly still a chance.
The field as a whole is one of the strongest in years, especially in terms of international entries. Normally in Olympic years the field can be weaker, but several riders have flown horses in for their chance to compete and hopefully impress their respective selectors.
Looking at those who have been accepted some notable British first timers stand out in the form of Rosalind Canter (Allstar B) and Emily King (Brookleigh). Rosalind impressed with Allstar B last year at Burghley on her 4* debut, where an unfortunate 20 penalties XC saw them drop down the order but still pick up the best first timer award. Emily had the almost perfect 4* debut at Pau last year where a confident clear inside the time XC and a single SJ down saw her finish a very impressive 4th.
Pathfinder Oliver Townend has the most horses remaining entered with 4 at this stage (Armada, Black Tie, Dromgurrihy Blue and MHS King Joules). Armada has never been the best showjumper but finished 2nd at Badminton (his best 4* result) in 2014 when solid XC horses came to the fore in soft ground. With similar conditions likely this year you can’t deny Armada’s chances although at 17 he is one of the oldest in the field. Black Tie was originally due to run at Rolex Kentucky but was withdrawn after a fall at Burnham, and since he showed his objections to deeper ground at WEG2014 (where he noticeably tired) we foresee he will be one of Oliver’s withdrawals. Oliver has had top 10 results on both Dromgurrihy Blue and MHS King Joules so the choice between them and Armada as to which two will run will almost certainly come down to which prefer softer going.
Christopher Burton brings forward Haruzac and Nobilis 18. Both horses could be in the reckoning for a top placing: Haruzac finished 4th at Burghley with an excellent double clear, whilst Nobilis – who will be starting at 4* level for the first time – has had an excellent spring, winning the CIC*** at Belton finishing on his dressage score.
Izzy Taylor will be looking to improve on her best Badminton placing of 17th in 2014. She still has three horses entered at this stage: KBIS Briarlands Matilda, Allercombe Allie and Orlando. Boyd Martin brings two for his first Badminton: Cracker Jack and Master Frisky. Neither are exceptional dressage horses but Master Frisky has a clean XC record at FEI level and finished 7th at Rolex 4* last year so could be in the reckoning if the XC proves influential, and Boyd will want to prove his form as results here will be duly noted for Olympic selection.
Jodie Amos, Michael Ryan, Joseph Murphy, Louise Harwood, Dani Evans, Pippa Funnell and Sarah Bullimore are the other remaining riders currently due to run two horses. Dani will be eager to prove herself after disappointingly having to withdraw from the GBR team at the Blair Europeans last year the day before the competition started. Pippa, who won CIC3* and CCI3* at Ballindenisk at the weekend so is on very good form, has Billy Beware and Second Supreme, and must be in with a good shot.
Of the single horse riders ones to look out for with potential for a good finish must surely include Gwendolen Fer aboard Romantic Love, who were 3rd at Branham CCI*** last year and finishing the season with a win at the CIC*** at Le Pouget. Simon Grieve is another British rider who will be starting at their first Badminton. Although Cornacrew will be unlikely to be in contention after dressage his Irish breeding could come to the fore for a muddy XC! The horse that you have to have top of the list if mud is about is Paulank Brockagh with Sam Griffiths. Not only did she win Badminton in 2014 but she was also clear round WEG the same year when many horses fell by the wayside, she is also improving consistently in the dressage phase and a sub 40 score is in reach, so would be a sensible bet to be near the top of the final results. Pascal Leroy and Minos De Petra were another combination to revel in 2014s muddy conditions finishing 5th so will be worth keeping an eye on.
Top of the pile and man of the hour (year? decade?) must be Michael Jung who brings his seasoned campaigner La Biosthetique Sam to Badminton. Sam has contested 5 CCI****s so far in his career (3 in 2015) and in doing so placed no worse than 3rd. In fact, during his international career, disregarding his first two international events he has never completed with a placing outside the top 5. He has also only ever failed to complete 2 international events: last year he was withdrawn before the second horse inspection at Kreuth and this year at the same event was pulled up just before the end of the course having jumped clear until that point. There were sobs heard from miles around (or at least on Twitter) from stats junkies reeling at his perfect xc record coming to an end. With Rolex Kentucky starting this week, where he takes Fischerrocana FST back to defend their title from last year, you can see Michael having a serious shot at the Rolex Grand Slam, which he would claim if he was to win Rolex and Badminton in the coming weeks following on from last year’s Burghley win.
Fellow German riders Andreas Ostholt (So Is Et), Bettina Hoy (Designer 10), Andreas Dibowski (FRH Butts Avedon) and Ingrid Klimke (Horseware Hale Bob) all have impressive records with their respective mounts which will all be on the radar for Olympic team selection, never mind a top 10 finish.
Crowd favourites Vittoria Panizzon and Borough Pennyz return to Badminton after withdrawing at the last minute in 2014 with a bruised sole. Pennyz, who is an out and out jumper, but capable of a solid dressage test, will be one to watch. Their season started well at Barroca d’Alva, where, finishing 7th, they picked up enough FEI points to secure Italy a team place at Rio with days to spare. Vittoria was forced to withdraw after dressage at Belton due to a fall from another horse but picked up a win at Bicton last weekend as an ideal last run. Up and coming Portuguese rider Joao Duarte Silva contests his first 4* at Badminton with Xaft. They enjoyed a string of top 5 finishes in international competitions last year and started the season with a 4th place in the CCI*** at Barroca d’Alva.
2013 winner Jock Paget brings 17yo Clifton Lush, who finished 3rd at Badminton last year. Fellow New Zealand rider and 2011 winner Mark Todd will have high hopes for Leonidas II (4th last year) who finished 7th at Belton a few weeks ago and 6th at last year’s Burghley. The one New Zealand rider still looking for that elusive Badminton win though is Andrew Nicholson. With the retirement of Avebury and the withdrawal of Qwanza from the waitlist, he only brings forward Nereo, but having consistent top results including winning Pau 4*, could 2016 be his year?
Given the current ground conditions and weather forecast for the week, we don’t expect this year’s competition to be decided on the dressage, but riders will need to make a solid start to be in contention on the final day. Michael Jung has to be favourite with his recent form but if the mud is ample we would predict some notable upsets and some newer faces in the top 10.