The Badminton Horse Trials 2015 entries have gone live.
We will all be waiting to see what Badminton looks like this year on the cross country. My feelings are it will be softer than last year because they cannot have the same attrition rate as last year. I personally hope Guiseppe Della Chiesa holds strong because the ground was a key factor last year and a softer course on good ground will not see the cross country being influential.
Australia has a live hand with last year’s winner Paulank Brockagh in the listings. It will be interesting to see how she performs this year and a strong cross country will play to her strengths but I still think Happy Times is Sam Griffiths’ best shot at a good showing. I love Bill Levett’s Shannondale Titan. Shannondale Titan (by Limmerick) is now 12 and is on the cusp of a big showing. He was impressive round the WEG cross country and was unlucky at Badminton last year breaking a frangible to get 21. He normally has a strong dressage but the showjumping can let him down.
Kristina Cook on De Novo News (By Last News) had a great WEG and the horse looks like he really knows his job now. The dressage can still let him down still but I expect this area to have strengthened over the winter.
William Fox-Pitt has four entered with Chilli Morning, Cool Mountain, Bay My Hero and Parklane Hawk. My guess is decisions will be made when it becomes clearer what the cross country course looks like. Bay My Hero and Parklane Hawk are double entered at Rolex.
Zara Phillips is double entered at Rolex and Badminton. It would be great to see her at Badminton as High Kingdom (by Master Imp) is a wonderful 4* competitor and we don’t often get the chance to see him at 4* in WEG and Olympic years. I feel like the dressage will be back to where it was two years ago and that they will have a serious chance at whichever 4* they choose to go to.
Izzy Taylor was recently the best of the Brits on Briarlands Matilda (by Miley) at Fontainebleu finishing 6th, so a strong start to the season on a vastly improved dressage of 40 which is their best test yet at 3* and above. They finished the season strongly at Burghley coming 7th. A combination that will be in the scrap for placings.
I was impressed by Fernhill Highlight at Blenheim. Ridden by Francis Whittington and owned by Catherine Witt, I feel this is the horse Francis Whittington has been waiting for to do teams on. Fernhill Highlight is a 12 year old (by High Roller) and Francis Whittington is triple entered but Easy Target is more likely to go to Rolex which will probably suit him more.
Nicola Wilson has an incredible team at the moment. One Two Many NJ (by Chacoa) and Annie Clover are both strong bets, though Annie Clover is double entered at Rolex. One Two Many NJ could be a dark horse as he is seriously impressive including a win at Blair CIC3* and he was a bit unlucky at Pau 4* to pick up a 20.
If there was ever a horse meant for Badminton it is Arctic Soul (by Luso). He was so impressive last year before his unlucky elimination at Huntsman’s Close but he came into his own with a top 5 place at Burghley. The dressage is improving and Gemma Tattersall is a very strong competitor who I expect to put in a gutsy performance.
Joseph Murphy had a very strong showing at Pau 4* and Ireland’s hopes seem to be on the up. Ireland come crack handed with most of their WEG team including Sam Watson, Camilla Spiers, Clare Abbott and Aoife Clark, who will be hoping to have a 4* event free of FEI warnings.
Ingrid Klimke has entered her Pau 4* winner Horseware Hale Bob who was very impressive and I think a huge contender. The other notable German entry is Claas Hermann Romeike who is the son of gold medal winner Hinrich Romeike. Claas is no stranger to the UK and was at Blair last year on his Badminton horse Cato 60 picking up a 20. This will be their first 4*. The Germans started strongly at Fontainebleu with Michael Jung winning on Sam. The Germans are supposed to have more entries going to Rolex but at the time of writing they have not got anyone entered.
Finally, New Zealand have a strong showing with Andrew Nicholson triple handed with Avebury, Nereo and Calico Joe. Any of these horses could win and Avebury comes on the back of his historic three Burghley wins. Tim Price has Wesko double entered at Rolex and I expect to see him run there. Jonelle Price looks to have the stronger hand with Classic Moet (by Classic) who was very impressive at WEG with her 4th place. Classic Moet was a jumping machine at WEG and a strong cross country will be in her favour. Mark Todd looks to have his strongest chance with Leonidas (by Landos) who was unlucky at WEG when falling at the water. Leonidas has it all but has been a bit unlucky at his 4* attempts. If their luck holds I expect this pair to be right up there. Jock Paget has his old campaigner Clifton Lush entered but it would probably be past winner Clifton Promise who would be the stronger candidate for being in the mix.
This year’s Badminton is a strong field and I am sure it will be a great competition.