Badminton beckons the best

One of the largest number of New Zealanders are competing at this year's prestigious Badminton Horse Trials.

Sir Mark Todd on Leonidas II. (Image Libby Law Photography)
Sir Mark Todd on Leonidas II (Image: Libby Law)

New Zealand’s eventing combinations will be chasing top results at the weekend’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials in the United Kingdom. 

Not only has the event attracted a large and strong Kiwi contingent looking to impress at this prestigious event, but it’s a key player for those striving to lay claim to one of the four spots at this year’s Olympics.

Four-time winner Sir Mark Todd lines up with Leonidas II. He is the oldest rider to have won Badminton, an honour he earned in 2011 when at 55 he won aboard NZB Land Vision, and has 25 completions to his credit. Leonidas has been a very consistent horse for Todd, almost always finishing in the top 10, and was fourth at Badminton last year.

Badminton is our Wimbledon,” says Todd. “It is very historic . . . the one we all love to go to and do well at.”

And he’s confident Leonidas will put in a good show.

I am very happy with him going in. If he is settled and I can get a good dressage test out of him – which he is well capable of – he should go very well. Michael (Jung) may be going there to chase the triple crown (the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing as the winner of Burghley, Kentucky and Badminton) but we will all be there trying to stop him.”

Michael has just won the Rolex Kentucky CCI4* Three Day Event in the United States and heads to Badminton as a hot favourite.

It will be a memorable Badminton for Jock Paget too, as one of his stars is farewelled. You can read our tribute (with amazing photos) to this wonderful horse on this link.

Jock won the event in 2013 aboard Clifton Promise, who will be honoured with a special retirement ceremony on the final day of the 2016 event. Both he and Promise’s owner Frances Stead say it is a fitting send-off for such a great horse who has an impressive record at 4* level and was seventh at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.

This year Jock starts on Clifton Lush, on whom he was third last year, and he is keen to better that in 2016.

Jock Paget and Clifton Promise celebrating their historic Badminton victory (Image: Libby Law)
Jock Paget and Clifton Promise celebrating their historic Badminton victory (Image: Libby Law)

Badminton is a special event for me,” he says. “It is very intense and the competition is always a very high standard. It looks tough again and I have no doubt all the riders will be treating it with a lot of respect.”

Jonelle Price and her 13-year-old black mare Classic Moet are renowned for their speed and were New Zealand’s best at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in France. Last year they were fifth at Burghley and secured a top 20 at Badminton.

Blyth Tait last started at Badminton in 2003 on Eze and has 14 completions to his credit. However, it will be a first for 11-year-old Bear Necessity V who last year finished 15th at the 4* in Pau.

Tim Price heads to Badminton with Ringwood Skyboy who he believes has what it takes to do well at one of the world’s toughest events.

He has never felt better,” says Tim. “He is an absolute pleasure to ride. It has taken all of his 13 years to be strong enough, able to withstand the physical demands of the cross-country, and to be happy and healthy the next day.”

The combination were second at Burghley in 2015 and had a top 10 at Badminton in 2014.

New Zealand rider Clarke Johnstone rode Rob, Jean and Shona Johnstone's, Balmoral Sensation to third at Adelaide 4* (Image: Julie Wilson)
Clarke Johnstone rode Rob, Jean and Shona Johnstone’s Balmoral Sensation to third at Adelaide 4* (Image: Julie Wilson)

Clarke Johnstone is very excited to be getting out at his first big UK start with Balmoral Sensation, the 12-year-old grey gelding who placed third in his first 4* at Adelaide in November.

I’m feeling pretty confident,” says Clarke, who arrived in the UK in late March with the horse. “Balmoral Sensation is fit and well, so that’s a good start after the big couple of months he has had.”

Moved to tears with his beloved Kaapachino's dressage performance at Luhmuhlen in 2014, a 75.5% mark (Image: :Libby Law)
Jesse Campbell, moved to tears by his beloved Kaapachino’s dressage performance at Luhmuhlen in 2014, a 75.5% mark (Image: Libby Law)

Badminton will be a special event for Jesse Campbell and his ex-racehorse Kaapachino. They were to start last year, but an infection in the horse saw a change in plan and they instead made their 4* début at Luhmühlen, where they finished a very credible 16th.

With hindsight I think it was a good thing we missed Badminton (last year) as it gave us more time to prepare for Luhmühlen,” says Jesse. “After that he won the CIC3* at Millstreet in Ireland and we were also on the Nations Cup team that represented New Zealand at Boekelo that ensured team qualification for the Rio Olympics.”

Twenty-six-year-old Campbell can’t wait to fulfill a long-held dream.

Kaapy is a brilliant horse cross-country and has all the credentials to tackle those famous fences. We’ve had a good build up . . . and riding at Badminton has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember.”

Dan Jocelyn’s Beaucatcher and Lucy Jackson’s Bosun are both on début at Badminton, while Megan Heath’s St Daniel has twice competed at the event.

New Zealand has an impressive Badminton history – Caroline Powell’s Lenamore is one of just four horses to have seven completions of the cross-country and many Kiwi riders have been awarded the Armada Dish for five completions.

Late withdrawal Andrew Nicholson’s name is etched in the history books at Badminton. With 35 completions, no-one comes close to his efforts, but a win there has continued to elude him.

The competition will be as tough as ever, despite missing 2015 winner, William Fox Pitt.

Giuseppe Della Chiesa’s cross-country course will run in the same direction as 2015 but is said to be a very different one. The cross-country includes 33 fences with 45 jumping efforts over the 6,500 metres.

While riders are certainly chasing the honour and glory of a Badminton win, there are also valuable points on the line for the FEI Classics, which includes the world’s six CCI4* events.

Report provided by Diana Dobson
ESNZ High Performance Media Liaison

Our preview published when the entry list first came out can be found on this link.