Badminton 2016 is going to be EPIC!

Badminton is the event everyone wants to win, and the New Zealand selectors are demanding good performances from riders wanting to make our Olympic team.

The entry list is out for Badminton Horse Trials. This year there is extra pressure on the New Zealand riders who think they are in with a chance to ride at the Rio Olympics, as the selectors are looking for stand-out performances at four-star level and will be keeping a close eye on proceedings.

Sir Mark Todd has won Badminton four times already, being the first New Zealand winner in 1980 with Southern Comfort, and having his latest win in 2011 on NZB Land Vision. His other two wins were on Horton Point (1994) and Bertie Blunt (1996). Mark has completed Badminton 25 times on 19 different horses, finishing fourth last year on Leonidas II and 41st on Oloa. This year he has entered both NZB Campino and Leonidas II. He has also entered NZB Campino in Rolex Kentucky so it’s likely that Leo will be his sole entry at Badminton, but what a good horse to be on for this event.

Blyth Tait will be back after a gap of 13 years. He has a good record at Badminton, having completed the event nine times, but has never won it – though he’s been second three times! This year he has Bear Necessity V, having his second four-star start after finishing 15th at Pau last year.

No-one has more Badminton completions than Andrew Nicholson – 35 successful ones on 20 different horses. But, that elusive win is still haunting him. It would be a fairytale if he could pull it off this year, having made a miraculous recovery from a serious neck injury at the end of last season. He has already declared that he isn’t focused on going to the Olympics, so the pressure won’t be on to impress the selectors. Knowing Andrew, though, he will be putting plenty of other pressure on himself, to prove many points and get that elusive win. With both Nereo and Avebury, he has two of the world’s top four-star eventing horses. In a recent interview, he said there was the possibility that he may only ride one, depending on how his fitness preparation for the event goes, but as he’s one of the most motivated of riders, we fully expect him to ride both. As a back-up, he did have Qwanza entered, but has withdrawn her.  UPDATE: No Badminton for Andrew at all this year. Click here for the link to the article on why.

Jonelle Price will be looking for a good result, but we don’t think she has a lot to prove to the selectors. She has yet to win a four-star, coming oh-so-close at Luhmühlen, and of course she would dearly like to take this trophy home. Jonelle has completed Badminton three times, with her best placing on Mazetto in 2014 when she was 17th. Last year on Classic Moet she was 20th. She has Classic Moet entered again this year.

While he has won Luhmühlen, the closest Tim Price has got to the Badminton Trophy is ninth on Ringwood Sky Boy in 2014. He has successfully completed the event four times. He has elected to take Wesko to Rolex Kentucky this year (the weekend before Badminton) in a bid to improve on his second placing there in 2015, and has Bango and Ringwood Skyboy entered at Badminton. Tim has confirmed that he is going to take Bango to Kentucky too, however, so expect to see that horse withdrawn if the plan comes off. Bango (aged 10) was 15th at his first four-star start at Luhmühlen last year, and Tim has often said that this is his second choice horse (after Wesko) for the Olympics. UPDATE: Wesko is out for the rest of the season, Bango went to Kentucky and Tim has Ringwood Sky Boy in at Badminton.

Jock Paget is only the only other New Zealander to win Badminton, so far. Clifton Promise did not put a foot wrong in 2014 to storm home in first place. Jock was 14th on Clifton Lush that year and last year improved considerably on Lush to finish third. This year he had both Promise and Lush entered but recently announced Clifton Promise’s retirement so is left with Lush, who must be considered a strong chance.

Clarke Johnstone had a great four-star start at Adelaide last year with Balmoral Sensation, finishing third, but Badminton is a bigger ask, especially as the pair have only recently left New Zealand. Clarke is confident in his horse, though, and we know that he is a very special jumper, so fingers are crossed that it all goes well for them.

Lucy Jackson is back at Badminton, this time on Bosun, a 12-year-old gelding who has had one four-star start, but was withdrawn after jumping clear in the cross-country at Pau. Lucy has completed Badminton twice before, on Animator II (2013) and Willy Do (2014).

Badminton also has a wait list, as horses are ranked on the basis of their FEI points at three- and four-star level. The maximum number of starters is 85. A few New Zealanders were lurking on that dreaded list, having to wait until others pull out before they are confirmed as starters. Horse & Hound reports that in the past eight years, between 15 and 43 horses have been accepted off the list however this year all of those on the wait list get a start.

Jesse Campbell was second on the list, and received confirmation at the end of March that he was in on his Kaapachino. This will be their first Badminton attempt, but they have done a four-star – the pair competed at Luhmühlen last year and had a great first two phases, eventually finishing 16th.

Megan Heath was ninth on the wait list with St Daniel and has been confirmed (as at 12 April) that she has a start. Megan’s best four-star result with this horse was at Luhmühlen in 2012 when they finished 15th. They completed Luhmühlen and Badminton in 2013 but things didn’t go right for them in their 2014 attempts at Burghley and Badminton.

Dan Jocelyn is number 14 on the wait list with the lovely Beaucatcher but is a confirmed starter. Dan has completed Badminton four times, with his last appearance being in 2009. He impressed many last year with some really good three-star results, so we hope it goes well for him. It will be Beaucatcher’s first four-star attempt.

No Caroline Powell at Badminton this year, unfortunately; she’s recovering from a broken leg! Her superstar Lenamore, now retired, is one of the elite group of horses who have finished Badminton SEVEN times. The others to achieve such a feat are Comanche (James Robinson), Ballycotton (Andrew Harris and Sarah Longshaw) and Over To You (Jeanette Brakewell). With the team of lovely young horses Caroline has, we don’t think it will be long before she is back at Badminton, and probably on another grey.

William Fox-Pitt, back after his injury last season, had the New Zealand horse, Parklane Hawk entered but withdrew.

There is a strong German presence in the entries, including Michael Jung with La Biosthetique Sam FBW. Michael is making a bid to win the Grand Slam this year, and he has a very good chance, with an outstanding string of horses. He is heading back to Rolex Kentucky on Fisherroccana to see if he can repeat last year’s super win (and he did!). Another impressive German Badminton entry was Ingrid Klimke on Horseware Hale Bob OLD but she has withdrawn the horse after her top horse, Escada, was ruled out of the Olympics so she has elected a different lead up to the Olympics for her Hale Bob and it doesn’t include Badminton.

Many of those hoping to get in the Irish Olympic eventing team have entered too.

British rider Alice Dunsdon on Fairhill Present was 22nd on the wait list so it was an anxious wait for her before she was confirmed as a starter. Alice is hoping to complete Badminton to be the first-ever combination to complete all six four-star events on the same horse. She ticked off Adelaide last year and we wish her all the best for the competition.

You can see the full list of entries and the waiting list on this link.