Big Badminton week for Kiwis

Michael Jung riding La Biosthetique Sam. (Image: Rolex / Kit Houghton)

Eighty-seven of the world’s best eventing combinations will battle it out for honours in the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials next week, including Michael Jung who will be riding La Biosthetique Sam and hoping to add another Badminton to his Kentucky win and be in the hunt for a second Rolex Grand Slam.

Badminton is one of the ‘big six’ CCI4* events on the global calendar – the highest rank of competition which carries with it prestige and honour, and £100,000 to the winner.

New Zealand’s eventers have rightly earned their place in the history of the event, and again this year there is a strong Kiwi contingent competing.

Sir Mark Todd has two on the card in Leonidas II and NZB Campino. The veteran who has won Badminton four times, including on début, is looking forward to the event.

“The horses are all good,” he says. “Leonidas and Campino are both in very good form.”

A photo from 1996 – Sir Mark Todd at the lake in front of beautiful Badminton House

With two entered, he was always going to have one very early, and he was probably hoping he would be a little further down the draw than second aboard Leonidas.

“I am looking forward to hopefully both of them putting up a good performance at Badminton this year,” he said.

Last year he and Leonidas were the best of the Kiwis in fourth place.

Andrew Nicholson also has two entered. The current world number four holds the record for the most Badminton completions but has yet to win it. He lines up on his Pau CCI4* winner Nereo, who was third at Badminton in 2013, twice second at Burghley and fourth individual at the London Olympic Games. Qwanza is on début at Badminton but has previously competed at Kentucky and Luhmühlen.

Andrew Nicholson on Qwanza. (Image: Libby Law)

Dan Jocelyn and Dassett Cool Touch, who teamed up in 2015, competed last year at Badminton for 13th place. Jesse Campbell and his former racehorse Kaapachino completed their first Badminton just last year, having made their CCI4* début at Luhmühlen in 2015.

Jesse Campbell and Kaapachino completed their first Badminton in 33rd place. (Image: Libby Law Photography)

Caroline Powell, a member of the bronze medal-winning New Zealand teams at the London Olympic Games and FEI World Equestrian Games in 2010, last competed at Badminton in 2015. She’s no stranger to CCI4* competition and has ridden at all the Northern Hemisphere biggies, including a win at Burghley aboard the mighty Lenamore in 2010. She has Onwards and Upwards entered this year.

Caroline Powell and Onwards and Upwards at Burghley 2016, where they finished in 8th place (Image: Libby Law) 

Blyth Tait’s outing at Badminton in 2016 with Bear Necessity V was his first in 16 years. His list of achievements is long and impressive, and includes double golds at the World Equestrian Games, individual gold at Olympic Games and much more. Like Toddy, he too tried retirement but made his comeback in 2011.

Blyth and Bear blitzing Badminton last year – finishing in 13th place. Blyth will be hoping Bear can go even better this year (Image Libby Law)

Tim Price has competed at Badminton numerous times and continues to chase that elusive win. He has twice won the William Miflin Trophy there for the ride closest to the optimum time. He has just the one horse entered, and this will be Xavier Faer’s first start at the event.

Tim Price and Xavier Faer competing last year at Chatsworth (Image: Libby Law)

Other stars to look out for include Australian Shane Rose, having his first crack at Badminton. It is actually Shane’s first ever time to Badminton completely, having never attended even to watch before. He is joined by fellow Australians Sam Griffiths, Andrew Hoy, Paul Tapner and Chris Burton with one horse each.

Ingrid Klimke will be a hot favourite as well on her superstar Horseware Hale Bob OLD. Bettina Hoy (Designer 10) and Claas Romeike (Cato 60) as well as Michael Jung are the other Germans in the field.

The French are sending a big team this year, including their Olympic individual silver medalist, Astier Nicolas.

Organisers are describing the cross country course as “back to the future”, resembling the swashbuckling tracks of the 1970s with the advantage of 21st century safety technology.

This year also marks the retirement of BBC commentator Mike Tucker, who has been behind the microphone for 40 years and a voice many would have heard at top events all over the globe.

The first horse inspection is on Wednesday, followed by two days of dressage, the cross country on Saturday and the showjumping on Sunday.

Badminton is also part of the FEI Classics Series which unites the six 4* eventing competitions around the world. The UK event is the fourth on the calendar, having been preceded by Les Etoiles de Pau (FRA) in October, the Australian International Three-Day Event (AUS) in November and the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event just last weekend. Following Badminton will be Luhmuhlen CCI4* (GER) in June and the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (GBR) in September.

The winner of the series wins $US40,000.


WHAT: Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials

WHEN: May 3-7, 2017

WHERE: South Gloucestershire, UK