Fairytale victory for French at Badminton
AN extraordinary finish to the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials saw Britain’s Piggy French secure victory aboard Vanir Kamira in a dramatic final showjumping phase.
The popular rider won the most prestigious title in eventing after rising from fourth place after the dressage to second position on her “gutsy little mare” with a bold cross-country round.
She then put the pressure on Oliver Townend – the leader with Ballaghmor Class after completion of the tough cross-country test - by jumping clear and within the time allowed in the deciding showjumping stage.
Townend could afford to knock one showjump down and incur minimum time penalties if he was to hang on to his lead and win not only his second Badminton title but also the middle part of the Rolex Grand Slam of eventing challenge.
But he looked shell-shocked when, having rolled one pole, he then found himself four seconds over the time allowed.
An emotional French was equally stunned at her win. She said: “I can’t believe it and I won’t believe it for quite a while. It’s a complete fairytale.
“Oliver’s horse is such a great jumper and I couldn’t believe it when the clock turned red.”
Townend’s timing error pushed him into the eventual runner-up position by just 0.3 of a penalty. He also took sixth place with Cillnabradden Evo.
Christopher Burton was third and fourth with Cooley Lands and Graf Liberty, while 2017 winner Andrew Nicholson was fifth with Swallow Springs.
The thousands of people who visited the Badminton estate, near Chipping Sodbury, for the international trials helped celebrate its 70th running. But it was also the final year of sponsorship by Mitsubishi after a 28-year run – one of the longest continuous sporting event sponsorships in the world.
Photo: Mitsubishi Motors/Kit Houghton