World’s best head for Badminton
STARS of the eventing world will be at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials as they bid to win the sport’s most prestigious competition.
Andrew Nicholson, who finally won the international last year after a remarkable recovery from a serious neck injury that could have paralysed him 21 months earlier, returns with Nereo to defend their title.
However, the Wiltshire-based New Zealander has withdrawn his second ride, Jet Set, from the competition, which will see some 80 horse and rider partnerships take on the three phases of dressage, cross-country and showjumping from May 3-6.
The South Gloucestershire park will also host the Mitsubishi Cup for grassroots riders on Wednesday, May 2, ahead of the feature contest.
Nicholson will face tough competition from many of the best event riders during the challenge - not least from Germany’s Michael Jung, the current Olympic champion, and his superstar horse La Biosthetique Sam.
Sam, who has carried Jung to world and European glory, as well as two consecutive Olympic titles, is due to be retired later this season so it will be his last run at Badminton.
The home side will be looking for victory from the likes of past Badminton champions Oliver Townend and Pippa Funnell, as well as other team GB riders such as Gemma Tattersall and South Gloucestershire’s Harry Meade.
Meanwhile, British team stalwart Kristina Cook is racing to recover from a dislocated shoulder in time to compete, while the withdrawal of Jet Set means William Fox-Pitt has come off the waiting list to earn his place in the line-up.
Other major contenders include Kiwis Jonelle and Tim Price and four-time Badminton winner Mark Todd.
In his second year as cross-country course designer, Eric Winter has created another big and challenging track where the best horses and riders will take the most direct routes but with longer options for the less experienced.
He said: “It’s important that we keep cross-country at the heart of the sport. I want to get everyone round, while allowing the best horses to prosper. I want riders to come back and say ‘That was exciting’.”
Feature fences on the four-mile course include those at the quarry, Huntsman’s Close, the lake, Vicarage Vee and the recently introduced Hildon Water Pond.