If his first Badminton cross-country course caused a total shake-up and last year’s perhaps lacked in influence, did Giuseppe Della Chiesa get the course just right in 2016?
On one hand, yes he did. There were 11 clears within the time, and a further 21 clears with time penalties, so a combined training competition it most certainly was not. The cross-country leader Michael Jung made the track look positively straightforward, skipping round clear on his old campaigner La Biosthetique Sam FBW.
A number of other combinations seemed to relish the challenge of the huge, bold fences and the return to more of an old-fashioned Badminton, with Gemma Tattersall (lying 3rd), Jock Paget (now 5th), Oliver Townend (8th), Jonelle Price (11th) Tina Cook (now 14th), and French riders Jean Teulere and Pascal Leroy among those who looked impressive.
The general consensus before today was that problems would be spread out around the track, but in the end three fences proved to be by far the most influential. Ten riders opted to retire out on the course, while 17 were eliminated through falls or cumulative refusals.
In terms of the fences, things got off to the customary smooth start, with the initial jumps always pretty straightforward. All but two riders jumped clear over the first seven fences – with France’s Helene Vattier (Quito De Baliere) picking up 20pen at the HorseQuest Quarry, and Britain’s Jodie Amos (Wise Crack) breaking a frangible pin at fence 6, the Oxer Chicane, before retiring at the next fence.
But if you look at the starting order, things weren’t quite as straightforward. Some riders must have breathed a sigh of relief when pathfinder Oliver Townend went clear within the time on Armada, proving it could be done, but any relief was shortlived when things started to unravel for the next riders to go.
Second out the startbox, Izzy Taylor ran into difficulty midway round with KBIS Briarlands Matilda, having two refusals at the KBIS Vicarage Vee before opting to call it a day. Jodie Amos and her first ride then fell here, while the fourth combination to set out – Michael Ryan and Ballylynch Adventure, jumped the wrong side of the flag and picked up 20pen.
The Vicarage Vee quickly became the most troublesome fence on the course. Jesse Campbell crashed through it, Britain’s Paul Sims picked up his only jumping penalties here, as did Denmark’s Hanne Wind Ramsgaard. Dan Jocelyn had his second lot of 20pen here and opted to retire on Beaucatcher.
Tom Crisp (Coolys Luxury), Michael Owen (Bradeley Law), Tim Price (Ringwood Sky Boy), Lucy Jackson (Bosun), Boyd Martin (Crackerjack) and Dani Evans (Raphael II) all fell here and were eliminated.
Several others survived sticky moments at this fence, including Zara Tindall, who did well to stay on board when High Kingdom stumbled on landing. Several riders opted to go the long route here later on.
The next fence, the Outlander Bank, looked tricky when walking but generally jumped pretty well, but the following fence was another that caused lots of trouble.
The Shogun Hollow at fence 23 was almost as influential as the Vicarage Vee, with more jumping faults but only one fall (Christopher Burton). Alex Hua Tian had his only penalties here, as did Giovanni Ugolotti. Dani Evans and Smart Time had their second lot of 20pen here, having already run into difficulty at the Gatehouse New Pond. Bill Levett retired after two refusals here.
First timer Kerry Varley picked up a further 20pen at this fence, adding to the 20pen she got at the Gatehouse New Pond. Harry Dzenis had jumping penalties at the Mirage Pond, the Shogun Hollow and again at the World Horse Welfare Gates, which eliminated him. Buck Davison had 20pen here and opted to retire at the Alexanders Silver Birch, a few fences from home. Great Britain’s Louise Harwood got her second lot of jumping penalties here before going on to complete with Mr Potts.
Meanwhile, Mark Todd – who finished clear within the time – gets the ‘save of the day’ award for his brilliant stickability shown here at this fence.
The Mirage Pond (14-15) was another to cause a scattering of penalties across the field, with a very different look to last year (narrow houses instead of brush hedges). New Zealand’s Dan Jocelyn faulted at the first element, as did Britain’s Olivia Wilmot and Dutch rider Alice Naber-Lozeman, both of whom completed without any further faults. Megan Heath (St Daniel) was eliminated here through culminative refusals.
Alice Dunsdon was aiming to finish the course to become the first horse and rider partnership to complete all six four-star events around the world, but sadly their dream ended when they ran into difficulty here and were eliminated. Sarah Ennis and Simon Grieves picked up 20pen at 15, the house after the water, as did Harry Dzenis. Last out on course, Joseph Murphy, had his only jumping penalties here. Andrew Heffernan ran into difficulty here and then retired. French rider Helene Vattier had another 20pen here and then was eliminated at 18, a huge oxer in the middle of the Gatehouse New Pond that generally jumped pretty well.
Into the deep
Talking of the wet stuff, the first water jump came at eight, (the Wadworth Lower Lake), a single hanging log into water. As per last year, this generally jumped well – with only Megan Heath (St Daniel) and Alice Dunsdon (Fernhill Present) faulting here. Sarah Bullimore retired her second ride, Reve De Rouet, just before this jump.
The Mirage Pond seemed to leave plenty wishing it was a figment of their imagination, while the Gatehouse New Pond had a few faulters – Kerry Varley, Helene Vattier and Dani Evans. Lucy Jackson (Bosun) had 20pen at the final part, fence 19, before going on to have a crunching fall into the ditch at Vicarage Vee.
Ben Hobday and the brilliant Mr Mulry had a bit of a stumble into the water at the Gatehouse New Pond, but they quickly found their feet and went the long route, going on to complete with no jumping penalties. Ben was the first person to ever take two horses clear round Badminton at the same time – he was carrying Willberry (the small furry mascot of the chief chemo pony) under his number bib.
Meanwhile, no one needed their snorkel and swimsuit this year at the Lake. The final water came close to the end of the course this year, and as such was made a bit softer than in previous years. Those that made it that far round the course were all clear through this complex.
On the mound
The Swindon Designer Outlet Mound (10-12) caused a few hiccups. Louise Harwood picked up 20pen and retired here, while Dani Evans and Smart Time had the first of their jumping penalties at this point. Sam Griffiths and the 2014 winner Paulank Brockagh had their only penalties here, as did Kirsty Johnstone and Opposition Detective. Louise Harwood was another to pick up faults here.
Simon Grieve’s airjacket seemed to go off at this jump, much to the consternation of his horse. He survived quite a few sticky moments but did go on to complete.
There was a bit of a let up from the drama both in terms of the course and the starting order about two-thirds of the way round. Andreas Dibowski netted a nice clear and was swiftly followed by four other riders, which briefly left you wondering what all the fuss had been about.
Similarly, after all the difficulties up to and including the Shogun Hollow, things got a little easier from there to the finish. The first half of the field all jumped fences 24-33 clear, giving the impression that if you could get through the line of the KBIS Vicarage Vee, Outlander Bank and Shogun Hollow (21-23) unscathed, you should be alright.
Alas this wasn’t the case for poor Emily King, who was in second place after dressage. The 20-year-old daughter of Mary produced a superb round that surely must have had all the Rio selectors sitting up and taking notice. She was on target for a fast clear and would have been the only rider to really be breathing down Michael Jung’s neck when disaster happened. Her horse Brookleigh was obviously tiring, missed the stride at the second element of the Rolex Crossing (32) and ended up falling. Both got up fine, but it was a devastating result for a combination that had been shining so brightly at their very first Badminton.
Likewise, Jeanette Brakewell and Lets Dance were also on for a clear round when they had a nasty looking fall here. The course was held for some time, and everyone was hugely relieved to hear that Jeanette was sitting up and talking to Paramedics.
The most unlikely fall of the day was Italy’s Vittoria Pannizon and the cross-country machine Borough Pennyz, who had a very uncharacteristic fall at the Jack Wills Garden at 9, a fence that didn’t cause any other issues.
Oliver Townend was looking on target for a good clear with Black Tie, but the horse ran out of steam at the Alexanders Silver Birch and Oliver elected to retire.
The PHEV Oxer (16) was described as a ‘real let up fence’ but Nicola Wilson (One Two Many) broke a frangible pin here and retired, while Sarah Bullimore’s Valentino V fell at this jump.
Fastest and slowest
Kristina Cook was adamant that her horse Star Witness would shine in this phase and she was right – he netted the fastest clear of the day with 11min 4sec.
Kathryn Robinson was the steadiest clear round of the day, crossing the finish line in 14min 11sec.
For full results click here.
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