Photo: ©Kit Houghton
This year’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials certainly sorted the girls from the boys, with three women finishing in the top four.
Eric Winter’s 32-fence track caused fewer problems that last year, but it was still a tough course – well this is Badminton, after all.
The soft going, following weeks of rain, made it an even harder challenge, as did the unseasonably hot weather on the big day.
There were 44 clear rounds out of 77 starters and only Jonelle Price came close to the optimum time, finishing just one second over. It was this fast time that saw her jump from 22nd place to the top of the leaderboard – which shows how influential the cross-country was.
Fourth placed Gemma Tattersall and Arctic Soul were the second fastest with 4.4 penalties to add.
So what were the bogey fences this year?
Huntsman’s Close (fences 6abc), saw seven combinations run out at the tricky third element, including previous winners Pippa Funnell (Billy Beware) and William Fox-Pitt (Fernhill Pimms).
As expected, the Lake (9abc) also caused some problems. There were all sorts of lines ridden through the Lake, but Harry Dzenis (Xam) and James O’Haire (China Doll) were the only ones to take a dunking on the landing side of the huge log drop in.
Another water-based combination that took some jumping was the Eclipse Cross Pond (18abc). Four horses broke the frangible pin, incurring 11 penalties, while Ireland’s Jonty Evans was eliminated after Cooley Rorkes Drift straddled the last element. Luckily the jump was quickly taken down and the horse remained calm, so neither were hurt in the incident.
Over the whole day, a total of nine riders retired, seven horses fell, and just three riders hit the deck – which is a third less than last year.
Eleven of the 16 first timers completed, including Padraig McCarthy and Mr Chunky who came an impressive ninth place.
“I was happy with how it panned out,” said Eric Winter. “I didn’t expect riders to go to the left of the ropes coming out of the lake and angle the straight route C element – they beat me there – but otherwise the fences generally rode as I hoped they would.”