One of the most prestigious equestrian events on the calendar has returned, welcoming some of the world’s best combinations.
The Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, held in the Gloucestershire park and run over the Duke of Beaufort’s estate, started on Wednesday and concludes on Sunday.
Fresh from victory at the Rolex Kentucky three-day-event with Bay My Hero, Dorset-based William Fox-Pitt heads the British challenge at this year’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials.
The bookmakers are predicting a two-way tussle for the top honours between Fox-Pitt and New Zealand’s Andrew Nicholson, who is yet to claim a win at Badminton.
Fox-Pitt brings three rides forward to the Gloucestershire event, Cool Mountain, Parklane Hawk and Chilli Morning, whilst Nicholson trails by one, pinning his hopes on Nereo and Quimbo.
Other British riders set to compete in the four star competition include Mary King, who rides her Olympic partner Imperial Cavalier, Tina Cook and Nicola Wilson. Exciting young prospects such as Izzy Taylor, Gemma Tattersall and Tom McEwen will also be in attendance.
Yesterday saw the first day of dressage, with the competition concluding on Sunday with the show jumping phase.
On Saturday, competitors will face a new-look cross country course, designed by renowned Italian Giuseppe Della Chiesa, who has taken over the key role from Hugh Thomas. Fresh challenges, including a new water complex and a re-creation of the famous Vicarage Vee have been introduced to the 30-fence course.
2009 Badminton winner Oliver Townend will be riding Andrew Nicholson’s former ride Armada at this year’s event. He said: “I hear there are a lot of big changes on the course. I’ve heard it is going to be very impressive and back to how it used to be in many ways.”
Townend, 31, also spoke of his chances: “It is difficult to say with a horse like Armada. He made it feel ridiculously straightforward last year, but at the same time Badminton is Badminton and anything can happen.
“Four-stars are still four-stars, and you need an awful lot to go right for you in these big competitions”, he added.
After a career-threatening fall four months ago, Harry Meade will be returning to compete at this year’s Badminton.
The Wiltshire-based event rider rode five horses at last month’s Bicton Horse Trials in preparation for the event.
He said: “To be back at Badminton was my big target. When someone tells you that your career is over, it makes you look at things in a very different light.
“When you get a second chance, you don’t take things for granted. I am going to enjoy Badminton, especially having thought it was never going to happen again”, added Mr Meade.