Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials 2018
By Stephanie DeWitt Photography Julian Portch #MMBHT
As this year's Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials unfolded, both the temperature and the competition hotted up. Ground conditions at the end of the Mitsubishi Motors Cup competition, both sections of which were won by Yorkshire riders - 22 year-old Lauren Burton with D'Akeida in the BE 90 and student PE teacher Lois Teal on Z7 Catastrophe in the BE100 - were sticky at best.
The dressage arena for the main competition held up well, however, and at the end of the first day only two marks separated the first seven horses and riders. Second last to go, Ros Canter and Allstar B rode their best ever test, snatching the lead from Germany's Michael Jung on La Biosthetique-Sam FBW by 0.8 penalties and finishing on a score of 23.9. In third place, just 0.2 marks behind Michael, was Japan's Yoshiaki Oiwa with The Duke of Cavan, the final competitor of the day.
By lunchtime on Friday, the second day of dressage, Ireland's Jonty Evans on Cooley Rorke's Drift and Australian Paul Tapner with Bonza King of Rouges had insinuated themselves into 2nd and 3rd places between Ros Canter and Michael Jung with scores of 24.1 and 24.4 respectively.
But the final dressage session brought thrills galore with top riders pulling out all the stops to perform brilliant tests including three perfect tens from young Tom McEwen and Strike Smartly, the last competitors of the day. Tom was more than a little disappointed that he lost his way in the test and his marks reflected this.
The crowd roared and Sir Mark Todd was obviously delighted when he took over the lead on Kiltubrid Rhapsody with a score of 23.4, half a mark better than the overnight leaders, Ros and Allstar B. But the penultimate contenders, Oliver Townend and his second ride, Ballaghmor Class, brought the house down with only 20.8 penalties, the best dressage score at Badminton in eighteen years. Having won at Burghley last year and Kentucky last week, the Rolex Grand Slam seemed within Oliver's reach!
A major innovation at this year's Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials was the introduction of an outdoor Chatzone where members of the public could watch the top riders being interviewed at the end of every day and interact with them. This proved highly successful and the riders engaged in entertaining banter.
"What would be your advice to your 10 year-old self?" tweeted one onlooker.
"Buy a tennis racquet!" quipped Sir Mark Todd.
The heat of the day and the heavy going took their toll on Saturday, cross-country day, when many thousands of spectators converged on Badminton. Sir Mark Todd commented that it was a "...seriously strong cross-country course." The last log in Huntsman's Close seemed to be the bogey fence with several runouts while the Eclipse Cross Pond complex similarly caused problems.
Not a single horse completed within the optimum time of 11 minutes 45 seconds. The fastest horse was Kiwi Jonelle Price's black mare Classic Moët, only one second over the time to add 0.4 penalties to their dressage score of 27.6, rising from 22nd to pole position.
Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class took second place with the same score of 28 because his finishing time was further away from the optimum. Diminutive Ros Canter with her 17hh bay gelding Allstar B retained their 3rd position on a score of 29.3.
Only five clear rounds were posted in the showjumping arena on Sunday, one of which went to Jonelle Price and the 15 year-old Classic Moët, last to jump, who emerged victorious on their overnight score of 28. Surprisingly, Oliver Townend took second place with his clear round on Cooley SRS scoring 33.1 after Ballaghmor Class lowered two rails and dropped down to 5th. And, despite having a fence down, Ros Canter and Allstar B maintained their 3rd placing.
HRH Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, presented the prizes at the end of yet another highly successful event. An award was also made to Lance Bradley, former Managing Director of Mitsubishi Motors UK, by Andrew Baldock on behalf of the British Equestrian Writers Association to mark his outstanding service to equestrian sport and Badminton Horse Trials. Andrew Nicholson led the 2017 winner, 18 year-old Nereo, into the arena to take a last bow before the horse went into retirement, while it was also announced that this would be the final four-star competition for Michael Jung's La Biosthetique-Sam FBW.
Sadly Oliver Townend did not achieve his dream of becoming the third winner of the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing but he took it on the chin and was gracious in defeat.
The last time the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials was won by a woman was eleven years ago when Lucinda Fredericks and her mare Headley Britannia took the title for Australia. According to Jonelle, winning Badminton was like joining an elite club. At the request of a member of the public, she summed up her win in three words - "Dreams come true!"