byCatherine Austen| Mar 19, 2018
The release of the Badminton Horse Trials CCI4* entry list is always one of those weirdly exciting moments. A very plain, understated press release quietly drops into your inbox early one evening – and within seconds journalists, riders, owners and fans squeak with excitement and rush to click on to the Badminton website to see the full list. Which horses have the top riders entered, who are the plucky first-timers, who’s coming from overseas – has Michael Jung entered? Equally as fascinating is the wait-list.
Here’s what you need to know:
Yes, Michael Jung has entered “Sam”. They are the only German entries.
William Fox-Pitt has made his first four-star entry since his terrible accident in October 2015, if you don’t count the Rio Olympics. Funnily enough, it’s the last horse he rode at the level – Fernhill Pimms, with whom he was 10th at Burghley in 2015. He is nearly at the bottom of the wait-list because the horse’s FEI points have elapsed, but there are only 14 on the wait list this time and I’d say he will definitely get in. It’s quite a surprise – he has made it fairly clear in the past that he had no real interest in riding at four-star again. But everyone can change their mind, and it’s brilliant to see him entered.
Nereo, last year’s highly emotional winner with Andrew Nicholson, is back for another crack at age 18. Andrew’s also got the much less exposed Jet Set IV – one of my horses to watch for the season – entered.
Pippa Funnell’s also on the wait-list with Billy Beware, sixth at Badminton in 2014. Go Pippa – she had a dreadful year last year and everyone will want to see her go well.
The entry from continental Europe is tiny. Few of the top French riders – and only Michi Jung from Germany; no Ingrid, Sandra or Julia – are coming; a sole Swede (Dag Albert, on the wait-list with Mitras Eminem), no Dutch, no Belgians.
There are only four Australians entered, of which Sam Griffiths is the only one with a winner’s chance on Paulank Brockagh. But there are eight New Zealanders, three of which (Mark Todd, Caroline Powell and Andrew Nicholson) have two horses each.
There is a five-strong American contingent, headed by Philip Dutton on Fernhill Cubalawn. Two are making their British debut – Madeline Backus and Katie Ruppel.
Oliver Townend has four entered (he will only be able to run two but is allowed to double-enter them) – Burghley winner Ballaghmor Class, MHS King Joules, Cooley SRS and Cooley Master Class. I think he has plans to go to Kentucky, too, but Ballaghmor Class is certainly targeting Badminton.
Outside of the Brits as the home nation, Ireland has the largest entry and clearly anyone wanting to get to WEG is going to be expected to go well at Badminton. The pressure will be on Jonty Evans and the “crowd-funded” horse Cooley Rorke’s Drift – they are more than capable of coping with it, as they showed at the Rio Olympics, but they will need to put an unsatisfactory autumn behind them.
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