The Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials have lost three of eventing’s most prestigious riders, after Andrew Nicholson, Pippa Funnell and William Fox-Pitt all decided to withdraw.
Nicholson was entered for the competition with his long-standing partner, 16-year-old gelding Nereo, owned by Libby Sellar. The New Zealand champion suffered a serious neck injury at the Festival of British Eventing in Gatcombe last August. Although he has recovered brilliantly, returning to competition last March and winning at advanced level on Jet Set IV at Withington last Sunday, he feels he is not ready for the rigours of a CCI4* event.
“I have reluctantly decided to withdraw Nereo from Badminton — through no fault of his own,” he said.” I have doubts over my own fitness and ability to do him full justice at this point.”
“I successfully rode four horses in the advanced at Withington on Sunday, all of whom won prizes, but was aware I felt fatigued by the end of the seven-minute cross-country course. It would therefore not be sensible to attempt an 11 1/2-minute course at Badminton.
“I have every confidence my strength and fitness will continue to improve and, with the full support of Nereo’s owner Libby Sellar, we now plan to target Nereo towards significant events such as those in the exciting new Event Rider Masters series.”
Nicholson’s decision comes hot on the heels of a similar announcement by Funnell. The three-time Badminton winner fell while riding Sandman 7 on the advanced course at Withington on May 1, and had to be taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxfordshire. She was thankfully given the all clear and is returning home today, Tuesday, May 3, but has chosen to withdraw her two rides, Second Supreme and Billy Beware, to give herself more time to recover.
“It’s devastating not only for myself but also for the owners, Jonathan and Jane Clarke and Marek Sebestak, my groom Frankie and the hard working team at home not to be able to compete at Badminton this year as I feel both my horses are in great form and the Mitsubishi Badminton Horse Trials is one of the greatest events in the world,” she said. “I very much hope to back competing again shortly.”
The third rider to throw in the towel is Fox-Pitt, the reigning Badminton champion. The Olympic rider, who has recovered from a head trauma following a fall during the cross-country phase at Le Lions d’Angers last October and returned to competition in early April, withdrew Parklane Hawk from Badminton after a disappointing performance at Weston Park, where the 16-year-old gelding owned by Catherine Witt had a tumble on the cross country three fences from the end.
“I have decided that we have run out of time for Badminton,” he said in a statement. “It is obviously a shame not to be heading back but you have to have the right preparation for a competition like this. Parklane Hawk has got the whole autumn to look forward to.”
Fox-Pitt’s “next big target” is the first leg of Event Rider Masters at the Dodson & Horrell Chatsworth Horse Trials on May 13-15.