Elation, frustration, disappointment, nervousness and relief; these are just a few of the emotions that will be circulating a tension-filled stable yard at Badminton on Saturday.
The big event is almost here but the bigger question is who will win?
For me, a look at the entry list suggests an open and a close competition. There are many combinations that are capable of lifting the Mitsubishi Motors trophy but which of them can keep the lid on a dressage test, jump a cleverly timed clear round without too many near misses and stay focussed to produce a clear showjumping round in the main arena on Sunday?
For me, a look at the entry list suggests an open and a close competition.
Asides from the draw, weather and atmosphere all of which can affect performance, there are so many ways to pick up penalties in this sport; those two strides of canter in an extended trot in the dressage test, or a few extra metres to avoid a loose dog on the course, is all it takes to drop down the order.
Certainly the (British-based) antipodean entry is a strong one and experience usually plays a big part at this level – although Jock Paget blew away that theory when he won on his debut in 2013.
New Zealanders Mark Todd – the oldest rider this year – and Andrew Nicholson however have bucket loads of it. Sir Mark has also previously won the event but Andrew, with an incredible record 33 Badminton completions on his CV has yet to bag this one – so who would begrudge him this?
And he has two chances although without his Burghley winner Avebury – he chipped a bone in his pastern – his main chance must rest with Nereo, the first of his two rides.
Will a quieter Thursday morning dressage be in his favour? Although he won’t then have the advantage of a previous cross country round so maybe second ride Calico Joe can come up trumps for this controversial veteran of the sport.
New Zealanders and husband and wife team Tim and Jonelle Price have both been formidable this last year
Fellow New Zealanders and husband and wife team Tim and Jonelle Price have both been formidable this last year and Tim comes fresh from a confidence boosting second place in Lexington and the knowledge that his ride, Ringwood Sky Boy, 9th last year, is more than capable.
From the Australian camp last year’s winner Sam Griffiths has two proven rides and Paul Tapner, the winner in 2010 also has a strong double entry although also the disadvantage of being this year’s trailblazer with Kilronan, fourth here last year. And don’t under-estimate Christopher Burton, a tidy rider who bagged the 2013 Adelaide four-star on his entry TS Jamaimo.
From the British contingent William Fox-Pitt will probably be the favourite for many. He does however also have the handicap of just one ride and a stallion at that.
From the British contingent William Fox-Pitt will probably be the favourite for many. He does however also have the handicap of just one ride and a stallion at that. Chilli Morning is undoubtedly an exceptional stallion, he has won William individual World and European bronze, it is however spring, naturally a distracting time and who could blame him for taking an exception to some of those upright brush fences? Ouch.
On the other hand he can do a very tidy dressage and is a neat jumper. Will he become the first stallion to win a four-star?
Oliver Townend has been a bit under the radar since his Badminton win in 2009 but since his second place here last year with Armada, his entry this year also, is back in roaring form and has been the one to be reckoned with this spring.
Francis Whittington has two good entries as does Pippa Funnell and who wouldn’t love to see her back at the top of the big time.
One who might displace them all however is German rider Ingrid Klimke. This year she has the ride on Horseware Hale Bob who gave Ingrid her first four-star win at Pau last year. An international dressage rider as well it will be no surprise to see Ingrid and Bob at the top of the leaderboard at the end of the first phase.
Not only is it about time the ladies had a win but if she could pull this one off she will be the first ever German rider to win the title.
For more information or to book tickets see the Badminton website