Badminton’s pre-Rio field among the strongest ever

William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning on their way to winning the 2015 Badminton Horse Trials.
William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning on their way to winning the 2015 Badminton Horse Trials. © Mike Bain

Comeback duo William Fox-Pitt and Andrew Nicholson head one of the strongest ever fields for this year’s Badminton Horse Trials, which is sponsored for the 25th year by Mitsubishi Motors.

Badminton will mark the top-level competition return of both riders, who were injured in cross-country accidents last year. Fox-Pitt has Parklane Hawk and New Zealander Nicholson leads a strong Kiwi contingent, with Nereo and multiple Burghley winner Avebury. In the run up to the Rio 2016 Olympics, several New Zealanders are challenging for a place on the Kiwi team, with Blyth Tait returning after a 13-year absence with two rides (Bear Necessity V and Xanthus III), previous winner Jonathan Paget brings Clifton Promise and Clifton Lush, Mark Todd has two rides in NZB Campino and Leonidas, and husband and wife Tim and Jonelle Price  have three horses between them (Bango, Ringwood Sky Boy, and Classic Moet).

New Zealand's Clarke Johnstone and Balmoral Sensation jumped up to third from fifth.
Clarke Johnstone and Balmoral Sensation are among the Kiwi contingent taking on Badminton this year. © Jane Thompson

Also in the running for a spot to Rio is recently arrived Clarke Johnstone, with his NZ Eventer of the Year winner Balmoral Sensation.

The German presence is headed by Olympic Champion Michael Jung with La Biosthetique Sam, accompanied by Ingrid Klimke, twice second at Badminton, Andreas Dibowski, Bettina Hoy and Andreas Ostholt. Michael Jung also plans to take one horse to Rolex Kentucky, which after his Burghley win in 2015 gives him a shot at the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing, should he win in Kentucky.

Notable British entries include former world champion Zara Phillips Tindall with her London Olympic and World Equestrian Games ride High Kingdom; previous winners Pippa Funnell and Oliver Townend; regular team members Tina Cook and Nicola Wilson; and several riders with a real chance of earning a ticket to the Games such as Gemma Tattersall, Izzy Taylor and Laura Collett.

A strong US contingent will make the trip across the Atlantic, headed by multiple medallist Phillip Dutton, Boyd Martin with a choice of four rides, Buck Davidson, and Lynn Symansky. As always the Irish will be out in force, with another husband and wife combination in Michael and Patricia Ryan, joining Aoife Clark, Joe Murphy and Camilla Spiers.

The Australians have always rated Badminton highly as a prelude to Olympic Games – they have two previous Mitsubishi Motors Trophy winners in Paul Tapner and Sam Griffiths, together with Christopher Burton and Bill Levett.

And 25 years after her mother Mary won the first Mitsubishi Motors Trophy, Emily King hopes to make her debut at Badminton with Brookleigh.

The prestigious event gets under way on Wednesday, May 4.

At this early stage there are 26 combinations on the wait list, headed currently by New Zealand’s Jesse Campbell and Kaapachino.

» Entries and waitlist as at March 23

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