It was always going to be a nail biting end to a wonderful 4 days of elite competition with only a pole separating the top 6. As the positions on the leader board yoyo-ed through out the day, there were only 5 clears from the 37 who jumped in the morning session and only 2 within the time on the on the full-up, tricky and twisty track, which included lots of related distances. Poles were going here, there and everywhere as tired horses tried their best to end their Badminton experience on a high.
As flummoxed supporters at home relied on social media for the updates due to technical issues on site, the remaining riders prepared for the showdown.
The Parade was received by an enthusiastic crowd no less due to the fact that some of the horses being ridden had been borrowed (or stolen) from the Beaufort Hunt and a certain Mr. Hobday had become the star, or should I say heart throb, of the weekend…or maybe it was Mulry and those feet!
Paul Tapner started the afternoon session off on Kilronan and had one down but Michael Ryan’s excellent round that followed on Ballylynch Adventure got him home clear and within the time finishing on 53.3. It was to be a great day for the Irish riders. Nicola Wilson had a fantastic clear round on One Too Many who had formerly been ridden by Bill Levett and didn’t look like he had been cross country at all. Pippa Funnell, who first competed here in 1988 had one rail down and time penalties to add but finished on a score of 56.4. Sam Griffiths, who won here in 2014, on Paulank Brockagh had a great round until someone told him he had had 9a down as he hadn’t felt Brock knock it. It was not going to be back to back wins for Sam this year but he did receive his second Armada dish for 5 completions, which means he has now completed Badminton 10 times – no mean feat.
Then came a string of costly rounds: Jonelle Price’s The Deputy looked very tired and couldn’t sustain his jump having 6 down; Andrew Nicholson, jumping out of order on Calico Joe, had 5 rails down, which we hoped would not knock his confidence for his all-important round on Nereo but we now know it can’t have helped the pressure; Gemma Tattersall, who is often seen out showjumping with her lovely team of horses had 3 down and Tim Price, who came so close in Kentucky, had 3 down, all the while raising Nicola Wilson and Michael Ryan’s positions on the leaderboard.
Ireland’s Aoife Clark was next in the ring and it was interesting to watch her show Vaguely North the first fence, which was quite spookily positioned in front of the crowd and had caused quite a few problems. Aoife, who came 8th here in 2013 completed inside the time with a super round with only four penalties to add finishing on 51.7 and her smile said it all. Asked afterwards about Ireland’s great position in eventing at the moment, Aoife said, ” to get top 10 here is a real honour. He was here in 2011 and inside the time and did a 57 dressage, he’s come back much better and with a 42 dressage. This is really important to me – it ranks alongside the Europeans but one step at a time.”
Sir Mark Todd had a text book round on Leonidas II which demonstrated all his incredible experience going clear but with time penalties to add, followed by Bettina Hoy with one down, Paul Tapner and Indian Mill knocking 4 rails down and Jock Paget on his youngster Clifton Lush having only 1 down was guaranteed a definite 5th but ended higher.
And then it got interesting…and tense!
Ingrid Klimke and Horseware Hale Bob, who was quite excited with the atmosphere, produced a beautiful round and we were left wondering if Ingrid would become the first German rider to ever win Badminton. Speaking about the event afterwards, Ingrid said, “I never ever in the world have had such atmosphere as here. Coming from Germany, this is the top of the sport.”
Oliver Townend, who finished 2nd in 2014, dropped out of the top 10 having 16 jumping faults on Armada who with his big rangey stride, finds it hard to adapt to the neatness the showjumping requires. William Fox-Pitt, having won here once before in 2004 on Tamarillo, showed no sign of the pressure and Chilli Morning was as cool as a cucumber and left everything where it should be and within the time. Nobody drop a pin!
Having been so close so many times before and shared his incredible focus and determination to right the wrongs of 2014 with us all week, it was bitterly disappointing for Andrew Nicholson who not only took out Fence 2 but went on to have 2 more rails down with Nereo who struggled to settle after the first one went and finished 6th. The pressure of waiting to go last, the inner pressure that Andrew ramped up on himself, whilst the ultimate pro, had to have played their part.
There were tears all round as Team FP took in what the arena gasps foretold: their ecstatic high was Andrew’s terrible low and William had won. When Spencer Sturmey managed to stop Alice from screaming, and get a microphone positioned in time with her jumping up and down, she said, “We come here every year, and it is such a privilege, we really believed in Chilli and it is so nice to not have a ‘What If’ as there have been a few that got away.”
History has been made with Christopher Stone’s incredible horse, Chilli Morning, becoming the first stallion to ever win the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials and when the Union Jack was raised, it was a sight not seen since Oliver Townend’s victory in 2009.
Speaking at the press conference afterwards, William said, “It’s been a wonderful day for me. There are so many factors that have to come together but it was my lucky day today.”
Sadly Chilli’s owners couldn’t be there to join in the celebrations but tweeted later praising Nick Gauntlett for finding Chilli, Yogi Breisner for helping them to get him to William and Jackie for looking after him, and went on to tweet:
“The only bad thing about this is that, to avoid jinxes, we now have to miss every last day of a big show! #adminfail ”
Many congratulations to all the riders and horses for a wonderful 4 days of sport. We are so pleased everyone came home safe, sometimes a little soggy, but with no unfortunate dramas.
Final Top 10 Scores:
1. Chilli Morning & William Fox-Pitt (GBR) 39
2. Horseware Hale Bob & Ingrid Klimke (GER) 40.2
3. Clifton Lush & Jonathan Paget (NZL) 44.8
4. Leonidas II & Sir Mark Todd (NZL) 48
5. Designer 10 & Bettina Hoy (GER) 48.4
6. Nereo & Andrew Nicholson (NZL) 49.8
7. One Too Many & Nicola Wilson (GBR) 51
8. Vaguely North & Aoife Clark (IRL) 51.7
9. Ballylynch Adventure & Michael Ryan (IRL) 53.3
10. Paulank Brockagh & Sam Griffiths (AUS) 53.8
We have enjoyed every second and been wonderfully looked after in the Media tent. Huge thanks to Julian Seaman, Lucy Hall, Samantha Clark, Nico Morgan and Eleanor Kelly for their help and support.
Full results: www.badminton-horse.co.uk
© Lucy Hall Photography