The Clash Of The Titans Comes To Badminton
They’re calling it the clash of the titans. William Fox-Pitt and Andrew Nicholson, two of the most successful event riders of all time, are both going for the $350,000 Rolex Grand Slam at this weekend’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials. This bonus prize goes to any rider who can win the world’s top three-day events in succession, namely Badminton, Burghley and Kentucky.
Normally only one rider would be eligible, but following the cancellation of Badminton in 2012, William’s chance was put on hold until this year’s event. Then, in the 12 months since, New Zealander Andrew Nicholson has sauntered into contention with wins at Burghley 2012 and Kentucky last weekend, and a thrilling grudge match was on.
Both riders are hugely successful, often battling it out for top spot in the world rankings, and as long-term rivals you can guarantee they’ll both be doing their utmost to win. William Fox-Pitt can choose to declare any two out of his four entered horses, with the likely contenders being Parklane Hawk (the horse who gave him his Rolex Grand Slam wins with wins at Burghley 2011 and Kentucky 2012), or Oslo, winner of the Pau four-star in 2011. Andrew Nicholson will ride Avebury (Burghley 2012 winner) and Nereo, who hasn’t finished out of the top five in his last 11 runs including his fourth place at the London 2012 Olympics, with Mr Cruise Control in reserve.
The man set to throw the proverbial spanner in the works is Michael Jung, the reigning World, Olympic and European champion. The German rider is making his debut at this year’s Badminton Horse Trials, but he’s certainly not one to overlook and poses the biggest threat to Fox-Pitt and Nicholson’s Grand Slam plans.
All three come to Badminton double-handed – the event is always hugely oversubscribed and the horses are accepted on the basis of ranking points, so some riders with several high-ranking horses are able to compete twice (effectively giving them double the chance of winning, especially considering they’ll get to ride the cross-country course and showjumping course twice, allowing them to spot any potentially tricky fences before their second ride). Other riders to have two horses entered are Caroline Powell, Jonathan Paget, Mark Todd and Lucy Jackson (all New Zealanders), as well as Brits Mary King, Francis Whittington and Kristina Cook, and Australia’s Sam Griffiths.
All are worth looking out for, while others worthy of consideration are Italy’s Vittoria Pannizon and the cross-country machine Borough Pennyz, eventing royalty Zara Phillips and her London 2012 ride High Kingdom, plus Pippa Funnell, the only rider in history to win the Rolex Grand Slam, who has made a return to top level eventing with the talented Redesigned.
By Victoria Spicer, editor of Horseandcountry.tv (Sky 280)