At a damp and muddy Badminton Horse Trials presented by Mars Equestrian, it was third time lucky for Britain’s Ros Canter who bettered her 2022 runner up spot with Lordships Graffalo to take home the coveted trophy along with a hefty £105,000 first prize.
The 2023 Badminton win sees Ros and her ride solidify their place in the history books as only the third combination since 2008 to lead from start to finish. Another moment to savour is the pair now become one of only five riders in history to win both Badminton Horse Trials and the World Championship title – the last to do so was Germany’s Michael Jung back in 2016 with his double Olympic Gold medal winning partner, La Biosthetique Sam-FBW. Not content with taking that title from Michael, Ros also sets the record for the biggest winning margin at Badminton in modern history of the sport (since the new rules were introduced in 2005), a record previously held by Michael with his win that same year.
Today’s testing jumping phase designed by Kelvin Bywater caused its fair share of complications for the thirty combinations that came forward to the show jumping phase. Spectators had to wait until Tom Jackson and Capels Hollow Drift, 10th placed after cross country, to see the first clear show jumping round inside the time of the day. Their steady clear across the country yesterday and the text book jumping round from the British rider and his neat jumping 12-year-old Irish Sports Horse rocketed them from 14th placed after dressage up the rankings to eventual fifth place. “What a horse he is, to give as much as he did yesterday and then to come out here today and give even more, he just goes above and beyond and it’s just a privilege to ride him,” Tom said of his ride.
Improving on their overnight fifth place with their customary clear show jumping round was Britain’s Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser, “he was unreal, I wouldn’t have changed anything” Tom said of the the 16-year-old Selle Français gelding who didn’t put a foot wrong all week. “It’s so lovely that he’s had a great time and given me a nice ride, and hopefully onto better things later on in the year”. The pair achieved Tom’s best ever badminton result, finishing in eventual fourth place.
Unfortunately three fences down for 12 faults saw New Zealand’s Tim Price drop down from overnight fourth to 7th place overall, but he was delighted with the horse’s performance, “We had a 12 fault round at Burghley last year too, but this felt like a better round than then, so I’m pleased with his improvement and we’ll keep working on him so that hopefully everything will come together and we get all three phases right at the same event as he’s a really class horse and I think the world of him.”
Cantering into the arena on his seasoned 5* campaigner, Ballaghmor Class, GBR team stalwart Oliver Townend had a 5 penalty point buffer maintain his third placed ranking. After a shaky start, with the 16-year-old gelding knocking one fence down early on in the course, the combination completed with just one time penalty to add 4.4 to their score for a finishing total of 50.3. “he’s unreal, I don’t know how many [five star events] he’s done, but he’s still not out of the top five” Oliver praised the horse, “I cant tell you how proud I am of him and the team behind him.” The result was enough to secure them third place at the very least, but giving Ireland’s Austin O’Connor some breathing space who was now sitting just 7 penalty points ahead of Oliver.
With the potential to make history as the first Irish rider to finish on the podium at Badminton Horse Trials for 40 years, Austin entered the arena with Colorado Blue with one clear mission. The pair were jumping a faultless round until both elements of fence 12 – a tricky combination along the edge of the arena and pointing towards the collecting ring – fell, dropping Austin out of second spot and into third, pushing Oliver one place above him and giving Ros a four pole lead to take the title. “Naturally I’m disappointed,” Austin said of his round, “I don’t think he jumps as well out of this ground as he normally jumps and it caught up with us. But I’m on the podium with two of the best riders in the world beside me, so I couldn’t be happier.”
Finishing their round without touching a pole, Ros and the 11 year old British bred gelding cruised around the arena for a steady clear, incurring 1.6 time penalties to finish on a score of 35.3. Elated to have scooped the top prize, after finishing as runners up here last year and coming third in 2019 with her world championship mount Allstar B, Ros said, “He’s amazing he really is. He hasn’t got a classic technique, he jumps a bit with his head in the air but my god does he want to clear those fences when he gets in there” Ros spoke of her round. “He really is the out and out event horse, he loves every phase, he loves himself and he loves the attention from everybody else, so his day couldn’t have gone any better!” she beamed. As if that wasn’t enough. Ros also finished in 9th with her other mount, Pencos Crown Jewel, a mare that is half sister to her winning mount.
After an action packed Badminton providing some vintage riding and a proper 5* result, Ros finally gets the title she deserves after knocking on the door of a five star win for a number of years, and further strengthening the depth of British talent available to team GBR selectors ahead of the European Championships later this year. And we can’t wait to see the action!