Friday, 11 March 2011

2011: The Year To Be At Badminton

Team Selection | All To Play For
I love this time of year! Anticipation is a huge part of the overall euphoria, and as the season gets underway, the first tingle up the spine comes courtesy of Badminton Horse Trials and publication of the list of entries.  Thankfully they gave the world at large some warning of the list's publication, so journos, hacks, and bloggers around the globe could sharpen their pencil and get t'd up!  I thought Pippa Roome from the Horse & Hound did a good angle on the whole thing with her, how does the new qualification requirement affect things.

Over all it has had a slight impact, with accepted entry numbers down on last year, and what this does do is limited the number of first timers and amateurs that can compete. This also takes Badminton very much back to its roots (set up to assist with Olympic preparation).  Whilst it is a real shame not to see what you'd call the muck and bullets amateurs, you can understand why they have done this, particularly if you analyse the cross country mistakes and near misses from recent years, like Dee Kennedy launching herself into the bottom of the quarry.

Pippa | Will Be Hard To Dislodge From Team
I've been saying this for some time (since before WEG 2010), and I'll say it again! This year really is a great year to be at Badminton. The Olympics being in London in 2012 means that more and more riders will use this as justification for basing themselves in Europe and particularly the UK, for at least part of the next 12 months. Badminton's position in the calendar, and overall set up makes it the perfect showcase for riders to prove their worth (do well here, and the rest of the season should go well, or cock-up here, and at least there are still one or two opportunities to correct). Blyth Tait has really set himself a stiff task trying to get selected off of a first 4 star at Burghley in the Autumn.

The big question for me is what on earth can the "wannabe at London" riders do to impress the selectors? Take the Brits for example, I asked one of the UK selectors this in an interview, but even someone like Emily Llewellyn, who is a class act, is going to be hard pushed to nudge any of the established team out of the door.

The British rider at greatest risk of being dropped from the team in my view is Tina Cook, she had a fall at Badminton last year, which I'd put down to rider error, a school boy error at WEG, and only really has the one championship horse, whereas William or Mary have a quartet or two each. Ruth Edge I think could easily turn a corner this year if she gets the right help, but otherwise I can't see much change in the GBR Team line up. The young pretenders will just have to wait their turn, and I'm certainly looking forward to going to Rio 2016 (I already have a place to stay and a party planned, I just need to buy into one or two horses!).

Andrew Nicholson | 30th Attempt To Win This Year
Badminton is sometimes referred to as being a little softer than Burghley, and to some extent this might be the case, but I've noticed it always walks a lot easier than it rides, and it's position in the calendar makes it a slightly more difficult event to win. If you look at who has won each event you'll notice that fewer people win Badminton multiple times and the best riders win many more Burghley's than Badminton's. Andrew Nicholson will be having his 30th attempt at winning this year, and it took Andrew Hoy 25 years to achieve it. So if the two best cross country riders can't crack it quickly it can't be that easily.

Just check out the list of entries and count the number of riders who haven't been on a senior team over the last few years, there aren't many. The top nations are coming en mass, all of them with something to prove. I love all the 4 stars but Badminton just has a special buzz, whether it's the history or because it's the first big one of the season, it really is special, and more than any other year it's the place to be.

I'll be there, what's your excuse.......?

 Badminton 2011 Entries

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