Badminton 2018 Entries: Everything You Need to Know (and Some Things You Probably Don’t)

2017 winners Andrew Nicholson and Nereo will return to defend their title — but two other former winners will aim to do the same. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

IT’S HERE. The 2018 Badminton entry list is out and honestly, it’s a doozy. Four North American combinations feature, alongside three former winning combinations, some fan favourites, seriously exciting move-ups, and the return of former stars.

When CCI4* entry lists come out, Chinch is like a rodent possessed. He gets out a pile of scrap paper, a well-chewed biro, and his trusty calculator (seriously, Chinch, who even owns a calculator anymore) and holes himself up in his nest with the list, the FEI database, and a one-sided WhatsApp conversation with Diarm Byrne of EquiRatings. I glanced at the conversation once; it was just a string of messages in all caps, saying things like ‘I FOUND A NUMBER AND IT IS A GOOD NUMBER. REALLY INTERESTING. STATS STATS STATS PLEASE LET ME BE THE EQUIRATINGS MASCOT.’

Anyway, I think Diarm has changed his number and we at Team EN are considering disciplinary strategies for mathematically overstimulated rodents who try to offer their mascot services elsewhere. Any reasonably humane ideas would be welcomed; we’re really struggling to get the chinchilla labour thing past PETA as it is.

In the meantime, hole up in your own nest and get to know your Badminton 2018 entrants. Who’s your pick to lift the trophy this year? Are you tuning in for the Sam v Nereo match race, or do you think someone else will pip them at the post? Let us know in the comments!

THE COMPETITORS (IN DRAWN ORDER)

1. Caroline Powell and Up Up And Away – NEW ZEALAND

First out of the start box, Up Up And Away went to Pau last year for his first four-star: he finished in 17th place, adding 26.4 time penalties and one rail to his dressage score of 44.3. In his first two internationals of 2017, Belton and Burnham Market, he picked up the only cross country jumping penalties of his international career. These came off the back of a year out of action and were promptly followed by five consecutive international clears. He’s yet to make the time at an international, but if he can produce a mid-to-low-40s score (28-30 revised) and jump clear over the weekend, he’ll be in the top half of the class.

His spring season has been a stop-and-go affair, with a good run in the OI at Oasby at the beginning of March for 6th place. Since then, he’s only managed one of his planned outings, in the CIC3* at Belton. His luck here wasn’t quite so fortuitous – he posted a 32.6 dressage and showjumped clear, but was eliminated across the country. This is unlike the horse, and likely due to lack of match practice, but with his relative inexperience, it’s not an ideal prep run. Fortunately, a clear round in Kelsall Hill’s OI will give them a bit of confidence to play with.

2. Georgie Spence and Halltown Harley – GREAT BRITAIN

Georgie took the ride on Halltown Harley over from Kiwi Caroline Powell at the end of 2016, and they’ve quietly gotten to know one another through the last season. They won the Nations Cup — Georgie’s first — at Wiener Neustadt and came in 14th in the Nations Cup at Waregem, as well as finishing 12th at Bramham’s CCI3*. A low-to-mid 50s (33-37) score is about right for these two, and while they don’t usually add much time, this is likely to be a different story in the horse’s first four-star. With the powers-that-be of the British team watching, Georgie will want to prove that he’s a real horse for the future.

The duo posted a win in their first run of the season – an OI section at Tweseldown – and did a 34.6 dressage at Burnham Market CIC3* before the event was ultimately abandoned. They made up for it with a quick double clear for 17th place at Belton CIC3*, adding just 8 time penalties on a course on which nobody made the time, but their 36.2 dressage stopped them from challenging the top of the leaderboard. Still, it proved that they’re consistent, despite little prep, and with Belton’s tricky course mirroring some of the questions on Badminton’s, they should be feeling full of confidence going into the final countdown.

Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser at Badminton 2017. Photo courtesy of Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

3. Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser – GREAT BRITAIN

Toledo is a seriously special horse, and Tom certainly knows it — he pulled off two clear rounds for a 22nd place finish at his first four-star at Pau in 2016, went on holiday for the winter, had a jolly good think about the whole thing, and then duly smashed out 11th at Badminton, 9th in the CIC3* at Gatcombe, and 4th at Burghley. Their dressage PB at four-star is 44.6 (29.7 now), posted here last year, but it’s by no means their lower limit — they finished on their dressage score of 40.4 when they won the U25 CCI3* at Bramham in 2016, and they managed an impressive 36.6 in the 8/9yo CIC3* at Blenheim later that season. A slow – but clear – run at Great Witchingham in the OI got their 2018 season started, and they scooped 5th place in the Advanced at Belton on a 29.8, adding 18.8 time penalties.

Tom is cool, calm, and calculated under pressure, and he, too, will have taken the winter to learn from last season. Depending on team instructions, we may well see him better his Burghley performance — or he may try to save the horse for a certain big party later in the year.

Andrew Nicholson and Nereo. Photo by Jenni Autry.

4. Andrew Nicholson and Nereo – NEW ZEALAND

Andrew’s win here last year aboard the stalwart Nereo was one of the most poignant victories in recent memory. It was his 37th attempt, and, two years on from a catastrophic neck injury that came so close to ending his career, he was hungrier than ever to finally lift the trophy that had so long eluded him. His week was a masterclass in tactics, and Nicholson was at his calculating best on Saturday, when he intentionally added the smallest margin of time penalties so as to go into the final phase just out of the lead, and just out of the highest pressure zone. It paid off, and riders, coaches, connections, and the media swarmed into the collecting ring en masse to congratulate the man of the hour. We’ve spoken about the Bannister effect before — will we see its eventing equivalent this year? Now that Nicholson knows he can win Badminton, it may be a challenge to get him to stop. Second place in the AI at Tweseldown and fourth in the Advanced at Belton will be all the preparation that this powerhouse combination needs.

Alex Bragg and Zagreb jump the last at Pau. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

5. Alex Bragg and Zagreb – GREAT BRITAIN

If romance novels are your cup of tea, then look no further than Zagreb for the ultimate stamp of a tall, dark, and handsome man. Zagreb put in a stunning performance at his first trip to Badminton last year, posting a 44.6 in the first phase and adding just 14.4 in the second to become one of the real crowd favourites going into the final day. It wasn’t to be, however, and Zagreb was held for re-inspection at the final trot-up. Alex made the tough, but absolutely correct, call to withdraw the horse and save him for another day.

The decision paid dividends, and Zagreb’s final five international runs of the season each earned him top ten placings, including 8th place at Aachen’s Nations Cup, third place in the Gatcombe leg of the ERM, 8th place at the Blenheim leg, and 5th place at Pau. They’ve proven they can handle Eric Winter at his most inventive, and they’ve shown time and time again that they have a competitive dressage test in them — if they can get themselves to the final phase, odds are they’ll go clear — and they’re likely to be sparring with the leaders at that point.

Zagreb has notched up a top ten finish in his early-season prep run in the OI at Gatcombe, but was withdrawn before the cross country at Belton CIC3*, where he posted a 32.2 dressage and added two rails to his score. If this is Team Bragg tactics – saving the horse for the big party – we could see it come good, as Alex has proven that he’s a horseman who knows how to preserve and prepare his horses.

Mark Todd and Leonidas II. Photo by Jenni Autry.

6. Mark Todd and Leonidas II – NEW ZEALAND

Oh, Leonidas, we really did think you were going to win Burghley with that cracking score of 36.7, but a late wobble put paid to that plan, and our fragile little hearts did break a bit. Badminton could be his redemption song — he finished sixth last year, despite giving us all palpitations (and his rider a bit of a bloody face) with his creative interpretation of the question at the Lake. Still, the pair gathered themselves and managed to jump out without faulting, when many who made a good jump in didn’t.

Avoiding wobbles will shave their time down, too, and make them even more competitive. Badminton suits this game, clever horse — he’s completed four times, and come fourth twice, sixth once, and fourteenth once. Leo’s got a four-star win in him, and a decade after his return to the sport, Toddy will be riding for it. Keep an eye on these two – they come into the big day off the back of a sixth-place finish in the Advanced at Belton, where their dressage score of 24 bettered their Burghley test.

“Pretty much perfect”: Pamero 4 and Gemma Tattersall hit their stride for third place at Belton. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

7. Gemma Tattersall and Pamero 4 – GREAT BRITAIN

This will be Gemma’s first four-star with Pamero 4, who was produced up the grades by her good friend Laura Collett, and whom Gemma started riding last season. Pamero went to Pau in 2016 but fell, and Gemma wasted no time in getting to know the ins and outs of this talented horse when she took over. They clocked up four international starts last year and finished in the top ten in all of them, culminating in 4th place in the CCI3* at Blenheim with an FOD of 43.7. They’ll be aiming for a 30 or thereabouts (formerly mid-40s) and a clear on Saturday — Pamero is a naturally reasonably quick horse, and Gemma is fast and competitive and may push him to learn on the job and cut a few seconds out. They could be very competitive, but it’s still a big step up for a horse, no matter how talented he is.

Despite their exciting results last year, Gemma admits she felt that she and the horse were ‘bodging it together’ – but after their third-place finish in the CIC3* at Belton last week, where they added just 4.4 time penalties to their dressage score of 29.6, it’s clear that they’ve figured one another out. First-timers at Badminton are, perhaps, overlooked by punters – but it would be amiss to discount this one.

Harry Dzenis and Xam. Photo by Samantha Clark.

8. Harry Dzenis and Xam – GREAT BRITAIN

This will be Xam’s eighth four-star start — he’s been to Badminton three times, Burghley three times, and Luhmühlen once. His best result was 11th at Burghley last year, where he was quick and clean, but plagued by two rails in the final phase. He went inside the time at Luhmühlen – admittedly an easier course, but it did prove that he’s capable of doing so. He won’t be in contention after the first phase, but if he can manage a fault-free cross country — which he doesn’t always, despite being an old campaigner for Harry — we’ll see him climb to the top 15. The final phase can be problematic for these two — at Burghley in 2016, they pulled nine rails. A 20 in the cross-country phase in Belton’s Advanced isn’t the ideal final run, but Harry and Xam have plenty of experience together at the top level and will work to adapt and overcome.

10. Oliver Townend and Cooley SRS – GREAT BRITAIN

Of the four horses he’d originally entered here, Oliver will bring forward two – four-star first-timer Cooley SRS and Burghley winner Ballaghmor Class. The other two – Cooley Master Class and MHS King Joules – will make their way to Kentucky. Because all four were included in the drawn order, Oliver has some decisions to make about which way around he’ll run the horses – they currently sit at 10 and 11, and 91 and 92.

Don’t let green mistakes at the Europeans put you off the idea of this classy horse — remember that despite clocking up 40 penalties, the pair still made the time on a course in which doing so was an impressive feat. Oliver was then able to use the horse’s pathfinder round as a way to unravel the questions asked on course, bringing the information back to his teammates, whose efforts then netted Team GB the gold. Aero won his first CCI3* at Ballindenisk in 2015 and came second in the CIC3* at the same event the following year. Two forgettable internationals followed, with eliminations across the country, but then, in his next six internationals, he never left the top ten. Only one of those was a CCI — Boekelo in 2016, where he came third — but it’s an interesting insight into how consistent he can be. A low-40s scorer, who’ll go clear if he’s had the right prep runs this spring and who nearly always makes the time at 3*, but if the pair can make it through the cross country without bottling, it’ll be the final phase that presents the real challenge. Aero has a recurrent case of four-faultitis.

Aero has had one-and-a-half runs in preparation for his first four-star: an 11th place finish at Burnham Market OI, and a 29.2 dressage and five penalties added in the showjumping in Belton’s advanced before Oliver withdrew all of his four-star entries.

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Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class. Photo by Jenni Autry.

11. Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class – GREAT BRITAIN

A seriously tactful rider, Oliver has made a career out of being able to nurse horses around four-stars where other riders wouldn’t — but now, his hard work has paid off and he’s getting some out-and-out top-level contenders in his ranks. In Thomas, he has a young horse who has proven he can do it, with a 100% cross country clear rate in 2017, and one who meshes incredibly well with his way of riding. You’d be unwise to bet against Oliver, who is always out to get the job done and won’t be happy with anything but the win.

Burghley-winner Ballaghmor Class made his four-star debut look like a Pony Club rally, easily eating up the variable terrain and tricky questions at the Lincolnshire venue. With two horses at Kentucky, Oliver looks to be chasing the Grand Slam dream, to which he came so close in 2009, but Thomas is the only one of his entrants who wasn’t cross-entered. It’s a safe bet that Oliver considers the scopey grey his best hope of a win here, and the order he decides upon will depend on two things: the state of the ground and its likelihood of sloppiness at the end of the day on Saturday, and whether he’d like to have a shufty at the questions on course on another horse first.

Thomas, like Aero, has only had one and a half runs this spring – he finished 9th at Oasby OI, managed a dressage test at Burnham Market’s CIC3*, and then put up an uncharacteristically unremarkable 33.9 in Belton’s CIC3* before being withdrawn. He sprung back into action with third place in the AI at Kelsall Hill, adding just 1.2 time to his 29.4 dressage for third place.

A fun fact for you: Thomas’ sire is Courage II, who also sired entrants Ringwood Sky Boy, the Duke of Cavan and Cooley Rorkes Drift.

Tina Cook and Star Witness. Photo by Samantha Clark.

12. Tina Cook and Star Witness – GREAT BRITAIN

Burghley was Star Witness’ only international appearance last year, but he made it a good one, finishing in 7th place on his dressage score of 53.2. The year prior, he did the double — 7th at Badminton, with an FOD of 49.7, and 10th at Burghley, with a handful of time faults and a pole. Burghley 2015 was his four-star debut, and he was 8th there. Tina thinks of a lot of the 13-year-old gelding, and it’s easy to see why: he’s absolutely in his element over a big, bold course and is an out-and-out four star horse. On his day, he should make the top ten.

An unfortunately timed injury at Burnham Market will be the major hurdle in the duo’s bid for a top placing [see below]. Only a rider with Tina’s experience and tenacity, and a horse with Star Witness’ reliability across the country, would still go into a four-star with good odds.

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Tina Cook and Billy the Red at Badminton in 2017. Photo courtesy of Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

13. Tina Cook and Billy the Red – GREAT BRITAIN

Tina has three horses entered here, but will only be able to run two — it was rumoured, and then debunked, that the third would reroute to Kentucky. Billy the Red was Tina’s mount for the European Championships, where he pulled off a brilliant FOD to finish just outside the individual medals in fourth. But the duo didn’t go home empty-handed — their success contributed to team gold for GB. This was only the second time Tina has ridden him for time at three-star, but it proved that he can do it. He was 10th here last year and 9th at Pau the year prior. He’ll likely score in the high 40s (now the low to mid-30s) but his consistency will allow him to stay the course.

Tina ran Billy the Red in an Advanced section at Burnham Market, where he put up a 33.9 in the first phase and showjumped clear, but a fall on cross country saw the pair eliminated and Tina sidelined with a dislocated shoulder. She’ll be working hard behind the scenes to get back to match fitness while her team keep the horses in shape, but it’s a less-than-ideal set of circumstances.

14. Ciaran Glynn and Killossery Jupiter Rising – IRELAND

The first accepted entry from the waitlist, Killossery Jupiter Rising has been lightly campaigned since his international debut in 2011, with only 15 starts. After finishing fourth in his first CCI3* at Tattersalls in early 2014, he took a long hiatus from the international scene and didn’t reappear until Ballindenisk CIC1* at the beginning of 2017.

But naysayers be damned: he proved that he was as good as ever, and plenty tough enough to weather a full season, with five international run last season. These culminated in 7th place at Millstreet CIC3* and 32nd at Blenheim CCI3*, where he picked up an unfortunate 20 penalties. As Ciaran’s second string here, and a relatively inexperienced mount, we’re not likely to see a blazing fast run — a conservative clear with a view towards a competitive latter half of the season will be a good aim for these two. They ran well – but slowly – at Belton’s CIC3* in preparation, finishing 59th after adding two rails and 32 time penalties to their 34.5 dressage.

15. Richard Jones and Alfies Clover – GREAT BRITAIN

Everyone loves a comeback kid, and good-humoured Richard has, perhaps, one of the more unusual comeback stories in this year’s field. Last year, he and Alfies Clover were on track to achieve the best result of Richard’s career in the CCI3* at Bramham, where they posted a 52.5 (35 in new scoring) and one of the top cross-country rounds of the weekend to sit in 11th place going into the final phase. After their round, however, disaster struck – Richard slipped while stepping out of the living area of his lorry and caught his wedding ring on the way down. He ended up losing his finger.

But he’s not stopped easily – this is a man who, the year prior, had to have a foot completely rebuilt – and we saw the pair at Burghley a mere three months later. They finished in 22nd place, despite the constant pain and lack of grip in Richard’s left hand. That was the 11-year-old gelding’s first four-star, and Richard’s first since 2014. They’ve begun their 2018 season with two clean OI runs, at Oasby and Burnham Market, and will likely post a first-phase score of 33-34 (51-52 in old money). They haven’t picked up a 20 in the second phase since 2014, but they did suffer a horse fall at Burgham last year – their first international after Richard’s accident. They’re also very capable of going fast, as their Bramham run with just 1.6 time penalties shows, but much will depend on whether Richard has found a way to accommodate his lessened grip. A top 20 here may not seem like much consolation for what would have likely been a top 10 finish at Bramham, but it could set them up well for another crack at a top placing later on in the season.

They’ve been quietly posting some very promising results this spring in preparation: an 8th place in the OI at Burnham Market and 10th place in the CIC3* at Belton will set them up well.

16. Alicia Hawker and Charles RR – GREAT BRITAIN

Lici and Charles RR made their four-star debut at Pau last year, and although the pair clocked up a stop, they went on to complete the tough course and finished in 37th place. Their best result was in the U25 CCI3* at Bramham in 2017, where they finished in 3rd place. They’ve proven to themselves that they’ve got the goods at three-star — now they’ll be looking to do the same at four-star by notching up a slow clear. They’ve got a good result under the belts already this spring, with 11th place in the competitive Advanced at Belton, with a final run planned next weekend at Withington.

Dan Jocelyn and Dassett Cool Touch. Photo courtesy of Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

17. Dan Jocelyn and Dassett Cool Touch – NEW ZEALAND

Dassett Cool Touch quietly popped to Tweseldown a few weeks ago and jumped around the OI for ninth place — the first time he’s been seen since Badminton last year. Then, he jumped a super clear round, but time penalties and three poles stopped him from cracking the top 20. The year prior, he jumped around Burghley with 13 fewer time penalties, the same number of rails, and a three-point higher dressage score, to finish 13th. If the pair can improve upon their dressage score once again and hit the low 50s — or roughly 35 in revised scores — and pick up the pace a bit, they could post a good score for the Kiwi contingent. If they do so and jump clear, they’ll pick up a WEG qualification, too — although their best shot at a trip to Tryon is likely as individual competitors.

The pair have had a busier spring than most – they’ve managed four runs, including two top-ten finishes at OI. They competed in the CIC3* at Belton, too, finishing in 49th place after a slow, clear run.

Alex Whewall and Chakiris Star at Pau. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

18. Alex Whewall and Chakiris Star – GREAT BRITAIN

Alex and Chakiris Star have been quietly but impressively moving up the ranks over the last few years — they haven’t been out of the top 20 in an international since Osberton in 2015, which, incidentally, is the only 20 on their FEI record. In sixteen total career internationals, they’ve finished in the top 20 fourteen times, including picking up 19th place at Pau last year on their four-star debut. Their chance at a better placing there was marred by a muddle of showjumping penalties — they knocked two rails and clocked up 10 time penalties on the final day. But their dressage score of 46.6 is nothing to sniff at, and if they can post a similar number (or its revised scoring equivalent of 31) here, they’ll be away laughing. They finished 9th and 4th, respectively, in the Advanced sections at Burnham Market and Belton, managed a good dressage of 28.8 at the former. An unfortunate elimination in Bicton’s OI the week after Belton presents a slight hitch in the plan.

Will likely add time penalties on Saturday and a dropped rail is probable on Sunday, so they won’t trouble the likes of Michi and Nicholson, but a top-20 finish here is well within their abilities.

Ben Hobday (GBR) and Mulrys Error. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

19. Ben Hobday and Mulrys Error – GREAT BRITAIN

What Mulry – the V8 Supercob – lacks in speed, he makes up for in charisma and fan adoration. He and Ben were responsible for the most poignant moment of the 2016 season, as they jumped clear around Badminton following Ben’s battle with Burkitts Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Ben chronicled his fight for his life – the good, the bad, and the bald – and along the way, became great friends with the late Hannah Francis, whose incredible courage, eternal optimism, and selflessness, even in the face of terminal bone cancer, created an unprecedented wave of philanthropy within the community that has continued under the auspices of the Wilberry Wonder Pony charity ever since. On Ben’s return to Badminton, he brought Wilberry along for the ride, and now, it’s a common sight to see eventers at all levels bringing their own Berry Ponies through the finish line.

Ben and Mulry’s cross-country clear rate is remarkable – they’ve gone clear in 89.8% of their 49 national and international runs – and Mulry is well-hunted and sure-footed. They’ll likely add 20+ time penalties onto their dressage score, which averages a 39.9 (59.9 in old scoring) but has been steadily improving, and their final phase performance can be hit-or-miss, but they’ll almost certainly enjoy each phase more than anyone else in the field. And what’s that worth? Everything, really.

Come for the Insta-stories, stay for the refreshing lesson in perspective (and seriously snuggly-looking horse). #yehboi.

Clare Abbott and Euro Prince at the 2014 World Equestrian Games. Photo by Jenni Autry.

20. Clare Abbott and Euro Prince – IRELAND

After nearly losing the horse in 2016, when his owners entered him into the Goresbridge Go For Gold auction, Clare has been enjoying every moment with Sparky, with the results to prove it. After finishing 37th at Rio, Sparky’s value shot up and he was entered into the sale, but his reserve price wasn’t met. The pair went into 2017 on flying form, finishing 10th at Belton CIC3*, 14th at Badminton, 8th at Burgham CIC3*, and 13th at Burghley. Their pre-Badminton prep run in the CIC3* at Belton this year mirrored their Burghley performance – they finished in 13th place on the same dressage score, again adding a rail but cutting their time down significantly. They completed Badminton in 2014 and 2015, too, never adding any jumping penalties in the second phase, and their first and final phase performances have been steadily improving. On prior form, they’ll make the top 20, but if they’ve continued to improve over the winter, they could challenge the top 10.

21. Dag Albert and Mitras Eminem – SWEDEN

Dag is a stalwart of the Swedish team, with two Olympic team appearances, two World Championship runs, and five European Championships under his belt. His career best placing at Badminton came in 2007, when he finished in 17th place after an FOD aboard Who’s Blitz, the horse with whom he contested the 2006 WEG.

This year, he rides 17-year-old Mitras Eminem in the horse’s third four-star. His two previous starts at the level have been at Luhmuehlen, in 2011 and 2016 and, curiously, he has finished in 17th place in both of those, too. But Luhmuehlen is a more forgiving four-star, and the duo haven’t gone inside the time at an international event since 2007, so they’ll have to pull out a personal best to make it a hat trick. Their international dressage average is 38.5 (57.8 in old money), but they’ve got an 84% cross-country clear rate, so even with time penalties, they may be able to climb from a middle-of-the-road placing. Showjumping tends to be their downfall – they haven’t had a clear round in an international since mid-2015.

Mitras Eminem is one of many horses who have struggled with the especially wet spring – his only pre-Badminton prep runs were at Belton in the Advanced, where he ran slowly across the country but finished in a respectable 14th place, and an OI at Kelsall Hill. His dressage score of 41.4 at Belton trended lower than average, but we saw early-season tension mar the performances of many experienced combinations.

Padraig McCarthy and Mr Chunky at Belton. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

22. Padraig McCarthy and Mr Chunky – IRELAND

If Padraig hasn’t been on your radar thus far, then he should be. The former showjumper spent a decade working and riding on the US and European circuits, and only took up eventing in 2013 because his wife, Lucy (nee Weigersma), was eventing at the top level. A year later, he made his first two team appearances in Nations Cup legs at Waregem and Boekelo, and in 2016, he competed at the Rio Olympics. Despite his stratospheric climb, he’s not short of experience, and nor is his horse. Produced by Lucy until her pregnancy in 2015, Mr Chunky has three international wins to his name and is a consistent performer at the 3* level, where he reliably scores in the mid-40s, goes clear with a handful of time penalties, and, with Padraig in the irons, almost always leaves all the fences up.

He’s completed a four-star before — Burghley 2015 with Lucy, where he finished 28th — but on recent form, with three top-ten three-star finishes in 2017, Padraig will be looking to better that. A good result here could put the pair well in contention for a place on the Irish WEG team. Oh, and something you totally didn’t need to know, but that’ll make you feel like a total underachiever? Padraig has a PhD in Business and Sociology. If you’re inclined to hate him for being good at everything, let me ease your troubled mind — his dancing is seriously questionable. Also, I’m afraid, he’s far too nice to hate.

Mr Chunky has fit in two pre-Badminton runs, with a second-place finish in Burnham Market’s Advanced on a personal best at the level of 28.2, and 30th in Belton’s CIC3*, where the pair jumped clear in both phases, adding 14.4 time penalties to their 33.9 dressage. This score was rather higher than we usually see them post – their career average together is 31.4.

Louise Harwood & Mr. Potts

23. Louise Harwood and Mr Potts – GREAT BRITAIN

Louise has bred her own string of horses — with brilliant names like Partly Pickled, Bit of a Barney, and Much of a Muddle — and Mr Potts is no exception. His grandmother was Louise’s first eventer, Gerfuffle, who had a career change from racing at the late age of twelve and went on to qualify for the Junior national championships with a teenaged Louise in the irons. This will be Mr Potts’ thirteenth four-star — his best result was 12th at Burghley in 2014. He’s a solid low-to-mid 50s (34-37) scorer and like many big horses, he’s not a speed machine across the country, but another clear round would be a worthy goal for this pair.

Two clear Advanced runs at Burnham Market and Belton and an OI at Bicton have made up their spring season thus far, netting them good placings, but last year’s consistent poles look to continue, with three rails at Burnham and one each at Belton and Bicton.

24. Kate Honey and Fernhill Now Or Never – GREAT BRITAIN

Kate and Fernhill Now Or Never logged plenty of miles on the motorway last year, completing both Pau (32nd place) and Luhmühlen (24th place). They headed to Ireland, too, where they took a crack at the Millstreet CIC3* and finished in 11th place. In their first four-star on UK soil, they’ll hope to emulate their clear round at Luhmühlen, rather than their 20 penalties at Pau (or worse, their fall and elimination at the same event in 2016). Their dressage score of 48.3 at Pau in 2017 was a career PB at an international competition, and they’ve likely spent the winter sourcing more of the fairy dust that led to that score. Three of Kate’s four planned prep runs were cancelled this spring, and so they go into their biggest competition so far with just an OI run at Belton and an AI at Bicton behind them. But what runs they were: they went fast (just 2.8 time at Belton and 3.2 at Bicton) and clear, looking confident and competent throughout.

25. Alan Nolan and Bronze Flight – IRELAND

At 19, Bronze Flight is the oldest horse in this year’s field, but that doesn’t stop him – since his four-star debut at Pau in 2014, Alan has saved him almost exclusively for this level, completing Burghley three times and Luhmuehlen twice. The one international exception was Bramham CCI3* in 2015.

The pair have only had one run since Burghley – an OI at Bicton – but they won’t be coming here to try to win. A high-30s to 40 score, time penalties, and a handful of poles on the final day will preclude that, but the Worcestershire-based Irishman and his longtime partner will be out to have a good time over Winter’s course.

Tom Jackson with Waltham Fiddlers Find. Photo by Alex Colquhoun.

26. Tom Jackson and Waltham Fiddlers Find – GREAT BRITAIN

25-year-old Tom might be young, but horsemanship is in his blood, and he’s built up an impressive record for himself thus far in his career. This will be his second Badminton – at his first, last year, he finished in 46th place aboard this horse. An inauspicious debut, perhaps, but don’t overlook this pair, who know one another perhaps better than they know themselves.

Waltham Fiddlers Find – Wesley at home – was bought for Tom as four-year-old from a local breeder to be the young rider’s move-up mount from ponies. Since then, they’ve grown up together and produced a spate of impressive results, including a win in the U25 CCI3* at Bramham in 2014. They’ve also represented Great Britain on a number of occasions: at the Junior Europeans in 2011, where they were part of the gold medal-winning team, and at the 2013 and 2014 Young Rider Europeans, where they helped to earn team silver and bronze, respectively. They were called up for the European Championships at Blair Castle in 2015, but a minor setback meant that their Senior team debut was shelved.

The duo finished their season with 20th place in the ERM class at Blenheim and 22nd at Pau. Expect around a 46 dressage score (30-31 amended), and, if their ordinary form is anything to go by, a clear round across the country with 20 or so time penalties. Their showjumping record is hit or miss – they go clear as often as they pull rails at the international level – but other than their learning curve at Badminton last year, where they clocked up 60 jumping penalties, they have a spotless international record at CIC3* and above across the country. Their spring season shows an improvement in first phase scores: they posted a 29.2 in the CIC3* at Burnham Market and a 29.6 at Belton, trending a couple of points lower than their international performances last year.

27. Aoife Clark and Master Rory – IRELAND

Aoife picked up the ride on Master Rory last year, and totted up three internationals with him — 15th at Chatsworth CIC3*, 10th at Camphire CCI3* — despite picking up 20 penalties across the country — and 13th at Blenheim CCI3*. She scored 36 (54 in the old scores) in the first phase at Barroca’s CIC3* earlier this month, but withdrew before cross country. This is still a largely as-yet untested pair, but with Fernhill Adventure not yet qualified for WEG, this may be her best shot at a spot on the team. If so, she’s likely to run with that in mind and aim to preserve him, rather than prove a point. An unfortunate elimination in the CIC3* at Belton will likely preclude a competitive run; Aoife will want to educate the talented horse with the future in mind. Their fifth place in Kelsall Hill’s AI the following weekend will provide a welcome boost of confidence.

Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High. Photo by Jenni Autry.

28. Selena O’Hanlon and Foxwood High – CANADA

2017 Eventing Nation Horse of the Year, USEA Advanced Horse of the Year, and EquiRatings HOTY contender Woody finished his 2017 season on a serious high note, as he and Selena became the first Canadian combination to win the Fair Hill CCI3*. They posted a CCI3* PB of 39.4 and added a couple of time penalties across the jumping phases to walk the win, and Selena is confident that Woody is ready to continue on top form this year.

The duo have been to four-star before, claiming 10th place at his debut at Kentucky in 2014, and in 2017 they finished 11th at the same venue — their only foray out of the top 10 at an international all season. They’ve started well this year, too, with 4th place at Red Hills CIC3*. If they can bring their four-star dressage score, which usually hovers around 50, down to something closer to their three-star score, they’ll be well on their way to adding another great result to their record.

Selena and Foxwood High have been using this month as a litmus test, getting used to running on English ground and working with host Mark Todd to formulate a battle plan. An unfortunate 20 penalties in the Advanced section at Belton may well be a symptom of the teething process: Selena knows this horse like the back of her hand and will be training with variable ground conditions in mind.

29. Andy Daines and Spring Panorama – NEW ZEALAND

Apparently the Kiwi governing bodies were concerned that those of us in the Northern Hemisphere would forget how preternaturally talented their riders are, so they’ve sent us a new face in the form of Andy Daines. Haven’t heard of him? You will. He made his four-star debut with ‘perfect Pete’ in 2016, finishing 10th at Adelaide, and occupied the same place last year at the event.

The pair have clocked up a number of good results, including second at Taupo CIC3* twice in 2017, third at Kihikihi CIC3*, 10th at Puhinui CIC3*, and 9th in their prep run in Belton’s OI. With dressage scores ricocheting from the low-40s to the low-60s, and the occasional mishap on course clocking them a 20, they won’t be coming to steal Nicholson’s crown — but a return foray to the ultra-competitive stomping grounds of the rest of the Kiwi team could mark a real turning point in Andy’s career. Is he tough enough to hang with the big boys? Something tells us he won’t be afraid of the challenge.

Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam FBW. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

30. Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam FBW – GERMANY

Former world champion, double Olympic champion, former European champion, winner of Badminton, Burghley, Luhmühlen … the horse is an absolute machine and a testament to the meticulous production values of Michi Jung and his team. Now 18 and in the twilight of his career, you still wouldn’t want to bet against him — in fact, it’s likely that his biggest rival will be fellow 18-year-old, and last year’s winner, Nereo.

Sam had an inauspicious end to his 2017 season, with a very out-of-character mistake and subsequent retirement at Burghley. He was rerouted to Pau but withdrawn before the first phase with a mystery lameness. Now, Michi has said that Sam will continue to compete as an individual, rather than for Germany’s teams, and will retire when he’s ready to. There has been much speculation about his eventual retirement, with many expecting Burghley last year to be his swan song. One last win here could be a poignant end to the most remarkable career in eventing history, or it could be the first chapter in the New Testament of Sam. Either way: don’t miss these two, and enjoy every opportunity to watch the magnum opus of modern eventing in action in his final season. A third place finish at Pratoni’s CIC3* and a training run at Kreuth’s CIC2* – from which he ultimately retired, likely to preserve the horse for Badminton – make up his early-season prep.

31. Patricia Ryan and Dunrath Eclipse – IRELAND

Wife of fellow competitor Michael, Patricia took her Badminton entry to Barroca, where they finished 2nd in the CIC3* and 4th in the CIC2*. Prior to that, they represented Ireland at the European Championships, finishing in 21st place. This will be Dunrath Eclipse’s second four-star; he completed Luhmühlen last year in 25th place. He hasn’t had a jumping penalty on cross country day since mid-2016, and has proven, at Tattersalls and Strzegom, that challenging courses are right in his wheelhouse. He averages a high-40s score (low 30s) and time penalties will stand in his way of a stratospheric climb, but if they can play to their strengths and execute a solid round on Saturday, they could certainly rise.

32. Giovanni Ugolotti and Cult Rewind – ITALY

Kathryn Robinson’s other half brings gorgeous grey Cult Rewind forward for his first crack at four-star. The gelding isn’t particularly competitive in the first phase — his three-star record never dips below the 50s — but he’s reliable and quick across the country, so will likely benefit from the revised scoring. Badminton is never a dressage competition, anyway, and Cult Rewind’s strengths allowed him to finish 16th at Blenheim CCI3* and Millstreet CIC3* in the latter half of last season. Gio hasn’t been to a four-star since Badminton 2016, so he’ll be pleased to be back at the top, and with any luck, this thoughtfully produced horse will give him a great ride.

Michael Ryan and Dunlough Striker at Badminton last year. Photo courtesy of Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

33. Michael Ryan and Dunlough Striker – IRELAND

For four years, Dunlough Striker didn’t lodge a single jumping penalty across the country at international competitions, but his first four-star at Badminton last year, and then the European Championships in Strzegom, broke that lucky streak. Still, he’s not a horse that can be categorised as an unreliable jumper, generally — he’s gone clear in 23 out of his 26 international completions, and he’s a reasonably reliable showjumper, too. His first phase is his weakest — he’d never gone below a 50 at CIC3* and above until Barroca earlier this season, where he scored a 32.6 (48.9 in the old scoring) in the CCI3*. Unfortunately, he withdrew before showjumping.

Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

34. Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy – NEW ZEALAND

We last saw Ringwood Sky Boy at Badminton in 2016, the year that Tim would probably most like to forget — he fell here, and went on to fall at Rio, too, when the horse slipped on the flat. But it wasn’t all heartbreak — they finished fourth at Luhmühlen and Burghley that year, and fifth in the CIC3* at Tattersalls. Their 2017 didn’t start off brilliantly, with very unusual cross country jumping penalties shunting them down the order to finish 36th at Kentucky, but fourth at Barbury and fifth at Burghley redeemed them. Their best result at the level was second at Burghley in 2015, and Tim came within spitting distance of the top here last year, finishing third with Xavier Faer.

They’re capable of going sub-40 (mid-20s in revised scoring) and it’s rare for them to produce anything but a fast clear on Saturday. On the final day, they’ve got around a 50/50 chance of leaving the poles up — but Tim has been hard at work in Spain perfecting his technique. With the best string of horses he’s ever had and an almost guaranteed spot on the WEG team, Tim shouldn’t be feeling too much pressure from the Kiwis — this is a title he’ll want to win for himself, and if luck goes his way, he could just do it. Three national-level prep runs, in which Tim focused on a confident cruise around, rather than going for the time, will have Ringwood Sky Boy feeling fit and confident in his abilities going into his first big competition of the year.

Denis Mesples and Oregon de la Vigne. Photo by Jenni Autry.

35. Denis Mesples and Oregon de la Vigne – FRANCE

30th at Burghley 2016 and Luhmühlen 2017, as well as 16th at Pau 2017, show a slightly redeemed Oregon de la Vigne, who isn’t always the easiest ride and can occasionally have a difference of opinion with his rider in the first phase. He’s experienced, though, and has been to Badminton twice before — once in 2013, when he finished 42nd place, and the following year, when he was eliminated for a rider fall. He’s been to the WEG and the Olympics, too, so he and Denis won’t suffer from inexperience — they just need to agree on their plan of action to pull off a result they’ll be pleased with.

Lydia Hannon and My Royal Touch. Photo courtesy of Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

36. Lydia Hannon and My Royal Touch – GREAT BRITAIN

Lydia was thrilled to sneak into the top 20 in her Badminton debut with My Royal Touch last year. The pair were clear inside the time in Blenheim’s CCI3* at the end of the season, and now that they know they’re capable of tackling a track of this level, we may seem them pick up the pace. Expect to see them back in the top 20, particularly if they perform as well in the first phase as they did last year. Their score of 45.1 translates to a 30 under the new scoring system, and they posted a 31.4 in the dressage at Burnham Market’s CIC3*. Your pub quiz breeding fact: My Royal Touch shares a sire (Touchdown) with competitor and former winner Paulank Brockagh.

37. Imogen Gloag and Brendonhill Doublet – GREAT BRITAIN

Imogen was only 21 when she contested her first four-star in 2016, riding top horse Brendonhill Doublet. That attempt, at Burghley, didn’t go quite to plan, and they withdrew before the final phase, but last year, a slow, clear cross-country round saw them finish in a respectable 26th place. This will be their first attempt at Badminton, and Monster, who has only faulted across the country twice in 18 international runs, is well-equipped to help Imogen notch up another useful educational experience in her fledgling career.

Look for a mid-to-high 30s score (mid-to-high 50s in the old scoring), and both time penalties in the second phase and poles in the third – but, on recent form, hopefully another classy clear round, alluding to what might be to come as Immi grows and expands her string.

Danni Dunn and Zocarla BLH on their Badminton debut. Photo courtesy of Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

38. Danielle Dunn and Zocarla BLH – GREAT BRITAIN

In their debut last year, Danni and Zocarla fell on course and were eliminated. They came back for the Waregem CIC03* and finished in 37th in this very competitive class. They put two big results on the board in 2016 — 11th in the CCI3* at Blenheim and 7th in the U25 CCI3* at Bramham — but while their scores have stayed consistent, their placings have slipped in the last year. If they can lower their dressage score, which usually sits in the mid 50s (mid-to-high 30s) they’ll give themselves a much better chance, but they won’t ride for the time here and they’re almost guaranteed to have a rail on the final day.

Danni and Zocarla have notched up one prep run before Badminton – an OI at Gatcombe, in which they added an uncharacteristic 20, which they’ll aim to rectify in Bicton’s CIC2*. They’re cross-entered for Chatsworth’s CIC3* the week after Badminton, so we may see them reroute and tackle a later-season CCI4* instead.

39. Simon Grieve and Drumbilla Metro – GREAT BRITAIN

Drumbilla Metro contested his first four-star last year at Burghley, but 20 jumping penalties and plenty of time meant that he finished in 36th place. The pair had another 20 penalties early in the season at Burnham Market’s CIC3*, but other than that, they have a clean record, with 16 out of 18 clear international cross country runs. Drumbilla Metro isn’t a first-phase performer — 50 (33) is as low as he’s likely to go, and he’s not particularly quick, either, but a clear round on both days could net the pair a career best. They go into the event off the back of a win in an OI section at Great Witchingham and a reasonably slow clear in the CIC3* at Belton.

Lauren Kieffer and Veronica. Photo by Jenni Autry.

40. Lauren Kieffer and Veronica – UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

The return of the Troll! Lauren and her feisty mare spent the 2017 season based in the UK and managed to pick up top-20 placings here (17th) and at Burghley (12th). They scored a 38 and 37 in the first phase, respectively, and cruised around the cross country. Time faults are the duo’s biggest roadblock in the quest for a top-ten or better — but their FOD and 2nd place at Kentucky in 2014 shows that they’re very capable of picking up the pace.

Now that they’re both familiar with the sort of questions that Eric Winter will ask, we’ll likely see Lauren put her foot down and aim to finish faster than last year. If they do? They could be a real threat to the leaders — they led after the first phase at Burghley and their dressage score at Badminton was the same as winner Nereo’s (and better than a certain German wundernag’s).

We’ve seen Lauren and Veronica hard at work already this season, posting a third place in an Intermediate section at January’s Rocking Horse Winter Horse Trials, 10th in the Carolina CIC3*, and a win in the Fork’s Advanced. Coming into the Big B on great form, they could be a formidable duo.

Pippa Funnell and Billy Beware at Badminton 2014. Photo by Jenni Autry.

41. Pippa Funnell and Billy Beware – GREAT BRITAIN

‘Gorgeous’, as he’s known at home, has been off our radar for quite some time as he battled the niggling lameness that saw him withdrawn from the British WEG squad in 2014. It was that year that he pulled out the best result of his career – sixth place at Badminton, his first and only four-star – but then, he wouldn’t contest another international for nearly two years. In 2016, he finished in the top 20 in early season CIC3* at Burgham and Belton, before disappearing again until the following spring. Then, he posted his only international result in 2017 – a big E at Belton.

But don’t write him off just yet – if Grand Slam winner Pippa has entered him at Badminton, it’s because she has a huge amount of faith that the horse has come through the other side of his problems. He proved he was a force to be reckoned with at ill-fated Burnham Market last month, where he threw down the gauntlet with an incredible 21.7 (32.5 in old scoring – a PB by nearly 3 points) and led comfortably after the first two days of dressage. He then went on to prove that it wasn’t a fluke, leading the CIC3* after dressage at Belton by a comfortable margin. A cheeky runout at the skinny out of the water dropped them out of contention, but this wasn’t a green or gutless mistake – rather, the sort of trainable error that a rider of Pippa’s experience will have a plan in place to fix, as their second-place finish in the AI at Bicton proves.  He won five internationals out of seven runs as a seven and eight-year-old – and if Pippa believes he’s not finished there, then we’re inclined to believe her. Look to see the duo in the upper echelons after the first phase.

42. Virginia Thompson and Star Nouveau – NEW ZEALAND

Ginny is another Kiwi talent who’s been hidden away in the Southern Hemisphere — this will be her first time competing in Europe. She completed her first four-star in November at Adelaide aboard this horse, finishing eighth despite scattering the poles on the final day. The pair clocked up three fourth-places and an eighth-place finish at three-star last season, as well as two good clear rounds at CIC3* this spring, and will be venturing over hungry to learn by pitting themselves against the best in the world. Likely to post a score in the 50s, or high 30s under the new scoring system, they won’t challenge the top but will look to complete and come away from the experience miles more worldly and capable.

Flora Harris and Bayano. Photo by Samantha Clark.

43. Flora Harris and Bayano – GREAT BRITAIN

After winning the 2015 Bramham CCI3* on a seriously impressive 36.8 FOD, Bayano propelled himself into the spotlight. He’s since pulled out some very good performances, including a win at Blair CIC3* in 2016 and 8th at Blenheim CCI3* last year, but none have quite matched the sparkle of that first major win. Nevertheless, the horse is a beautiful, catlike jumper who yanks his knees to his eyeballs and doesn’t want to make any mistakes. This will be his second four-star — he finished in 21st place at Luhmühlen last year — and Flora will be hoping to set an early challenge with a mid-to-low 40s (30 or below) score and a similar second-phase performance to the one he delivered at Blenheim. Then, the last day is a mere formality — Bayano doesn’t often pull rails. He finished 4th in Belton’s incredibly competitive CIC3*, so we could well be about to hit his peak at the perfect time.

Sarah Bullimore and Reve du Rouet at Pau. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

44. Sarah Bullimore and Reve du Rouet – GREAT BRITAIN

Reve du Rouet gave Sarah her best result of a stonking three-way takeover of Pau at the end of last season, but his success hasn’t come easy. She’s wryly referred to herself as a ‘battered wife’ when speaking about the gelding, who has proven tense and reactive to a fault in high-pressure situations, bolting in the dressage arena at Badminton two years ago and demolishing showjumps when he becomes overwrought.

Sarah has been endlessly patient with the talented horse where many other riders may have given up, and her reward was second place in France, missing the win by the narrowest margin of a tenth of a point. He added just 2.4 time penalties on a day when fast rounds were few and far between, and he never once looked taxed. It’s a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde situation here — if Good Reve du Rouet comes out to play, Sarah could slip in the back door and quietly win the whole thing. If Naughty Reve du Rouet rolls out of bed, however, she may put her hand up on Saturday. Keep your eye on them, if for nothing else but a demonstration of remarkably tactful riding.

Ros Canter and Allstar B. Photo by Samantha Clark

45. Ros Canter and Allstar B – GREAT BRITAIN

Though she be but little, she is fierce: tiny Ros Canter doesn’t quite make 5’2, and Alby is just shy of 17.2hh, so they may not seem the best-matched pair, but they’ve proven that opposites really do attract. Fifth here last year, they were named best first timers at Burghley on their four-star debut in 2015 and were part of the gold medal-winning team at the European Championships, where they also finished fifth individually.

They’re considered one of Team GB’s best hopes and will be looking ahead to the WEG. The British riders in contention have made plans with team coach and performance manager Chris Bartle and Dickie Waygood, and as I’ve not yet managed to plant a bug on either of them (one of these days…) we can’t predict whether they’ll try to be competitive or just notch up a steady, confidence-building clear. If they do the former, they are able to easily break into the top ten or better. If they do the latter, they’ll likely still feature in the top fifteen. A slow start to the season may prove to be their biggest hurdle: they’ve managed just two runs, in the OI at Oasby and 5th in the AI at Kelsall Hill.

Yoshi Oiwa and the Duke of Cavan at Badminton. Photo courtesy of Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

46. Yoshiaki Oiwa and The Duke of Cavan – JAPAN

The Duke of Cavan made his Badminton debut last year, finishing in an impressive 8th place, before going a bit quiet on us. He wasn’t entirely out of action — he contested, but didn’t complete, the Nations Cup at Waregem in September, and finished a slightly lacklustre 25th in the CIC3* at Strzegom. But he’s come back with a bang this year, having been busy in rainy Portugal, where he came fifth in Barroca’s CIC2* and won the CIC3*, and Strzegom, where they finished 3rd in the CIC3*.

Yoshi, for his part, is a seriously capable jockey, having won the CCI3* at Bramham last year with Calle 44 and making history as the first Japanese rider to win a 3* in the UK. He’s also Japan’s most decorated rider at the level, with three wins. All roads lead to Tokyo for Yoshi, and Cavy, with whom he finished 20th at Rio, is one of the horses who could take him there. It’s unfair to call the duo a dark horse, as they’ve been roundly celebrated and have certainly proved their worth, but if spectators forgot their names during the latter half of 2017, they may be surprised by the gauntlet they throw down.

47. Bill Levett and Alexander NJ – AUSTRALIA

Alexander NJ has, perhaps, flown under the radar, but he’s a talented horse who can produce a very exciting result on his day. In 2015, he finished in the top 20 in the Blenheim CCI3*, where he was one of only 5% of horses to finish on their dressage score. The following year, he made his four-star debut at Luhmühlen, where he came sixth, and was named as travelling reserve for Rio. Unfortunately, an eleventh-hour pulled muscle meant that he had to be withdrawn.

Alex notched up two clear rounds at Intermediate in March of 2017 before being sidelined for the rest of the season, so Bill will be unlikely to ride for a win here — instead, he’ll be hoping to bring the horse out confidently and continue his consistent form of old. How consistent? Well, he hasn’t pulled a rail in an event — national or international — since August 2015, and he hadn’t had a cross country jumping fault since 2013 until an unfortunate elimination in Belton’s CIC3*. They’re entered for Withington’s Advanced, which, if they opt to run, could give them a confidence boost. A potential candidate for the top 20 and, with a bit of luck on their side and one of their better dressage tests, they could go better than that.

48. Izzy Taylor and Perfect Stranger – GREAT BRITAIN

Formerly campaigned by Andrew Nicholson, Perfect Stranger is produced and schooled at home by his owner, Alex Phillips. He snuck in a four-star debut with Andrew in 2016, when he finished seventh at Luhmühlen, but hasn’t been back at the level since. Izzy has had four international starts with him, and has won two — the CIC3* at Mallow and the CCI3* at Millstreet. In 2017, other than a withdrawal at Gatcombe, she only ever won or finished third on the gelding. Posted a 54.7 at Luhmühlen but capable of better than that — certainly one to keep an eye on, and Izzy always means business. May benefit from the revised scoring, and certainly looked impressive when finishing 14th in the CIC3* at Belton.

Georgie Strang and Cooley Earl. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

49. Georgie Strang and Cooley Earl – GREAT BRITAIN

Cooley Earl made the step up to four-star at Pau last year, where he ably finished in 20th place. He managed 13th and 23rd in his two CCI3* starts in 2017 — at Haras du Pin and Bramham, respectively — and 22nd in the CIC3* at Belton this month, but he is yet to post a really significant result at the level. He’ll score around 33 — formerly the low 50s — and if he jumps clear, it’ll likely be with some time. But he’s just an 11-year-old, and currently Georgie’s top horse, so she won’t mind putting a competitive result on ice until he’s established at the level.

James Sommerville and Talent. Photo courtesy of Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

50. James Sommerville and Talent – GREAT BRITAIN

James and Talent made their four-star debut here last year, but their competition was cut short when James fell midway around the course. Unscathed, the pair rerouted to Bramham, where they finished 7th in the CCI3* and adding just 4.4 time penalties in the second phase. It was their career best result to date, although we’ve only seen them once in an international since then – they finished 39th in Belton’s CIC3*, jumping clear in both phases but adding time across the board to their 34.5 dressage. This year, the goal will be to complete — a lifelong dream of James’ — and next year, they can work on making the time, something that the horse looks very able to do.

51. William Fox-Pitt and Fernhill Pimms – GREAT BRITAIN – Waitlisted

14-year-old Pimms is one of William’s old stalwarts, all of which took a hiatus from competing at the end of 2015 when owner Catherine Witt opted to take some time away from the sport. We’re seeing them all come back into action, now, as Pimms and Bay My Hero both reappeared to tackle the CIC3* at Belton. Pimms had a couple of uncharacteristic errors across the country, likely due to lack of match practice – the gelding, who was 10th at Burghley in 2015, was withdrawn from Kentucky due to lack of preparation. He’s cross-entered at Chatsworth’s CIC3* the weekend after Badminton, and if William does opt to run him in the four-star we probably won’t see him aim to be competitive – rather, he’ll be easing his old friend back into life at this level.

Imogen Murray and Ivar Gooden. Photo courtesy of Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

52. Imogen Murray and Ivar Gooden – GREAT BRITAIN

Charles was one of only two horses to jump clear around both Badminton and Burghley in 2017, a fact made all the more impressive when you realise that it was his first season at the level. They also made their Nations Cup debut at Haras du Pin, finishing in 10th place and best of the Brits. He’s quick — he added just 10.8 time penalties at Burghley — and he’s reliable, with cross country clears all the way back to 2016. He looked very impressive when finishing in 11th place at Belton’s CIC3* with the second-fastest time of the day on a course that saw no one make the optimum.

He came here last year with the aim of a top-half finish, but went better than that — if they can drop their mid-to-late 50s dressage score by a few points, they could make a big move. Oh, and as an aside — the other horse to complete the double last year? It was fellow competitor Toledo de Kerser.

Will Furlong and Collien P2 stick the landing at Houghton Hall. Photo by Laura Butcher.

53. Will Furlong and Collien P 2 – GREAT BRITAIN

It’s a four-star debut for young British talent Will Furlong, but he’s amply prepared: he made his senior team debut aboard the grey mare at the Nations Cup at Houghton Hall last year, where he rode incredibly maturely (and displayed some enviable stickability, too) to come fourth. Then it was off to the prestigious U25 CCI3*, which he and Collien P 2 duly won. Sixth place at each of their final two internationals of 2017 — the CICO3* at Haras du Pin and Blenheim’s CCI3* — proved that their impressive results weren’t just a fluke, and 2nd in a tough Advanced section at Belton showed that the pair had wintered well.

Will looks set to be a mainstay on the British team as his career progresses, and while we’ve seen him make a fast pace look easy, he’ll likely be a bit slower as he navigates his first Badminton. He’s a real contender for best first-timer.

54. Aurelien Leroy and Seashore Spring – FRANCE

26-year-old Aurelien edged into the top 100 of the FEI World Rankings after a strong season led by top horse Seashore Spring, who finished sixth in the U25 CCI3* at Bramham and 12th at both Jardy CIC3* and Boekelo CCIO3*. Each time, the pair improved upon their dressage score, and their 41.1 at Boekelo gives us reason to believe they could squeak into the top 15 after the first phase.

They’re consistent across the country but their showjumping performance might let them down — they usually have at least two poles down. Aurelien has been putting in some serious miles on the showjumping circuit over the winter, so we may see a remarkable change of form in this phase. You won’t notice any of this, though, because Aurelien is tastier than a freshly-baked croissant and will likely spend his week making interviewers tongue-tied with his Gallic charm. Some countries have all the luck. I’ll be brushing up on my French.

55. Kirsty Short and Cossan Lad – GREAT BRITAIN

Kirsty and Bouncer will contest their first Badminton in this, their tenth season together. They’ve completed several four-stars – Burghley, Pau, and Luhmuehlen – and had entered here last year, but unfortunately never made it off the waitlist.

Their record at this level is patchy – their dressage average is 48.5 (72.8 in the old scoring), they’ve only completed one four-star with a clear cross-country round, and they usually have a handful of rails down – but Kirsty knows the horse well and has campaigned him exclusively at this level since 2015, citing his recurrent 20 penalties as the result of exuberance rather than disingenuousness. They won’t run here to be competitive but rather to enjoy themselves, with each top-level completion giving Kirsty more experience to pass along to her string of Monart-sourced youngsters.

Paul Tapner and Bonza King of Rouges. Photo courtesy of Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

56. Paul Tapner and Bonza King of Rouges – AUSTRALIA

Fast, feisty, and clad in red — no, not Spiderman, but Taperz, the former-professional-turned-elite-amateur (when he’s not wrangling wires and changing the face of the sport on the frontline of Event Rider Masters). Last year these two had a seriously unpleasant — but thankfully relatively harmless — rotational fall coming out of the Lake, but redeemed themselves at Burghley, where they finished in 19th place.

King, who was produced to Intermediate by Matt Ryan, has a fair collection of CCI and CIC3* top-ten placings to his name, and Taperz has won here before, in 2010, so he’s well equipped to build upon the horse’s 2017 education. Probably unlikely to trouble the very top contenders, but this pair could be one of the dark horse combinations this year, if they can keep on the straight and narrow after mistakes at Belton.

57. Regis Prud’hon and Kaiser HDB 4175 – FRANCE

Okay, so his horse’s name might sound like a knock-off brand microwave that you pick up at a stall on the street and enjoy for two days before it burns your kitchen down, but Regis’ Anglo-Arab stallion could become one of those horses that sneaks into the limelight and catches everyone by surprise in May. Ridden as a youngster by Spain’s Carlos Diaz Fernandez, Mr. Microwave (NB: not actually his stable name. Although, in fairness, I don’t know that for sure — it could be. One can but hope) promptly won at his first international with Regis – a CIC1* at Barroca d’Alva in 2016. Since then, he’s steadily worked his way up the levels, picking up top-ten placings at CCI2* (Ballindenisk, Strzegom) and CIC3* (Jardy) along the way.

Last year, he went to the 8/9YO CIC3* at Blenheim and finished in a respectable 18th place, before a disappointing end to the season with a Big E and a retirement at CCI and CIC3*. So why should you be watching him? Well, he’s notched up two international runs so far in 2018 — and he’s won them both. He took the CIC2* at Barroca, finishing on 30.2, and then claimed the CCI3* a week later at the same venue. It’s amazing what confidence can do for a rider’s performance, and if this duo can maintain this form until the big week, they’ll be riding high.

Cedric Lyard and Qatar du Puech Rouget at Badminton. Photo courtesy of Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

58. Cedric Lyard and Qatar du Puech Rouget – FRANCE

Cedric has been a longtime member of the French front, and Qatar du Puech Rouget will be contesting his fourth four-star here. His first was Pau in 2016, where he finished in 18th place, before contesting Badminton last year. The pair retired on course, but bounced back to finish 5th in the CIC3* at Jardy. They then went to the Europeans, where they ran into difficulties on course. A confidence-building run at Ligniers CCI2* set them up well for Pau. There, they were the only combination to finish on their dressage score — a feat that was enough to propel them from 27th after the first phase to a third-place finish.

The horse does well over tight, technical courses but is perhaps less established over big, bold courses such as Badminton. With mid-40s dressage scores, the pair will benefit from the new scoring, but to really climb the placings on the second day, Cedric will have to use the horse’s manoeuvrability to his advantage, rather than letting it back him off Eric Winter’s beefy course.

Lissa and Hollyfield II tackle the final water on the formidable Pau course. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

59. Lissa Green and Hollyfield II – AUSTRALIA

In her first four-star riding for Australia, Lissa pilots top horse Hollyfield II. The 14-year-old gelding is relatively inexperienced, having made the move-up to three-star in 2016, but Lissa rates the horse as a serious talent for the future and has made educational experiences her aim when running the horse. He showed a glimpse of what he’s capable at his four-star debut at Pau last year, over a tough and technical track, before Lissa opted to retire him near the end of the course. Both will have learned a huge amount from the experience and will aim to go one better here.

A score in the mid to low-50s — or around the mid-30s in the revised scoring — and a steady clear round across the country will be their goal. The final phase can go one of two ways — a copybook clear or a smattering of rails. Hopefully the education of Oli will have been rounded out over the winter and the former will be on the cards. A classy clear in Belton’s CIC3* has us hopeful, but the duo are cross-entered for Chatsworth the weekend after Badminton, so we may see a change of plan.

60. Ashley Edmond and Triple Chance – GREAT BRITAIN

Ashley and Triple Chance moved up to four-star at Pau last year, finishing in 36th place with a 61.5 dressage, a slow clear round across the country, and four rails on the final day. Their best result together was in the U25 CCI3* at Bramham in June, where they came in 7th place. They’ll be aiming to break the sub-60 (sub-40) barrier, which is well within their capabilities — they’ve scored as low as 53.9 at CIC3*. They’re never quick, but they don’t need to be — their first Badminton will be used as a learning experience, and a clear round here is a badge of honour, signifying a step into the big leagues. Then, there’s an entire career left in which Ashley can chase the clock. First, though, they’ll have to tackle each question as it comes – a 20 across the country at Belton will have them training hard before the big day.

61. Dee Hankey and Chequers Playboy – GREAT BRITAIN

Dee and Chequers Playboy first appeared at four-star in 2013, when they finished 39th at Burghley. The following year, they nabbed 16th at Pau. After that, it got a bit tricky — they were eliminated at both Burghley and Badminton in 2015, withdrew before the dressage here in 2016, and were spun at the final horse inspection at last year’s Burghley. This year, hopefully, their luck will turn, and Dee can set her sites on piloting Kenny — who she rides with two sets of reins — around the difficult track. A fun fact for you: Dee used to be in a pop band. They toured with Boyzone. This is easily the most ’90s fun fact you’ll get in this guide.

62. Carlos Diaz Fernandez and Junco CP – SPAIN

Our sole Spanish entrant this year, so expect gratuitous use of the flamenco-dancer emoji during his dressage test. The pair scored 49.9 at Pau last year, where they finished 15th, and 46.1 at the Europeans, so although they average in the low 50s at three-star and above, they are very capable of dipping below this. Other than two wobbles at the Europeans, where they notched up 40 jumping penalties on cross country, they haven’t faulted in this phase since the WEG in 2014. They’ve managed a few FODs, too — most notably in the CCI3* at Barroca last year, which they won.

63. Tom Crisp and Coolys Luxury – GREAT BRITAIN

Tom has entered Coolys Luxury three times at Badminton, but is yet to manage a completion — Burghley seems to be a happier hunting ground for the pair, and they’ve finished in the top 20 there three times. They’ve also jumped around Pau and Luhmühlen, so they’re not short of experience. If they can hit their stride around the course here, there’s no reason they shouldn’t see another top 20 finish — but a clear round at Badminton never comes easily, and a 20pen in the CIC3* at Belton will either have sharpened them up or dented their confidence before the big day.

Becky Woolven and Charlton Down Riverdance. Photo courtesy of Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

64. Becky Woolven and Charlton Down Riverdance – GREAT BRITAIN

Becky and her rangy Irish gelding made their four-star debut at Burghley in 2016, where they finished in 17th place, and Becky took home the prize for best first-timer. They started here last year, where they posted a 52.4 in the first phase and added 18.4 time in the second, but unfortunately, they were spun at the second horse inspection. We saw Charlton Down Riverdance in the CIC3* at Belton, where he ran conservatively and pulled three rails to finish in 57th place. He’s already got one withdrawal under his belt this year — he was meant to contest the AI at Tweseldown — so if he runs, it’ll likely be conservatively.

Jonty Evans and Cooley Rorkes Drift after jumping a clear showjumping round at Badminton 2017. Photo by Jenni Autry.

65. Jonty Evans and Cooley Rorkes Drift – IRELAND

After coming achingly close to a top ten finish last year, the People’s Horse took a bit of a break to become arguably the most talked-about (and prolifically purchased) horse on the planet. If 2017 was a four-star course, then the small blip of having to raise half a million pounds midway through the year acted rather like a hold on course just before the most eye-wateringly difficult combination. With their training rhythm and competition schedule fractured, and the eyes of the world on them, Jonty and Art had a lackluster end to their season, but it would be unwise to forget the reason why the horse was so in-demand.

His ninth place finish at Rio made a seriously difficult competition look like a Pony Club rally, and the ease and intelligence with which he takes to new challenges makes him one of the best horses in the world when he and Jonty are left to focus on the task at hand. They showed a remarkable return to form at Belton, winning the CIC3* Grantham Cup and earning Jonty the biggest win of his career. They’re one of Ireland’s top hopes for the WEG, and Jonty will want to use Badminton as a litmus test and also a way to shake off the demons of his 2017 season. Capable of a remarkable test — they scored 37.2 here last year — and consistent on the final day, if Jonty can keep the clever horse’s mind on the job across the country as he did at Belton, they could be serious challengers for the title. At the least, Jonty will be aiming for a coveted WEG qualification.

Warren Lamperd and Silvia. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

66. Warren Lamperd and Silvia – AUSTRALIA

The horse that coined the phrase ‘doing a Silvia’ – that is, um, banking a fence and making it look like that’s how it ought to be done – is back. Bossy, as she’s known at home, is well known for being game and gutsy, and she proved her adaptability last year at Burghley when she made light, if creative, work of the Dairy Mound combination. They finished in 31st place after adding rather too many time penalties and poles to threaten the top 20, but Bossy is a classic cross-country competitor, and she’ll suit Eric Winter’s course, which rewards forward-thinking and that adaptability that she’s shown off so well.

With street smarts come personality quirks, and Bossy displays plenty of those at home – impossible to contain in a paddock, she’s allowed to roam free-range around Warren’s Berkshire base and choose the best grazing spots. An unbroken broodmare until the age of six, she spent more of her formative training putting Warren on the floor than learning to contain her enthusiasm, but his patience has paid off, and he’ll leave the start box on a partner he can trust. The pair will post a score that hovers around 50-51 (33-34), and although they’ll rack up time penalties, they’ll likely go clear – in fact, they hadn’t had a cross-country jumping penalty since mid-2014 until the influential Gatcombe AI added a 20 to their record. They’ll add faults in the final phase, though, with two or three poles likely to tumble. They haven’t gone clear in the showjumping at an international since 2009.

Joseph Murphy and Sportsfield Othello. Photo by Samantha Clark.

67. Joseph Murphy and Sportsfield Othello – IRELAND

We haven’t seen Sportsfield Othello at an international since the European Championships in August, where he finished in 47th place, but this isn’t indicative of his usual form: he’s usually fast and clear and, if he’ll falter anywhere, it’s in the final phase, where he can get a bit heavy-footed. He’s experienced at the level, having made his move-up at Pau in 2011 and competed consistently since. His best result was back at Pau in 2014, where he came fifth. He finished 13th here last year — a dressage score about six marks worse than his average let him down, but he was able to climb on the strength of his performance in the other phases. The duo are likely candidates for the WEG team, so consistency and care will be key — for horses aimed at the Championships, Badminton will be a way to guide them towards their peak performance, rather than the summit itself.

Jonelle Price and Classic Moet. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

68. Jonelle Price and Classic Moet – NEW ZEALAND

We’ve only seen supermare Classic Moet at one international event since her third-place finish at Burghley in 2016 — Blenheim’s ERM class last year, at which Jonelle made her return to the sport after having son Otis. The pair finished 29th — nothing to write home about for the ordinarily lightning-fast combination, but a necessary run to build Jonelle’s momentum again. Jonelle went on to finish in the top ten at Ballindenisk CIC3* and Pau, riding Faerie Dianimo, and Classic Moet has since been making light work of Spain’s Sunshine Tour, to which the Price clan emigrate every winter to sharpen their skills over the poles.

You’d be doing yourself a disservice to write these two off now — prior to Jonelle’s maternity leave, they managed 3rd and 5th at Burghley, 20th at Badminton, 4th at the 2014 WEG, and 12th at Luhmühlen. Classic Moet rarely falters in the second phase, and she is QUICK. Her weakness has ordinarily been the final phase, but Jonelle has been fine-tuning that. They won’t be in the upper echelons after dressage — expect them to sit somewhere around 15th — but if a return to form is on the cards, they’ll keep on climbing. Their only run this spring has been in the competitive Advanced at Belton, which they won easily, zooming around to add just 3.6 time to their 31.4 dressage.

Piggy French and Vanir Kamira make light work of Belton. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

69. Piggy French and Vanir Kamira – GREAT BRITAIN

Just 1.3 penalties separated Piggy and Vanir Kamira, known as Tilly, from the win at Burghley last year, but a tearful Piggy was more than happy with where she finished. Piggy is riding better than ever after a hiatus to have her son, Max, and Tilly is a classy mare with a huge amount of ability. Badminton will be just her second four-star with Piggy, although she’s been here before with Paul Tapner in the irons. Then, she finished 18th. Now, she ought to finish higher. Piggy has figured out which buttons to press to get speed without silliness — that, partnered with another low 40s (high 20s) dressage score should make them very competitive. Their 28.9 dressage and 4.8 time penalties was enough to net them second place in their prep run at Belton CIC3*, where Piggy confessed she’d been running reasonably conservatively to save the horse for Badminton – with more left in the tank, it’ll be exciting to see what she does over Eric Winter’s course.

70. Nana Dalton and Absolut Opposition – GREAT BRITAIN – Waitlisted

Badminton will be the third four-star for Nana and homebred Miley – so named because, as a foal, his legs went on for miles. They finished 52nd at Badminton in 2015, notching up 20 penalties across the country, and 34th at Pau last year after doing the same. Otherwise, he’s only ever had one other fault in this phase in his international career, when he fell in the CIC3* at Chatsworth in 2014. Their dressage is likely to be in the high 30s, and they’ll pull a rail or two on the final day, but a clear round across the country will be a thrilling victory in itself for Nana, who thinks the world of this horse.

Madeline Backus and P.S. Arianna. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

71. Madeline Backus and P.S. Arianna – UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

P.S. Arianna was Madeline’s 10th birthday present, and together, the pair have learned their sport and doggedly climbed to the top level. Having contested the naJJYRC in Lexington in 2011 and 2014, they returned to tackle their four-star debut last year, finishing in 20th place.

This year, with the help of the Rebecca Broussard National Developing Rider Grant and the Wilton Fair Grant, they’re basing themselves at Austin O’Connor’s Attington Stud, and have already posted clear rounds in the Advanced sections at Burnham Market and Belton in the lead-up to the Biggest B of Them All.

Their dressage, ordinarily hovering in the mid-to-high 50s, will see them fall short of the leaderboard in the first phase, but they could benefit from the revised scoring, and if they can repeat their second-phase performance from Kentucky, they stand to climb the placings. Badminton will be the biggest challenge either of them has ever faced, but there’s a lot to be said for a longstanding relationship like theirs and the subtleties of communication it can bring into the equation. On a tough track like this, that can make all the difference.

72. Hanne Wind Ramsgaard and Vestervangs Arami – DENMARK

Danish Hanne may not have had reams of top horses — in fact, Vestervangs Arami makes up most of her competition record after her first horse, skewbald Lucky Luke, who she took to two-star — but she’s no rookie. The pair made their four-star debut at Pau in 2014, finishing 12th, and then went on to the European Championships at Blair the following year. There, they finished 33rd, as 30 time penalties and two poles pushed them down the leaderboard.

They came to Badminton in 2016, notching up an unfortunate 20 penalties across the country and finishing 43rd. Then, we really only saw them contest CIC2 and 3*, until the Europeans last year, when they made light work of the tricky track to finish 20th. Hopefully, the softly-softly route back to four-star will have served them well, and we’ll see them deliver a tidy — if slow — clear round. With scores hovering between 50-60 (33-40 revised) they probably won’t trouble the leaders, but they could put themselves in contention for an individual spot at the WEG later this year.

73. Emilie Chandler and Coopers Law – GREAT BRITAIN

Emilie and Spider had a career-best result at Pau at the end of last season, finishing in 14th place and up from 52nd after the first phase. Prior to that, we hadn’t really seen them since Burghley in 2015, where they finished 21st. Spider is in his element on the cross country, but struggles with tension and occasional improvisation in the first phase. The pair won’t trouble the leaders for this reason, but they’ve demonstrated a significant learning curve in each of their major outings, so they should be well-equipped to give Eric Winter’s course their all. Seventh place in the AI at Great Witchingham and third in Belton’s Advanced should set them up well.

Harry Meade and Away Cruising at Belton. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

74. Harry Meade and Away Cruising – GREAT BRITAIN

Spot made the step up to four-star last year, with promising results at Luhmühlen (14th, clear within the time) and Burghley (15th, clear with time penalties). A small blip saw him add 20 penalties to his record in the CIC3* at Gatcombe, but this is his first mistake on course at an international since his very first one-star back in 2013. Otherwise, he has a 90% clear rate across the country at internationals. He’s not naturally quick — although his Luhmühlen result proved that he can make time — and his showjumping is his weak link, averaging three poles, but Harry is a meticulous rider and trainer and will constantly be analysing and solving the problem. He show jumped clear in Belton’s CIC3*, proving that hard work pays dividends, and ran well, albeit slowly, across the country. A good result here — and perhaps just one or two poles — should come as no surprise.

75. Dani Evans and Smart Time – GREAT BRITAIN

The pair made their one and only four-star appearance as a combination here in 2016, but it didn’t quite go to plan: 40 jumping penalties and 51.6 time dropped them right out of contention and three poles on the final day sealed their fate. Since then, they’ve been working hard and earning some very promising results, including a 44.6 FOD and 4th place at Barbury CIC3*, 7th place at Blenheim CCI3*, and 5th at Boekelo CCI3*. A mid-40s score (now 30) should be their aim, and, as they haven’t had a cross country jumping penalty in an international since that fateful Badminton, they ought to go clear here, albeit perhaps with an alternative route or two added in. They can be in the top 20, although 20 penalties across the country at Belton won’t have been part of their preparation plan.

Will Coleman and Obos O’Reilly. Photo by Ginny Nayden.

76. Will Coleman and OBOS O’Reilly – UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

To make up for the lack of Boyd, the Gods of Dreamy Americans have sent us Will Coleman instead, and frankly, I’m not sad about it. He pilots OBOS O’Reilly, known as Oboe, who has already clocked up significant experience on both sides of the pond. Oboe made his four-star debut at not-Rolex in 2015, adding just one pesky pole to his dressage score and finishing in sixth place. This made him the Reserve National Champion, too – a real step up from his formative years, during which his ‘exuberant’ personality made him a tricky prospect.

He’s proved himself over a variety of track styles: later that year, he posted an FOD at the Blenheim CCI3*, arguably one of the toughest three-stars in the world, and finished 12th at Luhmühlen last year. A high-forties scorer but quick, quick, quick across the country. If Will can cure his four-faultitis, he could be a great shout for a US challenger.

77. Michael Owen and Bradeley Law – GREAT BRITAIN

This will be Bradeley Law’s second attempt at the level — he was eliminated in his four-star debut here in 2016. He was then out of action for all of 2017 — we haven’t seen him on the international stage since he finished in sixth place in the Barbury CIC3* in mid-2016. The pair finished fourth in an Open Intermediate section at Oasby earlier this month and will head to Gatcombe this weekend at the same level. They won’t be there to compete, but rather, to complete and get the horse’s education moving forward again. Fun fact: Michael Owen produced Ludwig Svennerstal’s King Bob to four-star before the Swede took the reins.

James O’Haire and China Doll at Pau. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

78. James O’Haire and China Doll – IRELAND

James might be a relatively new face on the UK scene, but he’s been quietly working his way towards his four-star debut, which he made at Pau at the end of 2017. He and China Doll finished in 31st place after adding 20 penalties on Michelet’s track — and if that doesn’t sound like a very impressive debut, you must not have been following Pau. Fresh from that absolute stinker of a course — and with good performances at Kilguilkey CIC3* (18th), Camphire CCI3* (5th), and Millstreet CCI3* (7th) — they’re ready to tackle their biggest challenge yet.

Last year, Eric Winter described his course as one that would suit a hunting rider, who can ride positively without getting hung up on the technicalities, and this is where the Irish really come into their own. Gutsy, forward-thinking, and instinctive — is it an offensively sweeping generalisation if it’s a positive one? — they think on their feet and are likely to be rewarded here. James and China Doll can do exactly that, and although their dressage will leave them in the bottom third of the pack after the first phase, if they ride like they mean it through the weekend they could leave with a strong completion. James, who has a sideline in breaking in (presumably ornery) racehorses, is certainly able to do that. We saw this duo turn the Lycett’s Leap coffin in Belton’s CIC3* into a bounce, with nary a batted eyelid, proving their gutsiness and trust in one another once again.

Sam Griffiths and Paulank Brockagh win Badminton in 2014. Photo courtesy of Nico Morgan Media.

79. Sam Griffiths and Paulank Brockagh – AUSTRALIA

One of three combinations who have won here before — Sam lifted the trophy in 2014. The pair have three other top-ten four-star finishes, including eighth place at Pau last year, at which Sam made his top-level comeback after missing the majority of the season with a broken neck. Brocks was also his mount at Rio, at which they finished in fourth place individually and won a bronze medal as part of the Australian team.

Their dressage is consistent at this level, ordinarily sitting between 42 and 43 (or roughly 28 in the new scoring) and if they can avoid falling foul of the flag rules, as they did last year, they’re likely to go clear. Their last two attempts at Badminton have been plagued by upsets — a contested 50 penalties last year, and a rare 20 the year before — but they’re very capable of besting the Gloucestershire venue, as their win in 2014 and 10th place in 2015 proves. Unlikely to go inside the time, but one of the clear favourites for a top ten placing. A pub quiz fun fact for you: Brocks is one of only five mares to win Badminton.

Gemma Tattersall and Arctic Soul. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

80. Gemma Tattersall and Arctic Soul – GREAT BRITAIN

Arctic Soul — known as Spike — has come SO close to a big win, finishing in third place at Burghley last year and third at Badminton in 2016. He’s also been seventh here, last year, and fifth at Burghley in 2014. Last year, he won the ERM leg at Gatcombe, securing Gemma the series title and earning himself the British Open Championship, too. He added just 1.2 time penalties on a day when the time was impossible to get.

The ex-racehorse has been lovingly referred to as ‘totally crazy’ by Gemma, who has to ask for silence from the audience to get a good test from him, and when he goes across the country, he really goes. But he’s not stupid, and his sense of self-preservation extends to his rider, too — at Burghley, Gemma was battling a serious chest infection all week and Arctic Soul stepped up to the plate. These two have an incredible relationship, wrought from time, patience, and a similar gutsy tunnel-vision, and if they’re given the green light to push for the time here, they will — and they could finally find themselves at the top of the leaderboard if they do.

An extremely rare 20 penalties at Belton, and subsequently a very slow schooling run around the course, might not look great in the eyes of the bookies, but Gemma sees the runout as a positive mistake in preparation for a four-star – the strong, cocky horse often needs reminding that he can’t make all the decisions himself, and by making the wrong one in a CIC3* and not being able to jump out of the combination, he’s been given that reminder without a knock to his confidence. He certainly looked on form when claiming third place the weekend after in Bicton’s AI.

Andrew Nicholson and Jet Set at Pau. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

81. Andrew Nicholson and Jet Set – NEW ZEALAND

Jet Set sometimes — understandably — languishes behind Andrew’s top horses in terms of public attention, but he shouldn’t be regarded as a second string. This is an up-and-comer that Andrew thinks a huge amount of — at the end of last season he called him a ‘true four-star horse, definitely’, and who are we to disagree with the Maestro? Jet Set made the trip to Pau in October for his first attempt at the level, but misread a skinny atop a steep hill late on course and, unfortunately, ejected his rider, cutting short his debut. He made an impressive effort over the three-fourths of the course he did tackle, though, and other than that, he’s never had a cross country jumping penalty in his international career.

He’s capable of going fast, and Andrew has an almost psychic way of knowing when a young horse needs its hand held and when it will benefit from riding for the time. His philosophy has always been to teach his horses to be comfortable with high speed and high pressure, so watch these two on Saturday to learn a huge amount about the education of a future star. Likely to score in the mid-to-high 40s (30-33), discounting Belton’s poor-scoring test of 40.4, and will almost certainly have a pole on Sunday, but could make a very impressive mark on his first Badminton.

Alex Bragg and Redpath Ransom. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

82. Alex Bragg and Redpath Ransom – GREAT BRITAIN

Alex’s somewhat overlooked Redpath Ransom is nevertheless proving himself as a cross country powerhouse, and a useful second-in-command to star stablemate Zagreb. ‘Reeko’ is the king of consistency, faulting across the country just twice in an international career spanning 23 competitions. Those faults were picked up at Chatsworth in 2014 and at his most recent run at Pau last year, where horse and rider slightly misjudged a distance in the first water — one of the most influential parts of arguably the toughest Pau we’ve ever seen — and fell.

But don’t hold this against him: otherwise, he’s seriously capable and quick — unless Alex dials him back for a quiet run, as he has done at the horse’s level debuts. He loses ground in the first phase, where he usually scores in the mid-50s, or the mid-30s under the new scoring system, and in the final phase, where he can go clear but is more likely to take two for joy. He probably won’t outpace big brother Zagreb, but he’ll put up a good show.

Mark Todd and Kiltubrid Rhapsody at Pau. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

83. Mark Todd and Kiltubrid Rhapsody – NEW ZEALAND

Kiltubrid Rhapsody has been something of a CIC specialist, appearing in ERM legs at Gatcombe (4th), Blair (WD), and Blenheim (9th). In fact, the Gatcombe result broke Toddy’s ERM duck, as he’d previously suffered a spate of bad luck in the series. After Blenheim, he headed to Pau for his first four-star and to help Toddy chase the World Number One crown. A dressage score of 40.4 put him well in the hunt, but jumping and time penalties across the country snatched the dream away. They jumped clear on the final day and finished 25th.

A similar dressage performance will set them up well at Badminton, and the good-looking grey (that’s Kiltubrid Rhapsody, not Toddy) could take to the course, which will be unlike anything we’ve seen him over before, and certainly very different to Michelet’s Pau course. He looked confident and capable over Captain Mark Phillips’ Belton track, which was built to emulate some of the Badminton questions. Bold prediction? They’ll either challenge the top five or languish just outside the top 20.

84. Harry Dzenis and Dromgurrihy Blue – GREAT BRITAIN

Look, I’ll tell you about his record, but for the love of god, don’t ask me how to pronounce his horse’s name. Drunkenstammer Blue has been competed by no less than four of the riders entered here — not including Harry. Patricia Ryan rode the horse in his first international before passing the ride over to husband Michael. Four years later, Harry first got the ride, but two years thereafter and just after the horse’s first Burghley, Oliver Townend took the reins. He posted some good results, including a CIC3* win at Burgham in 2016, and then it was Padraig McCarthy’s turn.

Harry took the horse back at the end of last season and competed at Burghley with him, finishing 25th. The horse has the potential to go higher, but being mounted more frequently than a character in Gossip Girl probably hasn’t entirely helped the situation — if Harry can repeat his Burghley performance, but keep more rails up on the final day, he’ll slip into the top 20.

Tina Cook and Calvino II. Photo courtesy of Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

85. Tina Cook and Calvino II – GREAT BRITAIN

Calvino posted a very good dressage score of 39.6 at Burghley last year, which allowed him to finish in the top 20 despite 20 penalties on course, 14.4 time faults, and two rails on the final day. He had 20 at Badminton last year, too, but these were his only two mistakes on cross country since 2012, and he was clear at Pau in 2016. Otherwise, you usually know what you get with him: a high-40s (low-30s in new money) dressage, a moderately slow clear across the country, and a pole on the final day. He can be competitive, but he hasn’t hit his stride quite yet.

OR

86. Tina Cook and Billy the Red – GREAT BRITAIN

87. Caroline Powell and On The Brash – NEW ZEALAND

Caroline took over the ride on the 12-year-old gelding, formerly piloted by Sam Griffiths, in the middle of last season. They finished 11th in their first international together, in the CCI3* at Bramham, and 6th in the CIC3* at Blair, but two stops and 40.8 time dropped them right out of contention at Burgham, and they were one of many combinations to retire on course at Pau. Badminton will be a litmus test for this fledgling partnership after a long winter to get to know one another. They’ll want to emulate their Bramham performance (49.5) rather than their Pau one (60.1), and avoid the 20 penalties they picked up in Belton’s CIC3*.

Ciaran Glynn and November Night. Photo courtesy of Kit Houghton/Mitsubishi Motors.

88. Ciaran Glynn and November Night – IRELAND

Ciaran and November Night completed Badminton last year, finishing in 36th place with a slow clear round. They then went on to finish 8th and 4th in the CIC3* at Camphire and Millstreet, respectively, and 10th in the CCI3* at Blenheim. The Irish mare has gone clear cross country in 19 of her 21 international starts, so is well primed to take on the Badminton track. Their Belton CIC3* performance was confident, if slow, but their 39.6 dressage was higher than they’re capable of. If they can score sub-50 (low 30s or lower in the new scoring) and maintain their form throughout the jumping phases, they could be a dark horse contender for a spot in the top ten.

89. Georgie Spence and Wii Limbo – GREAT BRITAIN

Georgie and Wii Limbo have plenty of experience together, finishing 12th at Burghley in 2015, 5th at Bramham’s U25 CCI3* in 2013, and completing Badminton and Burghley on two other occasions. Their season has started off well, too – they finished 5th in the non-Grantham Cup CIC3* at Belton. Their dressage score there of 31.9 is about what we’d expect from this pair, and while it won’t be enough to thrust them into the spotlight after the first phase at Badminton, a good clear round on the second day will see them improve upon their placing. They’re usually clear on the final day, too, which will help their cause massively under the new scoring system.

91. Oliver Townend and Cooley SRS – GREAT BRITAIN

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92. Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class – GREAT BRITAIN

93. Tom McEwen and Strike Smartly – GREAT BRITAIN

Tom and Paddy won a CIC3* (Chatsworth) and a CCI3* (Camphire) in 2017, and now that they’re entering their second season together, they’re looking to take their partnership up a notch at the Ghareeb gelding’s first four-star. Expect a mid-to-high 40s dressage test (that’s 30-33), although the horse has shown he’s capable of dipping below this, and a steady trip across the country. The horse can go for the time, but in his first four star — and considering that Tom has another ride here in top horse Toledo de Kerser — he’s unlikely to be pushed for a big result. With a bit more experience, this will be a very fast horse.

Jenni Autry edited all 14,000 words of this article and deserves a special place in heaven.

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