What an exciting finish to what has been an exhilarating weekend at Badminton Horse Trials. Overnight leaders Paul Tapner and Kilronan had a rail in hand coming into this afternoon’s show jumping, and just about everyone expected him to pull out the win considering his past history here. He won the event in 2010 with Inonothing, and is a steely competitor. And then he was handed yet another rail in hand when Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy — who has been very open that this isn’t his horse’s strongest phase — knocked four poles and picked up three time penalties to drop out of second place.
But things began unraveling from the start when Paul and Kilronan knocked the second fence and ultimately pulled three more rails throughout Kelvin Bywater’s show jumping course, which dropped them down to fourth place. Thanks to having just one rail with the spectacular mare Paulank Brockagh, Sam Griffiths moved up from fifth place to suddenly became the winner of what will surely be remembered as one of the most grueling Badmintons in recent memory. They jumped a beautiful round to seal the deal on a final score of 67.9.
Just one pair, Wendy Schaeffer and Koyuna Sun Dancer, managed a clear, though they still picked up three time penalties. Four pairs pulled one rail in this final group, showing just how tough it was to leave the poles in the cups after Guiseppe Della Chiesa’s cross country track yesterday. In addition to horses being tired from that test, the tacky footing made it hard for the horses to get off the ground. Combined with the twisty course Kelvin designed, it proved to a very influential day of show jumping.
The Brits, who were licking their wounds yesterday without one of their own in the top three, were rewarded today with Oliver Townend and Armada and Harry Meade and Wild Lone finishing in second and third places. Oliver, a past winner here at Badminton, pulled two rails, and Harry and Wild Lone pulled just one to complete a fairytale weekend. Remember that less than nine months ago Harry had both of his arms in casts after badly breaking and dislocating both of his elbows in a rotational fall. It’s a miracle he’s even competing here, much less placing in the top three at Badminton.
Paulank Brockagh, a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare owned by Dinah Posford, Jules Carter and Sam, is by the Grand Prix show jumper Touchdown and out of Calendar Girl, a mare by the Thoroughbred stallion Trigerrero. “Brocks” now joins the ranks of great mares in the sport of eventing with what can only be described as an unbelievable performance. Sam and Brocks were 25th after their dressage on a score of 46.3 and added 17.6 time penalties on cross country to move up to fifth place. The awards ceremony is wrapping up now, and I’ll be back with much more analysis from Badminton.