Form Guide: Meet the Horses and Riders in the 2024 MARS Badminton Field

We are right in the thick of 5* season and couldn’t be more excited to get the Badminton party started. We’ve been working on our Form Guide for the past few weeks and now are pleased to present your guide to the field! Find out the back story on your favorite pair, what their general performance stats are like, and much more. You can use the list below to jump straight to your preferred combination, or you can also follow along with the guide in drawn order of running as you watch this weekend.

Want even more facts and figures about the field? Don’t miss EquiRating’s guide to the competitors and horses — and the stats on the line — here.

Speaking of, you can watch live online all week long thanks to Badminton TV’s streaming service, which you can subscribe to for just about $25 here.

Riders! We need a bit of help. We didn’t quite manage to collect all the grooms’ information for this Form Guide, so we would love if you’d fill out this form to help us out. We’ll update this Form Guide as we obtain groom names — we don’t want to leave their very important role unmentioned!

EN’s coverage of MARS Badminton Horse Trials is brought to you by Kentucky Performance Products, your go-to source for science-backed nutritional support across all types of horses, disciplines, and needs. Click here to learn more about what KPP can do for your horse — thank you for supporting our wonderful sponsors!

MARS Badminton Horse Trials: Website | Box Office | Entries | Timetable | Course Preview | Live Stream | Ultimate GuideEN’s Coverage


Want to jump straight to your favorite horse and rider? Click the links below to jump to their section (the combinations are listed below in alphabetical order by country and last name; entries categorized by draw order):

Sammi Birch and Finduss PFB (AUS)
William Levett and Huberthus AC (AUS)

Jessica Phoenix and Wabbit (CAN)

Luc Château and Viens du Mont (FRA)
Arthur Duffort and Toronto d’Aurois (FRA)
Florian Ganneval and Blue Bird de Beaufour (FRA)
Gaspard Maksud and Kan-Do 2 (FRA)
Arthur Marx and Church’Ile (FRA)

Georgia Bartlett and Spano de Nazca (GBR)
Helen Bates and Carpe Diem (GBR)
Rosie Bradley-Hole and Romantic (GBR)
Alexander Bragg and Quindiva (GBR)
Rosalind Canter and Izilot DHI (GBR)
Alice Casburn and Topspin (GBR)
Kirsty Chabert and Opposition Heraldik Girl (GBR)
Laura Collett and Hester (GBR)
Felicity Collins and RSH Contend OR (GBR)
Tom Crisp and Liberty and Glory (GBR)
David Doel and Galileo Nieuwmoed (GBR)
William Fox-Pitt and Grafennacht (GBR)
Pippa Funnell and Majas Hope (GBR)
Pippa Funnell and MCS Maverick (GBR)
Kristina Hall-Jackson and CMS Google (GBR)
Louise Harwood and Native Spirit (GBR)
Nicky Hill and MGH Bingo Boy (GBR)
Tom Jackson and Capels Hollow Drift (GBR)
Tom Jackson and Farndon (GBR)
Richard Jones and Alfies Clover (GBR)
Emily King and Valmy Biats (GBR)
Gubby Leech and Royal Harvest (GBR)
Helen Martin and Andreas (GBR)
Tom McEwen and CHF Cooliser (GBR) Withdrawn before Horse Inspection
Harry Meade and Away Cruising (GBR)
Harry Meade and Cavalier Crystal (GBR)
Harry Meade and Red Kite (GBR)
Selina Milnes and Gelmer (GBR)
Harry Mutch and HD Bronze (GBR)
Wills Oakden and A Class Cooley (GBR)
Wills Oakden and Arklow Puissance (GBR)
Will Rawlin and Ballycoog Breaker Boy (GBR)
Holly Richardson and Bally Louis (GBR)
Kylie Roddy and SRS Kan Do (GBR)
Tom Rowland and Dreamliner (GBR)
Tom Rowland and KND Steel Pulse (GBR)
Libby Seed and Heartbreaker Star Quality (GBR)
Gemma Stevens and Chilli Knight (GBR)
Emma Thomas and Icarus (GBR)
Zara Tindall and Class Affair (GBR)
Bubby Upton and Cola III (GBR)
Max Warburton and Monbeg Exclusive (GBR)
Francis Whittington and DHI Purple Rain (GBR)
India Wishart and Diamond Sundance (GBR)

Daragh Byrne and Kilcannon Ramiro (IRL)
Sarah Ennis and Grantstown Jackson (IRL)
Georgie Goss and Feloupe (IRL)
Lucy Latta and RCA Patron Saint (IRL)
Sam Watson and SAP Talisman (IRL)

Jesse Campbell and Cooley Lafitte (NZL)
Lauren Innes and Global Fision M (NZL)
Caroline Powell and CBI Aldo (NZL)
Caroline Powell and Greenacres Special Cavalier (NZL)
Jonelle Price and Grappa Nera (NZL)
Tim Price and Vitali (NZL)

Felix Vogg and Cartania (SUI)

Tiana Coudray and Cancaras Girl (USA)
Cosby Green and Copper Beach (USA)
Alexandra Knowles and Morswood (USA)
Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg TSF (USA)
Meghan O’Donaghue and Palm Crescent (USA)
Grace Taylor and Game Changer (USA)


1: Tom Jackson and Farndon (GBR)

Badminton will be the third 5* event Tom Jackson and Farndon will contest together. Previously completing Luhmühlen, where they finished in 6th on their dressage score, and at Pau, where they finished 20th after a frangible pin, this duo will be out to solidify their competitiveness at the level. Since starting their FEI partnership together in 2021 at the 4* level, we’ve seen their dressage scores hover around the mid 30s, although they have been known to score down into the mid 20s, which they did when they won the 4*S at Little Downham in September. Outside of a period of what seems to be bad luck, where they picked up a 20 on cross country at three back to back events in 2022, their cross country record is otherwise quite clear.

Tom and Farndon will be an interesting duo to watch! Will they pull out an uber-competitive dressage score, as we’ve seen them do before? If so, these two could potentially see another top ten 5* finish.


2: Caroline Powell and CBI Aldo (NZL)

Double-Olympian Caroline is one of several riders bringing multiple horses to Badminton, and this will be a 5* debut for the second of her two rides, CBI Aldo. Bought from the Monart Sale in Ireland back in 2018, 9 year old ‘Aldo’ was 8th in the 6 year old Young Horse Championships at Le Lions d’Angers back in 2021, and has maintained similarly impressive form in the years since. With a first phase score that averages towards the lower end of the thirties, and a pretty impressive cross country record to go with it, this could be one of the most impressive debutants this year.

Although not guaranteed to go clear on the final day, he has shown himself capable of leaving them all standing: in his three outings thus far this season, he has managed 2 double clears, and only faulted three times in the show jumping last year. Top 25 in both the CCI4*S at Bramham and the CCI4*L at Blenheim Palace last year, he has proved himself more than capable of tackling a 5*, and with Caroline – who won Burghley back in 2010 with the legendary Lenamore – as his pilot, there is nothing to stop him landing in the top 25 on the final day here, too. Certainly one to watch for the future, and perhaps one for Caroline to aim at LA 2028…?


4: Harry Meade and Cavalier Crystal (GBR)

Harry’s making history with three rides at Badminton this year, with those riders lucky enough to have a trio of top-level horses in their string not having to make the difficult decision of who has to stay at home, as has been the case previously when entries were limited to two. He goes out first with Cavalier Crystal, who made her CCI5* debut in fine form last year at Burghley with a third place finish, adding just 5.2 cross country time penalties to her dressage score of 32.2, a superb spring board for another excellent result at the top level as she embarks upon her first Badminton. She’s a dependable finisher having completed in all 21 of her FEI runs, and her cross country jumping record is impressive to say the least – there’s just one 20 on her card, which came in the Young Event Horse Championships in 2017; EquiRatings have her down as one of the most reliable cross country jumpers in the field. Time penalties are more of a mixed bag — the mare can be quick, but sometimes Harry takes his time with her, opting for educational rounds when that’s what’s best, although as we saw at Burghley, when they’re in it to win it they’re a speedy pair across some of the toughest courses out there.

The final phase is another chance for Cavalier Crystal to show off her careful jumping, leaving the colored poles up far more often than not, although an uncharacteristic 4 penalties in their last run at Thoresby broke her streak of clear rounds that had been running since 2021. Hopefully that was just a season-opener blip and she’ll be right back on form and channeling her Burghley success as she takes on Badminton.


5: Tom Rowland and Dreamliner (GBR)

It really feels like it’s all about to happen for Tom, who diligently put in the work and got himself plenty of mileage at the five-star level before getting the ride on the Chamberlayne family’s Dreamliner, who was previously piloted by Oliver Townend, Padraig McCarthy, Jonty Evans, and Emily Young-Jamieson. The horse has always been a talent, but perhaps one that had gone under the radar, and much the same can be said of Tom. The two together, though, have clicked in a way that suggest they’re both about to reach new heights and that, maybe, all roads led to them coming together.

That might be quite a sentimental way of looking at it, but don’t take our word for it – you’ll be able to see the fun they have together, and the pride they take in their job, for yourself across the phases. We’ll be looking for a first-phase mark of 32 or thereabouts, but really, all focus will be on Saturday and their biggest challenge as a partnership yet. We’d expect a handful of time penalties to go with their clear (the gelding went clear inside the time in his sole five-star at Luhmühlen with Oliver, although that’s a different type of track), although a debut five-star as a team can sometimes throw some curveballs as horse and rider really get to know one another at a truly nuanced level.

On Sunday, we’re placing out bets on a clear round – they’ve been putting a lot of work in on this phase and it’s paying off. They’ve had four consecutive FEI clears. In any case, tune in to watch a pair at a turning point, and to back the very committed family who bred and own this horse, too.


6: Wills Oakden and Arklow Puissance (GBR)

Though Arklow Puissance’s five-star debut here last year didn’t quite go to plan, with an elimination for a rider fall on cross-country, the former Oliver Townend ride returned to the top level at Burghley in September and proved exactly what he’s made of, taking eighth place after a quick and decisive cross-country round.

That’s the phase in which he really excels, and because the first phase still tends towards the upper-30s, and sometimes the low-40s, he really needs a tough cross-country challenge to allow for some serious climbing room. That suits Wills, too – the Scottish-based rider has trained with the likes of Ian Stark and Andrew Nicholson, and it’s easy to see their influence in his measured, bold, relaxed way of throwing down remarkable cross-country rounds.

We might not see another top ten finish for this horse this week, simply because he might not be able to climb as much as he did at Burghley if he starts in the high 30s, but top twenty seems inevitable and a super cross-country round almost guaranteed. Tune in to both of Wills’ rides for a bit of a masterclass in how to do it.


7: Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg TSF (USA)

Tsetserleg certainly needs little introduction to the everyday eventing fan: he’s been partnered with Boyd Martin since the 2016 season, and together this pair has traveled the world. Most notably, Boyd and “Thomas” won individual and team gold at the 2019 Pan American Games, traveled to Tokyo for the postponed 2020 Olympics, earned team silver at the 2022 FEI World Championships in Italy, and have finished as well as fourth place at this level (Kentucky – 2022).

Boyd teetered on the fence of taking Thomas to Kentucky versus Badminton, and with the extra “bye week” in between the two events could well send either Thomas or stablemate On Cue on a plane to England if he happens to encounter early trouble this weekend. At 17, Thomas is well-versed in the task at hand and is another horse that stands to compete for the top of the podium in Kentucky.


8: Pippa Funnell and Majas Hope (GBR)

Dear Hope is such a stalwart campaigner at the big ones – so much so, in fact, that his last five consecutive FEI runs are all at the CCI5* level. He’s seventeen now and knows his job so well that he doesn’t need lots of CCI4*-S runs to get him ready to pop round a major; he can prep with a national run or two and then come out swinging.

We last saw him at Burghley, where he finished sixth, and at Badminton last year, he was tenth. The year before, he did the Kentucky and Burghley double, finishing 14th and 16th, respectively, and the year before that, he sailed around the pop-up Bicton five-star (wasn’t the pandemic a weird time?) for sixth place. He’s also jumped clear around Badminton in 2019 and Burghley in 2018, giving him an absolutely spotless record at five-star. What a boy!

He’s a funny sort on the flat; sometimes, he really comes out and gets it, and pops an easy sub-30 on the board, and sometimes, he’s just a touch awkward and can go mid-30s. The high-20s are definitely more frequent though, as Pippa knows him like the back of her hand these days, and rides him in a hugely sympathetic way in this phase. He’s prone to a rail or two on Sunday, and he wouldn’t necessarily be the fastest cross-country horse in the world, but he’s such a solid citizen that another top ten is absolutely doable for him. He’s just fun, you know? And we love to see Pippa having a jolly time with a horse she loves.


11: Max Warburton and Monbeg Exclusive (GBR)

Rookie alert! Badminton will be Max Warburton and Monbeg Exclusive’s first crack at th 5* level. Max and Monbeg Exclusive had a hit or miss 2023 season, ranging in placings from 5th to 38th. At just 25 years old, Max has an impressive FEI record with more than 30 4* attempts under his belt. Max was part of the Young Rider Programme with the Wesko Equestrian Foundation, which aims to support young eventers as they transition from amateurs to professionals, but now runs his own yard.

At 13 years old, Monbeg Exclusive, barn name “Exclusive,” is really stepping into his prime. Capable of dressage scores in the high 20s, Exclusive is more likely to earn scores in the low-30s for the first phase of competition. The bay Irish Sport Horse tends to be bold on the cross country course with only one obstacle fault on his record with Max in the saddle, but he does tend to cross the finish line with some time faults. As long as Max puts the pedal to the metal and keeps the rails up in show jumping, this pair could have a very successful first 5* event.


12: Sam Watson and SAP Talisman (IRL)

It’s been nine years since Irishman Sam last competed at Badminton, and last year, he returned to Burghley after a break of eleven years – which feels somehow totally incorrect, because we’re so used to having him around all the time that it really does feel like he’s been on the roster every year. That’s partly because he’s a steadfast member of the Irish team, and has competed at the 2022, 2018, 2014, and 2010 World Championships, the Tokyo Olympics, and six senior European Championships, but it’s also because, as co-founder of EquiRatings, we’re used to seeing him in a shirt and tie at whatever majors he’s not competing in, and we hear his voice all the time, too, on the Eventing Podcast. And so, actually, the return feels inevitable now that he’s got a real ‘Big B’ horse in his yard again in blood-type – and perennial galloper – SAP Talisman.

Talisman finished thirteenth at Burghley last year after adding just 0.4 time penalties – a solitary second – across the country, which shows you how good and quick he is in this phase. Blink and you’ll miss them, but try not to, because they’re such a fun showcase of ‘old school’ cross-country. This is a horse who’s been produced to have a fifth leg, and Sam trusts him to make the calls when things don’t quite go to plan, with super results. That makes him an excellent climber – necessary, because he’s still a high-30s sort of horse and the final phase tends to be tricky, too. He had four down at Burghley, but was clear in last week’s CCI4*-S at Ballindenisk, so we suspect that Sam has been a busy boy over the winter. This might not be your winner but it could be your Glentrool Trophy pair, and there’s a very good chance they’ll be the fastest, most decisive round of the day on Saturday. And that’s what we’re all here for, right?


13: Felix Vogg and Cartania (SUI)

Swiss Olympian Felix returns to Badminton for a second consecutive year with Cartania, who made her five-star debut here last year and finished a very respectable fifteenth place – proving that she’s tough, gritty, and able to cope with difficult conditions.
Those conditions, we hope, will be rather improved this year, despite a tricky spring and going that’s probably not fast or firm, and so it’ll be great fun to see how she’s developed from her experience.

Felix, who’s trained extensively with Michael Jung, has been a mainstay of the Swiss team for many years, and is a five-star victor in his own right, having won Luhmühlen in 2022 with Colero – the first Swiss five-star winner since 1951, and on his 31st birthday, too. All that to say that he’s excellent under pressure, which he proved last year: Cartania’s final FEI prep run at Oudskarpel CCI4*-S saw the pair technically eliminated, but they still powered on to put in that super performance here. After that, they went to Strzegom CCI3*-S in September, but retired on course.

This season, they’ve been seventh in Montelibretti’s Nations Cup CCIO4*-S and jumped a steady clear around Strzegom’s CCI4*-S, so they come in on jollier form. They should start in the low-30s, and while Cartania’s not the fastest horse in the field, she’s a stayer, so keep an eye on them on Saturday. On Sunday, they’re prone to a rail, and had three at Badminton last year – but that was likely influenced by Saturday’s extraordinary exertions. They could fight for a top ten placing, if all goes well for them.


14: India Wishart and Diamond Sundance (GBR)

British up-and-comer and Wesko Foundation beneficiary India and eighteen-year-old Diamond Sundance alike make their Badminton debut this week, though it’s not a first five-star for the pair – they finished 27th at Pau last year, and the gelding also tackled the French five-star in 2020 with owner Rosa Onslow, finishing 30th.

This is a huge milestone for India, who’s previously worked for Padraig and Lucy McCarthy and is now based with Pippa Funnell at The Billy Stud. She’s been working hard to make her mark on Senior competition after a successful young rider career, which saw her finish the best of the Brits at the 2016 Young Rider Europeans with former ride The Masters Harry, and she was a prolific Student Rider, too, competing at the World Finals while completing her Geography degree at Birmingham.

A mid-30s starting point is a reasonable enough aim for this pair, who managed just that at Pau and have also delivered scores either side of that at four-star. Really, though, this is all about Saturday and the valuable experience it’ll provide to India as she develops her career. This pair hasn’t had a single international cross-country jumping penalty since teaming up in mid-2022 – that’s ten consecutive FEI clears. While they didn’t run cross country at their intended prep at Thoresby, which means they’ve not run an FEI event since Pau last year, they do have good, steady runs at Tweseldown OI and Burnham Market Advanced under their belt this spring to set them up.


15: Zara Tindall and Class Affair (GBR)

While this will be Zara Tindall and Class Affair’s sixth 5* event, it will be their first time at Badminton as a duo. We can see anticipate an impressive dressage, with the pair typically scoring in the high 20s or low 30s, and only occasionally have a rail on the last day, some inconsistencies cross country has resulted in early retirements at the Burghley 5* in 2022 and 2023, as well as an elimination at Burghley in 2019. However, we’ve seen this pair finish in 15th at Kentucky 5* in 2023 after a clear cross country, and they have an impressive 4* record, with three top ten results in 2023, including a 3rd place finish in the 4* at Bramham.

As they turn to their Badminton debut as a partnership, they’ll be looking to carry another clear cross country round into the 5* level, which could leave them competitive towards the top of the field!


16: Bubby Upton and Cola III (GBR)

It is hard to believe that at 25, Bubby already has six 5* starts already under her belt. Oh, and a degree, a cupboard full of Pony, Junior and Young Rider silverware and a couple of U-25 National Championships titles to boot. Not to mention that in August last year, she didn’t know if she would ever walk again – let alone ride, after a freak accident on a young horse at home. Yet here she is, lining up for her third Badminton, with Cola III, a horse only intended to take her through Young Riders. Continually defying the odds, the pair were 12th at their first 5* back in 2021 at Pau, and although a surprise run out at their first Badminton in 2022 left them way down the leaderboard, they redeemed themselves in fine style last year, finishing up in 8th place. They were also 14th at Burghley in 2022, and may well have bettered that result in 2023, had it not been for Bubby’s fall.

Their cross country record is somewhat exemplary: prior to that annoying blip at Badminton, their last cross country jumping faults were waaaaay back in 2018, and Cola is increasingly reliable in the first phase, too: they were 2nd in the CCI4*-S in Kronenberg this spring, adding nothing to a dressage score of 25.8. There is every chance that these two could finish in the top 10 once again, and there will barely be a dry eye in the house if that is so, after all that Bubby has been through.


18: Kylie Roddy and SRS Kan Do (GBR)

At first, the international record of Kylie and ‘Gorgeous George’ might look like a bit of a mixed bag, but actually, this pair are at their very best at the five-star level: they’ve been eleventh and fifth at Pau, and sixth at Luhmühlen. Their other five-star start was their sole prior crack at Badminton back in 2022, when they cracked the 30-barrier on the flat and then looked exceptional across the country until the gelding lost both front shoes and Kylie opted to pull him up at the tough Vicarage ditch line rather than risking an injury, a run-out, or a loss of confidence.

Sometimes, things are just a bit unlucky, and that was one of them – but if George’s run around Eric Winter’s track to that point is anything to go by (which, obviously, it is), then the pair are well up for putting on a jolly good show this week.
They’ve gone sub-30 in two of their four five-star tests so far, but even if they don’t, we shouldn’t see them go higher than a 32 – their 36.4 at Thoresby in March, after which they withdrew from the competition, feels like a dismissible outlier.

If you’re trying to get a non-horsey parent, partner, or friend to take an interest in what you’re obsessively following this week, SRS Kan Do’s ownership is always good for getting people to pay attention for a moment: he’s owned by the actor Michael C Fox and his family, and Michael himself evented him to BE100 before his career took root and he was unceremoniously banished from participating in any unnecessary high-risk activities. You can catch the fruits of that trade off in Downton Abbey, in which Michael plays footman Andy, and you can also give Michael’s music a listen wherever you get your tunes – he’s in an Americana-inspired two-piece called Michael & Michelle with fellow Downton actor Michelle Dockery (or Lady Mary, for the fans).


19: Sammi Birch and Finduss PFB (AUS)

‘Loopy Louis’, as he’s fondly known at home, makes his fourth five-star start at Badminton, having finished eleventh on his debut at the level at the pop-up Bicton fixture in 2021, 25th with a quick clear at Badminton in 2022, and starting, but not finishing due to a horse fall, Burghley later that year.

British-based Aussie Sammi sat most of the 2023 season out as she was pregnant with daughter Milly, and in her absence, New Zealand’s James Avery took the reins with Louis – a transition that was no doubt helped by the fact that his fiancé, Holly Woodhead, used to pilot the gelding herself. When Sammi returned to the saddle in time for the CCI4*-L at Blenheim at the tail end of last season, it was evident that she was returning absolutely full of zeal for the sport she loves. She and Louis took eighth place, finishing on their dressage score of 34.4 – one of the gelding’s best ever scores, as he often finds the first phase a touch overwhelming.

While they won’t necessarily be vying for a win here, a repeat of the razor-sharp focus of that Blenheim performance would make them strong contenders for a top-twenty finish. Either way, they’re a fun pair to cheer on, particularly inspiration Sammi, who battled through a breast cancer diagnosis, and subsequent chemotherapy and major surgery, in 2018 and never once let the bad hand she’d been dealt take away her warmth and joy in what she does.


20: Tom Crisp and Liberty and Glory (GBR)

They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, and in a roundabout sort of way, poor Tom learned that at Badminton last year. In the midst of a gruelling day of cross-country with tough conditions that saw lots of horses tiring and pulled up on course, it was a balm for the soul to watch Tom and his tiny homebred, Lori, skipping around the course and skimming over the top of that tricky ground. It was almost as though the further the little mare went, the easier she found it, and by the time she got to the Lake, which was practically on the home stretch, everyone in the crowds was willing the pair to try to catch that monstrously difficult optimum time. But then – horror of horrors – after a big, bold jump into the drink, Lori just about went into orbit over the huge corner in the water and Tom, who was suffering from a hernia that he hadn’t got round to having surgery on just yet – couldn’t quite use his core strength in the way he ordinarily can. Off he popped, and there the dream ended – but rather than feeling sorry for himself, he decided to make everyone’s ticket purchase worth it, and, face down in the mud, started a comedy swimming impression as his feisty little mare grinned at her fans and cantered happily around the edge of the lake.

This year, we hope, he’ll stay on, and his newfound squillions of fans will be hoping for much the same. There’s so much to cheer for here, beyond that brilliant, silly sense of humour – Tom’s a bit of a cool character, as is his entire family, who all chip in at events. He’s a firefighter in his free time, and built his family home by hand by himself; his wife, Sophie, evented Lori’s dam to Advanced and started the little mare’s career; his in-laws own the mare, who’s named Liberty and Glory because she was born on the fourth of July; his kids are called Harry, Hermione, and Voldemort (just kidding, it’s Hugo, and he hated that joke when I said it to him when he was about eight so I’m sure he won’t be thrilled about it now, either); and, of course, that gutsy, gritty, generally slightly rage-y little mare is just about the coolest thing on legs and jumps for fun. Don’t worry too much about watching their dressage test; tune in for the next two phases and have the time of your life cheering them along as they climb to the top ten, as they have at Burghley and Pau.


21: David Doel and Galileo Nieuwmoed (GBR)

We’ll just float this idea gently here now, but hear us out: we reckon, or at least I, Tilly Berendt, writer of this specific entry in this form guide, I reckon, wholeheartedly, that this might be David’s year. Lord knows he and Galileo Nieuwmoed have the form: they’ve been sixth here in 2022, fourth at Pau the same year, eighth at Kentucky last spring, and second – oh man, and what a close second, by less than a penalty – at Burghley in September. Olympic year Badmintons are strange and nebulous and wonderful things where people and horses become superstars because the horses that do 21s in the first phase are generally waiting for the summer to shine, and while David and Galileo have proven that they are absolutely, totally capable of making it happen in any company, this little factor can only help.

They’ll start the week on a low-to-mid-30s score, although at Pau in 2021, they did break the 30 barrier. But no matter – come cross-country day, they’ll make up some serious ground on the leaderboard, because if you were to crunch the numbers, you might just find that they’re one of, if not THE, most reliable and quick cross-country partnerships in the line-up. In 28 FEI runs together, they’ve only ever had one round marred by a cross-country jumping penalty – and cumulatively, they’ve racked up just 35.6 time penalties across their entire career. To put that in terms that might knock your socks off: they’ve been clear inside the time 18 out of 28 times, and 8.8 time penalties is the most they’ve ever added in a run. And that 8.8 is a serious, serious outlier.

Their final day performance will be the one moment we all bite our nails a bit. To be totally fair to them, they’ve put in some serious work and it’s showing – they’ve had six FEI clears in a row and look great in this phase. But in 2022, they led Pau after cross-country and lost the win when tipping the final rail. We don’t see David letting that happen again – and if he can pull off the win he deserves, he’ll likely be one of the most popular winners ever. He’s probably the nicest man in eventing, he balances his riding with helping with the family ice cream business in rural Wiltshire, and he calls his horse Nobby at home, because “he’s such a nob!” But really, they’re the best of pals, even if Nobby likes to chew people recreationally and even if, as lore goes, David originally turned down the ride because he didn’t fancy him as a top horse.


22: Georgie Goss and Feloupe (IRL)

Welcome back, Georgie: the last time we saw her at Badminton, it was pre-pandemic, and she had a different surname (Spence) and a different nationality (British). Now, she’s a married mama with an adopted flag and an exciting five-star debutant in Feloupe.

Feloupe, who was produced to three-star and the Seven-Year-Old World Championships in 2019 by Australia’s Ben Leahy, has been a quiet talent with some undeniable results as she’s climbed into the top levels. She’s a naturally efficient mare, and smart on the flat, too, often slipping down into the high-20s at four-star. Showjumping remains a work in progress – she’s not jumped a clear in an FEI competition since mid-2022, and generally averages two rails – and, as with any debutant, there’s a question mark over whether she’ll pin down the clear across the country. But to her credit, she’s not had a 20 since 2022, when she stepped up to CCI4*-L at Bramham, and this year, she’s looking seriously game and focused. A fun horse to follow as she prepares to make her long-awaited step into the spotlight – and it’s always fun to watch Georgie, who first rode here at 19 and at 20, piloted two horses around inside the time.


24: Meghan O’Donaghue and Palm Crescent (USA)

Meghan O’Donoghue and Palm Crescent’s 2024 season is off to a great start, with a long awaited and well-deserved podium finish at the Carolina International CCI4*-S at the Carolina Horse Park in March. Meghan and “Palmer,” owned by the rider and William Duhring, have been together for many years, as she got the ride on the big bay off-the-track Thoroughbred in 2015 when he was just nine years old. Nearly a decade later, this pair is still going strong, although Meghan knows time is not on their side. “You know, he’s 18. And you sit back and you’re like, ‘Man, I wish I had like, five more years. I’m just lucky to be here and have this event with him, and whatever happens is icing on the cake,” she said at Carolina International.

Like many Thoroughbreds, dressage isn’t Palmer’s best phase, but he pulls respectable scores in the low to mid-30s, with the occasional sub-30. However, don’t count out Meghan and Palmer just yet, as they have a good shot at the top ten, as long as they put the pedal to the metal and go for speed on Saturday. Show jumping tends to be Palmer’s best phase. He has the occasional rail or two, but tends to be near bang on the time, showing strength where many rides suffer. Realistically, look for these two in the high end of the middle of the pack, although I hope to see them with a well-deserved top ten finish.


25: Alice Casburn and Topspin (GBR)

Few riders channel the ineffable spirit of the pony novel heroine quite as convincingly as Alice Casburn, who, at just nineteen years old, made her five-star debut at Pau in 2021, finishing in the top twenty. Now, she’s in her 22nd year, and she’s not slowed down a jot: since that top-level debut, she’s taken a top-twenty place at Badminton in 2022, fifth place at Burghley the same year (with a bronze medal at the Young Rider Europeans in between the two, for good measure!), another top twenty at Badminton last year, despite a very rare 20 penalties, and seventh place at Burghley to round her 2023 season out.

Even better? All of this has come with the excellent Topspin, who still lives at home in the stable he was born in. Alice’s mother, Caroline, competed his grandmother to Advanced, and while he was initially deemed too sharp for petite Alice to take on in her early teens, she eventually convinced mum to let her have a go. And what a shout that was!

This pair’s first phase remains their sole weakness; they’ll start the week with a mid-to-low-30s score, but don’t write them off for that. They’ve previously won the Glentrool Trophy for the biggest climb up the leaderboard at Badminton, because they’re so quick and reliable across the country – and even a very rare 20 in their final prep at Burnham Market doesn’t cast doubt over this. If anything, it’ll serve to have them even more on the ball for the big week to come. And on Sunday? They’ve competed in Puissance classes previously, so you better believe they can jump. In 28 FEI starts, they’ve only knocked a cumulative five rails. That’s 24 clear rounds – although they’ve yet to jump a clear at Badminton.


26: Rosie Bradley-Hole and Romantic (GBR)

This will be Romantic’s first crack at the 5* level, though Rosie was previously here on True Blue II in 2022. ‘Romy’ and Rosie were 3rd in the CCI4*-L at Blair Castle last August, the fitness test of all fitness tests, so the distance shouldn’t bother them this weekend. Ably assisted by freelance groom Lee Honeysett, Rosie describes the Cevin Z mare as ‘a gorgeous mare with the biggest heart!’

Despite their success at the end of last season, it seemed as though Rosie might actually lose the ride, when Romy’s previous owners decided to sell her. Luckily, Sarah Wild stepped in to save the day, allowing the partnership to continue their successful trajectory through the levels.

Previously campaigned by Izzy Taylor, Rosie took over the reins in 2021 when she was just beginning her 3* career. A tidy show jumper – she rarely taps more than a rail – we can expect to see a dressage mark in the mid to high 30’s, though her jumping ability may well see her climb back up the leader board after cross country. Other than an uncharacteristic 20 at Bramham last June, Romy’s FEI cross country is almost flawless: a fall in the 3* at Blair in 2021 was the last time she faulted before that, and indeed, the first time she had ever faulted cross country to that point in her career. She might add a few time penalties, but a double jumping clear will still see this mare finish her first 5* in fine style.


27: William Levett and Huberthus AC (AUS)

It’ll be a third five-star start for Huberthus, and 61-year-old jockey Bill will be hoping that the third time really will be the charm: he debuted the gelding at the level here last year, but retired on course in those tough conditions, and then rerouted to Luhmühlen, but was eliminated for accumulated refusals. Their 2023 season closed out with a trip around Hartpury’s CCI4*-S in August, which they completed, albeit with a 20.

That trio of results might not put them among the most fancied in the field, but their 2024 season has been looking much sunnier so far: they started the year in Italy, contesting Montelibretti’s Prosecco Tour and securing a second-place finish in the CCI3*-S before logging a steady clear around the CCI4*-S a couple of weeks later. Then, they joined the masses at Kronenberg in the Netherlands a week after that, finishing with another steady clear.

Hugely experienced Bill, who first rode ‘round Badminton in 2000, won’t be coming here to try to nab a top placing with the twelve-year-old, but he does rate the gelding, and so this will all be a great education for him as he consolidates all he learned in his debut five-star season last year. Expect a mid-to-low 30s dressage and, if he gets there – which we reckon he will this time, even if steadily – a clear on Sunday, too, to put a bit of a climbing effort in at the final stage.


28: Gaspard Maksud and Kan-Do 2 (FRA)

We’ll admit we were a touch surprised to see Kan-Do 2 line up for his first five-star at Pau last season, just a few weeks after completing his first-ever CCI4*-L and picking up 20 penalties in the process. But gutsy pilot Gaspard, who’s been based in the UK for nearly fifteen years now, got the job done as the last rider on course, working through some pretty green moments and just activating a MIM clip in the process. Kan-Do will have learned a lot from the experience, in which he showed that he’s got no shortage of heart, and now it’ll be fun to see how he’s progressed as he takes on his Badminton debut.

His prep has looked good: he ran in the secondary CCI4*-S at Thoresby, finishing sixth, though the actual numbers of that outing don’t predict a competitive finish at Badminton, necessarily. He put a low-40s score on the board, was quick and clear across the country, and had three rails down showjumping. Still, this run is about experience and education, for both horse and rider – Gaspard, who finished sixth at the 2022 World Championships with Zaragoza, was making his own five-star debut at Pau last year, too, and this will be his first Badminton. Paris is the primary goal for this year with Zaragoza, and all the mileage he can get in the meantime is a fantastic bonus.


29: Sarah Ennis and Grantstown Jackson (IRL)

What a little hero this diminutive horse was at last year’s FEI European Championships, where the conditions were probably the most draining for horses as we saw at any event throughout the year. All day long, we saw the sport’s greats nursed home, racking up double or quadruple handfuls of time penalties as their riders took their feet off the gas, and when they crossed the finish, they pretty much all looked well out of puff. Except this chap, who was our pathfinder that day, and who merrily skimmed over the top of the gluey mud with his floaty little pony hooves, adding just 2.4 time penalties and climbing a whopping 49 places in doing so.

Sarah herself is a seriously speedy and gutsy cross-country rider – as anyone who ever saw her break the sound barrier with Horseware Stellor Rebound can confirm – with heaps of experience over the world’s biggest tracks. And although Grantstown Jackson picked up a 20 in his five-star debut at Pau last year, Sarah will, no doubt, have used that as a helpful learning moment. Certainly, in his four-star runs at Kronenberg and Ballindenisk this spring, the little gelding has looked back on super form.

Expect a high-30s or even a 40 to start, and a rail on Sunday – but if all goes as expected Saturday, this duo is a great contender for the Glentrool Trophy for the highest climber of the weekend.


30: Jessica Phoenix and Wabbit (CAN)

After Jennie Brannigan and Mia Farley put in beautiful performances aboard Thoroughbreds at the Defender Kentucky Three Day Event, there’s a big upswell of love and enthusiasm for this classic underdog of eventing. Wabbit is one of only two Thoroughbreds being championed at Badminton this year, the other being Meghan O’Donoghue’s Palm Crescent. Jessica Phoenix has campaigned Wabbit for the entirety of his FEI career, working hard to move him up through the levels since 2018.

Badminton marks Wabbit’s fifth attempt at the 5* level, with four completions under his belt. Like most Thoroughbreds, dressage isn’t his strongest phase, with scores usually in the mid to upper 30s, but that being said, Badminton is most definitely not a dressage competition. This rascally (wascawwy?) Wabbit certainly knows how to hunt the fences, with not a single single cross country jumping fault on his FEI record. Show jumping can be a bit hit or miss, although the gray gelding is starting 2024 strong with just one rail in the final phase. If he can pull off a repeat of his 2023 Burghley performance, look for this courageous Thoroughbred to finish the event just outside the top ten.


32: Florian Ganneval and Blue Bird de Beaufour (FRA)

Florian’s a high-flying amateur – he works as a farrier – and this will be his fifth five-star start with the sweet Blue Bird de Beaufour, who he’s produced throughout his international career. They debuted at Pau in 2021, picking up an 11 for a MIM activation but otherwise jumping clear, but were pulled up on course the following year when the horse began to tire. Last year, they headed to Luhmühlen, where they jumped a slow clear for 26th place, and then, in October, they returned to Pau, where they cracked the top twenty for the first time.
Badminton’s a very different test to Pau, but actually, these two have British form, too: they spent some time in the UK in 2022, training and competing, and while doing so, they jumped clear around Bramham’s CCI4*-L, which is arguably the biggest and toughest course of the level in the world.

Blue Bird isn’t a wildly fast horse at five-star, although in his early efforts at four-star he looked a rather quick type, but he is reliable – he’s never had a 20 or a horse or rider fall at an international. We’ll be looking at a mid-to-high 30s first-phase score and probably three rails down on Sunday, so don’t expect to see a placing here – instead, cheer this pair on for the fun they have together, because that’s what it’s all about, really.


33: Will Rawlin and Ballycoog Breaker Boy (GBR)

Will Rawlin has had Ballycoog Breaker Boy in the stables since he was a 4 year old, buying him from GHF Equestrian and bringing him over from Ireland. With eight years in partnership, developing all the way to the 5* level, these two have years of experience getting to know one another. So while this might be their first 5* together, they have years of success to set them up well. These two typically deliver quite a nice dressage test, and see scores usually from the upper 20s to lower 30s. Even more impressive, this duo has yet to see a cross country jump penalty on their record. However, a rail on the last day isn’t out of the question.

With a recent win in the 3* at Charlbury in 2023, and a top 20 finish at the Nations Cup in Arville, Will and Ballycoog Breaker Boy seem to be in a good position to impress going into their first 5*.


34: William Fox-Pitt and Grafennacht (GBR)

Long Tall William has been a bit of a tease recently, slyly hinting that this Badminton might be his last, and perhaps a retirement is on the cards. We hope not, because it would be deeply, unspeakably odd not having this lanky legend on the line-up at the big ones, but equally, he’s the most successful five-star rider of all time (he’s won fourteen of the things! One-four!!!) and probably does deserve a bit of a breather after all he’s done for the sport, really. So, with that in mind, cheer him on extra loudly, because there’s a slim chance we might not get to do it here again – unless, of course, sweet Lillie, the first mare he’s ever ridden at Badminton, goes so well that she convinces him to stick around for a few more years yet.

And, let’s be honest, she could very likely do just that. She finished second at Maryland in the autumn, and fourteenth at Badminton in the spring, and in those two career five-star runs, she’s proven that she’s game and gutsy and really tough, despite spending had the 2022 season on the sidelines.

She’s been a mid-20s scorer at five-star, so we’d be betting on a safe top five position after the first phase, and she was third quickest in the field at Maryland last year, so she’s definitely speedier than all those planned steady short-formats on her record would suggest. She’s only had cross-country jumping penalties once in her career, and that was pre-time-off. She should come into Sunday in a very good spot indeed – and then we start praying, because the final phase is a bit of a weak spot for her. She had a rail down at Maryland, and three down at Badminton – though that was after a particularly gruelling cross-country day. If William’s going to retire, though, it would be nice for him to do it on a high – although that high might make him rethink the whole idea.


35: Tiana Coudray and Cancaras Girl (USA)

It’s a warm welcome back to Badminton for Tiana Coudray, who last competed here a decade ago with her Olympic partner, Ringwood Magister. This time, her partner is the teeny-weeny, but packed with presence, Cancaras Girl, who made her own five-star debut at Burghley last season, though did not finish.

It might not be the illustrious start the pair had hoped for for the mare’s top-level debut, but hopefully, it’ll have been a foundational one that will see her buoyed to greater success this week. Certainly, the mare is capable: she was ninth in Bramham’s achingly huge and tough CCI4*-L in 2022, and Tiana’s an enormously capable jockey, too. Beyond competing at the 2012 Olympics, the longtime British-based American was previously a three-time USEA Young Rider of the Year, a gold and silver medallist at the 2004 and 2008 NAYRC, and she’s a stellar producer of young horses, too.

‘Nana’, who was a spontaneous Facebook purchase and didn’t even until she was seven, would be just as happy in a rocking chair working on a knitting project (figuratively speaking, of course, because knitting needles are pretty tricky to wield when you have hooves) as she is eating up mammoth tracks. On paper, a few educational days in the office probably don’t have her down as a statistical contender, but actually, if she can throw down a 32 as she did at Burghley and then nail the quick clear she did at Bramham, she’s probably only due one rail on Sunday and could, all in all, deliver a very respectable final placing. Is that a lot of ‘ifs’? Sure! But sometimes, ifs are the little bit of jet propulsion we all need to take off over the biggest fences.


36: Helen Martin and Andreas (GBR)

Helen’s brought ‘Alfie’ up through the levels from 1* and last year made the teams’ dream come true when they made it to Badminton for their CCI5* debut. Unfortunately, after impressing in the dressage, they had an unlucky fall out on cross country, but they’ve bounced back and are looking forward to giving it another go. Despite his eighteen years, Alfie is relatively low mileage having had breaks in his career due to a series of injuries. But with sound management at home and a supportive co-owner, the patient approach has paid off. Their biggest result came in the 4*-L at Kronenberg in 2022, where they finished on their dressage of 36.7 to take the win. For sure, a clear cross country round is well within this pair’s grasp based on their form, and there’s every chance that Alfie will leave the poles up on the final day.

Going into a competition like Badminton, having a dependable partner like Alfie has got to be a huge confidence boost, and with a whole team of cheerleaders behind them, plus the experience they gained last year, this pair are set up to achieve the 5* finish they’ve been working for. It’s a special event for the team, being based so close that Alfie can smell the cross country turf, and it would be cool to see them complete this time around. One thing’s for sure, he’ll be putting his best foot forward having been shod by Helen’s farrier husband, who’s shoeing seven of the Badminton entries and hoping for a win of his own – the Farriers’ Prize, which he judged last year.


37: Georgia Bartlett and Spano de Nazca (GBR)

At just 23 years old, Georgia will be one of the youngest riders to leave the start box at Badminton this year, but remarkably, this will be her second time at the event. She and her long term partner ‘Nono’ made their debut here last year, although they came home early after opting to retire on the cross country, despite a promising dressage of 31.2. Still, the experience clearly did not phase them, rounding out their season with an 11th place finish in the CCI4*-L at Blenheim in September.

Georgia, who was part of the silver medal winning team at both the 2018 and 2019 Junior European Championships, has come up through the levels with Nono, and describes him as her ‘best friend.’ 6th in the Open Intermediate at Kelsall Hill in April, they also had a successful skip around the CCI4*-S in Kronenberg earlier this Spring too, lowering just two coloured poles.

Capable of a smart dressage test, with marks usually hovering around the low 30’s, Georgia – who trains with Caroline Moore – will no doubt be hoping to post a similar first phase score to last year. Nono has also proven himself to be a careful showjumper, rarely lowering more than a pole or two, so providing all goes according to plan on the cross country, there is no reason why these two shouldn’t finish their weekend in a very respectable position indeed, and lay to rest the ghosts of last year.


38: Cosby Green and Copper Beach (USA)

This will be the second time at 5* for Cosby Green, Team USA’s hottest young star. Based with Team Price at Chedington since March last year, Cosby and Copper Beach tackled their first 5* together last Autumn at Pau. That was an impressive start to Cosby’s 5* career; they finished the week in 16th place . ‘Sean’ is no stranger to the level, having competed at the level with previous jockey Buck Davidson. Still, he and Cosby have forged quite the partnership since she took the reins back in 2020 and have enjoyed several successful runs together since they arrived on European soil. Along with that top 20 result at Pau, they were also top 20 in the CCI4*S at Mallow and top 10 in the CCI4*S at Little Downham. Cosby was the ‘Best placed Rookie’ at Boekelo last October too, with another promising ride of hers, JOS UFO De Quidam, so one might say that she has learned a lot during her time with Tim and Jonelle.

Cosby’s only gripe with the UK is the weather – admittedly it has been almost none stop rain since she arrived here – so her main hope for Badminton week is that the sun shines, something we will all be joining her on. Of the things that she can control though, she says “my aim is to put in three solid phases that reflect all the progress we’ve made over the winter. Sean is going better than ever, so I really want to give him the ride he deserves. I also want to enjoy the weekend, and have fun with my best friend!” Cheers to that, Cosby!


39: Kristina Hall-Jackson and CMS Google (GBR)

Best Christmas present ever, Google made her CCI5* debut at Burghley in 2022 and contested both of the British top-level events last season. At last year’s notoriously tricky Badminton, she hunted her way ‘round the cross country, and despite a couple of green errors she really showed her mettle when the going got tough, finishing up in 29th place and highest placed British Badminton first-timer. They went on to Burghley in the fall and finished just outside the top-20, again having an educational 20 out on course. But 5* experience adds up and Kristina will be coming out this time around in the hunt for the clear cross country round that’s eluded them thus far. We can expect them to be in the low-30s after the first phase, and despite having her own style when it comes to galloping across the country — “She’s a bit of a truffle-snuffler,” Kristina says — this pair are a real team, and having been together since 2017 Kristina’s used to Google’s quirks. She’s generally a clean jumper on the final day, as she showed at Burghley last season, although the odd pole falls occasionally, as it did at Badminton last season.

Kristina fell in love with Google the moment she sat on her and she’s a popular lass at home, happily fluttering her eyelashes to procure a Polo from passers by. Kristina is understandably very excited about her partnership with her mare and we’re excited to, hopefully, see their undeniable potential realized in a successful trip round Badminton.


40: Harry Meade and Away Cruising (GBR)

World No. 5 Harry Meade brings forward his lovely gray ‘Spot’ for the gelding’s ninth CCI5* start. Produced by Harry from a five-year-old, this stalwart top-level campaigner is making his fifth trip to Badminton, and with three Burghley completions and a Luhmuhlen under his cinch, he’s amongst the most experienced in the field. His best 5* performance came at Burghley in 2018 when he finished 6th. He was 16th at Badminton last year after a gutsy performance across the country in what can only be described as testing conditions, and with a 29 in the dressage they were in a good position coming into the final phase, but a disappointing show jumping round with three poles and two time penalties dropped them down the order. Spot thought he’d won though, taking stablemate Cavalier Crystal’s place in the prize giving and lapping it all up like a champ.

A truly remarkable cross country horse, it was a surprise to everyone when he had what was, really, an unlucky 20 at Burghley last year, and there’s no doubt that Harry will be leaving the start box gunning for the clear round that’s for sure well within this gelding’s reach; EquiRatings have him down as being amongst the most reliable cross country jumpers in the field and you have to go as far back as 2017 to find another 20 on his record. There’s a definite feeling that this horse hasn’t quite realized his potential at 5* yet, and it would be very cool to see this 17-year-old at the prize giving in his own right after such a successful top-level career.


41: Nicky Hill and MGH Bingo Boy (GBR)

Great Britain’s Nicky Hill has had a longtime partnership with MGH Bingo Boy, having taken over the ride on the 16-year-old bay Irish Sport Horse gelding in 2016 from fellow British rider Megan Cummings. Just a year later, Nicky and Bingo Boy were selected to represent Team Great Britain in the European Championship in Belgium where they finished ninth and won team silver. According to a 2023 article, “He’s my pet, he’s an absolute spoilt brat and I absolutely adore him so it’s lovely to have him back at this level,” she said. “He went a bit nervous, he’s not seen a lot of crowds for a while and he does get a bit excited by it so he was fine.”

The last time the pair tackled Badminton, they unfortunately had to withdraw prior to the show jumping phase. After a rocky 2021/2022, they bounced back in 2023 with a strong showing, including placing 5th at the Chatsworth 4*-S. Now, they’re once again set to tackle the bulky course at Badminton. Look for this pair to start off the week with a low-30s dressage score, followed by a handful of time faults on cross country, and a possible rail or two in the show jumping phase for a top 20 finish.


42: Louise Harwood and Native Spirit (GBR)

Native Spirit is a seasoned event horse, having traveled all over Britain, and competed at events like Blenheim, Bramham, and Burghley. However, this will be Native Spirit’s first crack at the fourth ‘B’ event– Badminton. Louise took over the ride on Native Spirit from fellow British rider James Robinson in 2021. From there on, “Native” and Louise have stuck to the advanced levels of eventing, with a few 3*s sprinkled in between. Louise is herself a very experienced rider with 22 5* completions under her belt, per her Instagram, as well as winning the Laurence Rook Trophy at Badminton.

While Native and Louise have been pulling solid dressage scores in the low 30s, with the occasional sub-30 score, cross country seems to be a tricky phase for them with a scattering of obstacle faults sprinkled throughout Native Spirit’s record. However, show jumping is where they really shine, hardly ever pulling down rails, and typically crossing the finishing line with barely any time faults, if any at all. Unfortunately, that English rain probably hasn’t helped them prepare for Badminton, as the 5* will be their first FEI outing of the year. They were able to complete three National level events prior to Badminton– Thoresby Park International Spring Eventing Carnival, Oasby, and Kelsall Hall International most recently, where they placed second. If they can repeat their Kelsall Hall performance, where they achieved their lowest dressage score yet and had no obstacle faults on cross country, they’ll be well-set for Badminton.


44: Kirsty Chabert and Opposition Heraldik Girl (GBR)

Kirsty’s one rider who’ll be delighted that Kentucky and Badminton have a week between them this year, which is just about enough time to shake off the jetlag after a busy with Classic VI stateside. Because really, who wants to be worrying about timezones and sleep patterns when you’ve got the Vicarage Vee to think about?

Kirsty, who was Badminton pathfinder a couple of years ago with Classic, returns this year with diminutive, sparky Opposition Heraldik Girl for the homebred mare’s sophomore five-star, and just her seventeenth-ever FEI run. She debuted at Pau last year, though didn’t complete – she had a horse fall at the first water. This spring, though, they’ve looked on very good form again at Kronenberg’s CCI4*-S, where they finished in twentieth place after a steady clear round, with one of their best tests – a 32.2 – and a classy clear showjumping round.
For the twelve-year-old, this won’t be a bid for competitive glory – instead, Kirsty will be intending to develop pint-sized Rocket’s education with an eye on the seasons to come. We suspect that patient development will be worth it; once Rocket gets the hang of a level, she tends to be quick, canny, and on the ball, and she’s a very good showjumper, to boot.


45: Arthur Marx and Church’Ile (FRA)

It’s a fourth five-star, and second Badminton, for young Frenchman Arthur, who distracted us all in the mixed zone last year when he turned up with fresh stitches along his cheekbone, looking for all the world as though he was being played by the late, great French actor Gaspard Ulliel in a biopic about himself. We’d watch it, is all we’re saying.

Anyway, Arthur’s journey of education at the top level has had a few bumps in the road so far, all of which are no doubt going to be used to throw down an excellent performance consolidating all that new knowledge at some point. He and homebred Church’Ile finished just outside the top twenty in their debut at Pau in 2022, despite picking up 20 penalties on course, but they failed to complete Badminton last spring, when Arthur was unseated in those tough conditions, or Pau last fall, where he was pulled up in wild circumstances. The pair were looking at their best on cross-country, with an exuberant home crowd cheering them on, when Arthur’s right stirrup broke about two-thirds of the way home. He and his horse gamely continued on, channelling vintage Mark Todd and looking excellent, but were stopped, much to absolutely everyone’s dismay.

Their return to Badminton, we hope, will be a redemption song for them in the phase that is, historically, their best. They’ve got 13 clears inside the time out of 24 FEI starts, and while their first and final phases aren’t super competitive, they’ve got what it takes to give us a great show on the biggest day. Allez, Arthur!


46: Jonelle Price and Grappa Nera (NZL)

Is Grappa Nera, or “Grape”, the forgotten hero of this year’s Badminton line-up? Perhaps – after all, she’s a five-star winner in her own right, having taken top honours at Pau in 2022. But after that, she had a year out, and for a horse who’d only just taken her turn in the spotlight, it’s tough in those circumstances to retain the fast-moving attention of the wider eventing fanbase. Now, though, she’s back, and ready to reclaim her supremacy.

Well, maybe. Her form since her return to FEI eventing in October is slightly chequered; she rain in the CCI3*-S at Bicton that month, but was retired in the dressage, and this season, she picked up a rare 20 on course at Thoresby’s CC4*-S. She’s had three decent, steady runs in OI classes, and Jonelle’s no slouch – she wouldn’t put a horse forward for Badminton that she didn’t think would benefit from the experience in some way. Whether that’s because she can fight for a competitive result or because the mare, who’s still only thirteen, will develop in her education from it, or both, remains to be seen.

This will actually be a third five-star start for Grape: she made her debut at the Covid Kentucky in 2021, jumping a reasonably quick clear for a top-thirty finish (there were a whopping 63 in it that year), so we know she’s got the staying power. Her first-phase performances can work against her, though – when she won Pau, she began her week on a very good 30.1, which was one of her best scores at any level, but Kentucky saw her start on a mid-30s mark and she’s not an infrequent visitor to the high-30s and low-40s. We’ve seen her put 40s scores on the board twice this season at Intermediate – but she’s definitely a mare who rises to an occasion. She’s a reliable enough showjumper, and spent the winter at the Spanish Sunshine Tour jumping CSI4* 1.35m classes. In short, this is a fascinating question mark of a horse, who’ll either be quite competitive this week or finish somewhere in the middle of the pack, hopefully having learned plenty so she can return to the five-star level next time and make a major impact again.


47: Richard Jones and Alfies Clover (GBR)

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises on last year’s cross-country day at Badminton was the moment when Richard Jones pulled up a very well-looking Alfies Clover. When it was clear how bad the conditions were, many of us in the mixed zone uttered the same thought: “this is going to be Richard’s year.” He and Alfie are so, so reliable and tough in this phase that it seemed like a sure thing – but then Richard proved what an admirable horseman he is by feeling a tiny nudge of tiredness in his horse that none of us could see, and although he will have known he had the chance to climb to a great spot on the leaderboard, he opted to put his horse first. If that’s not enough to make you a superfan, I don’t know what is.

Consider this, though: the man’s also a comeback king. In 2017, he managed to lose a finger at Bramham (yes, really), when his wedding ring got caught on his lorry as he stepped out of the living area. A year prior, though, he’d had a foot completely rebuilt, so, he figured he could probably get himself back in riding condition in time for Burghley a couple of months later. That was Alfie’s first five-star, and Richard himself hadn’t ridden round one in three years. They finished just outside the top twenty, despite the fact that Richard couldn’t really grip with his left hand at all – not to mention the pain.

Since then, they’ve kept all their body parts attached and have continued to establish themselves. They’ve twice been seventh at Burghley, have been tenth at Badminton, and consistently place in the super-tough, huge, and very terrain-y CCI4*-L at Bramham, putting any and all pre-pandemic learning curve 20s behind them. They’re pure old-school eventing, and in a year like this without the London 52s and the Lordships Graffalos, a door is definitely open for a pair like them to take a serious placing. It would be fitting for old-school cross-country prowess to be showcased in a big anniversary year for the event.


48: Luc Château and Viens du Mont (FRA)

Luc’s probably targeting Paris as an outside chance with his other top ride, Bastia de l’Ebat, but Badminton mount Viens du Mont has plenty going for him, too. He finished eleventh here last year on his first trip to Gloucestershire, overcoming those achingly tough conditions to romp home as fourth fastest of the day on cross country.

That’s pretty typical for this cool, game horse – in 22 FEI starts, he’s finished inside the time 14 times, and he’s only ever picked up cross-country jumping penalties once, at Burghley last year, making him one of the most reliable second-phase horses in this line-up and a serious dark horse to keep your eye on.

Okay, so the first phase won’t impress you much, Shania – we’ll be looking at a high-30s score, although at that off-color Burghley, he put a low-40s mark on the board. His showjumping performances can also vary pretty wildly, with three rails as common as none on his record. But if this ends up being another vintage cross-country year, and bearing in mind many of the serious low-scorers are sitting this one out in preparation for Paris, we could see Luc having another very interesting week. Maybe this is the moment he’ll crack the Badminton top ten with this horse, who’s already managed the feat at Pau.


49: Francis Whittington and DHI Purple Rain (GBR)

‘Prince’ has been produced by Francis from a five-year-old and is distinctive in his flashy, extravagant action. He’s a rangy horse who’s striking to look at but sometimes lets his anxious nature get the better of him. He stepped up to the CCI5* level at the pop-up event at Bicton in 2021, finishing 14th — had it not been for the four poles added on the final day, he would have been top 10. His dressage scores tend to be a reflection of his character, rather than his obvious talent. At Badminton last year he posted a 41 in the first phase, with Francis having to use all of his experience in the Main Arena atmosphere. At Burghley in the fall, he was able to keep it to 34.9. His cross country jumping record is notably clean — from 28 FEI starts, he’s got one 20 on his card and he’s been retired on course twice – once due to a tack malfunction and once, at Burghley in 2022, when Prince seemed to tire, activating a frangible device and Francis made the sensible call to walk home.

He was particularly impressive at Badminton last season; on a day when many horses found the ground incredibly difficult, Prince ate it up and seemed to thrive in the demanding conditions. He’s not the quickest across the country, in part due to his bouncy way of going, and the anxiety tends to return in the final phase — he rolled two poles at both Badminton and Burghley last season — but Francis really rides this horse sympathetically and they’re well worth a watch for the display of horsemanship that will be on show.


51: Lucy Latta and RCA Patron Saint (IRL)

This will be the first trip to Badminton for both Lucy and ‘Paddy,’ although there is no doubt her cousin Esib Power will have given her plenty of advice. Lucy has actually been based with Esib in County Meath for the last month in order to prepare for her 5* debut; she and Paddy are usually based at the family home in Wexford. Paddy is currently Lucy’s only ride – she juggles eventing with a full time job as brand manager for White Claw drinks (alcoholic sparkling water, in case you were wondering). Nonetheless, she and Paddy have achieved some impressive results over their competitive career, including 4th place in the CCI4*L at Blair Castle last year. They won’t be breaking any records in the first phase, with scores averaging mid to high 30’s, but having jumped clear around courses like Blair and Blenheim Palace, there is nothing to stop them having a very good day on Saturday, and making an impressive start to their 5* careers.

Lucy is well aware of the challenge that lies ahead, but remains positive and confident about their chances: “We have had a great preparation this Spring, so I am excited for the week ahead!” No doubt Paddy is preparing for the task ahead in his own unique style, too – according to Lucy, the 13 year old gelding, who is by legendary sire Grafenstolz, loves nothing more than a good nap, which, let’s face it, is the best way to prepare for most things in life.


52: Emma Thomas and Icarus (GBR)

A five-star debut at Burghley is always a bold choice, and when a younger rider makes it, we’ll admit that many of us in the media zone clench our bumcheeks a bit and just pray they’ll make smart decisions and come home safe and sound. So that’s what we all did when Wesko Foundation graduate Emma Thomas and her keen little Icarus left the startbox at the Lincolnshire fixture last September – and why we were so over-the-moon thrilled when they returned clear and with a very respectable 21.6 time penalties, having given a display of bold, brave, decisive cross-country riding. They went on to jump a super clear on Sunday, finishing eighteenth, which is a pretty phenomenal way to begin one’s five-star career, frankly.

Now, 24-year-old Emma and her eleven-year-old Dutch gelding will tackle their first Badminton, no doubt ready to channel the horse and rider who first made a young Emma want to try eventing – the bouncy ball Opposition Buzz and the remarkable Nicola Wilson. Vet school grad Emma has already proven she can overcome her horse’s somewhat chequered cross-country record, and we look forward to seeing that trend continue. They’ll start in the high-30s or low-40s, and probably add a rail or two on Sunday, but this is another educational and foundational stepping stone for both horse and rider.


53: Rosalind Canter and Izilot DHI (GBR)

Horses don’t come much weirder, or much more talented, than lanky ‘Isaac’. Reigning Badminton champion – and European Champion – Ros might not be bringing last year’s winner, Lordships Graffalo, out to play at the Big B this spring, but she’s still very sufficiently equipped to try to defend her crown.

Let’s try to break down the duality of Isaac, shall we? In his 21 FEI runs so far, he’s logged fourteen top-ten finishes, with nine (!) of those being wins. He’s picked up four of those wins at four-star, taking short-format titles at Bramham and Burgham in 2022, and at Blair Castle in 2023, before tackling the CCI4*-L at Blenheim and winning that, too. Then, he made his five-star debut at Pau in October – and also won that.

But he’s not a simple horse. He can be sharp and very spooky, which has sometimes cost him big-time – he was the dressage leader at Bramham’s CCI4*-L last summer, but had a runout in the first few fences when he took offence to the colourful ice cream cone decorations on the fence. Generally, the penalties on his record come from similar situations – and in a bid to ‘break the habit’ of spookiness, Ros has dialed right back on his schooling this winter. Now, she spends most of her time hacking Isaac, and if she’s going to school him on the flat, she’ll box him to a different venue to do it, so he’s always working in new environments. This year, she tells EN, he’s feeling better than ever as a result – and as we’ve seen this chap go sub-20 at four-star, he could well be our first-phase leader. The major question mark, really, lands on the atmosphere – will he rise to the occasion or lose his nerve when faced with the unique Badminton buzz?


54: Felicity Collins and RSH Contend OR (GBR)

This will be a sixth five-star, and third Badminton, for twenty-six year old Felicity and her longtime partner, Mickey. Their best placing here came on their debut at the event in 2022, when they finished 21st after adding just 15.2 time penalties to their first-phase score of 32.7, but they’ve also cracked the top ten at five-star at the Bicton pop-up in 2021.

This is a duo well worth following, because they’re very capable of a serious result. They’ll start the week on a score around 33, and they’re very quick across the country. They’ve got a point to prove after a late, frustrating rider fall at that hugely influential ditch and brush question that none of the horses read very well last year – and once they’re home clear on Saturday, they can really start laughing. They’ve had one rail since 2021 and are one of the most reliable competitors in the field in this phase.

Felicity’s got eventing in her blood: her late mother Vicky, who our community sadly lost at the start of this year after a long battle with illness, was a five-star rider, breeder, producer and trainer in her own right, and she and Felicity were business partners at their Sussex yard. This will be Felicity’s first five-star helming the ship solo, but she won’t be alone – the entirety of the British eventing family will be firmly behind her, and she’ll have her fiancé, Jonny Burfiend, a bonafide horse show boyfriend of the best sort, to lean on, too. And as for Vicky? Felicity will be able to find her in those moments when she herself has to dig deep and rise up, because that’s when she’s most her mother’s daughter.


55: Tom McEwen and CHF Cooliser (GBR) Withdrawn before Horse Inspection

We’re delighted to see the return of CHF Cooliser, known at home as “Eliza” or “Queen Elizabeth” because of her royal behaviour, who, before this year, was last seen at an FEI event at Burghley in 2022. She finished twelfth there, despite picking up 11 penalties for a MIM activation, and earlier that year, she was in the top thirty at Badminton. In 2021, when she made her five-star debut at Pau, she finished second.

This year, after her year’s sabbatical, she returned to international competition at Kronenberg, jumping tidily, but slowly, around the CCI4*-S for 39th place. It’s hard to make many predictions about her performance after this amount of time off; no doubt, Tom will have been working just as hard on the marginal gains as on the foundations of soundness in her quiet period, and so we could well see her look a bit more consistent in the first phase, where she’s delivered mid-20s and mid-30s scores at five-star, and in the showjumping, where she’s a bit of a one-or-none horse. She’s always been exceptional across the country, and that 11 penalties at Burghley is her only FEI cross-country jumping fault. She’s quick, though not the quickest in this field, and it’ll be interesting to see how Tom runs her in the circumstances.

This could well be a serious dark horse, or this run could be a fairly forgettable reintroduction to the top that serves to set her up for a very competitive Burghley or Pau instead. Stay tuned.


56: Grace Taylor and Game Changer (USA)

Originally, we’d planned to see Grace — daughter of British team selector Nigel Taylor and US Olympian Ann Sutton — make the trip to Kentucky a couple of weeks ago, but at the eleventh hour, she opted to stay on home soil and tackle her first Badminton. We saw her make her debut at the level last season at Burghley, where she had a week of mixed fortunes: in the first phase, she and Game Changer pulled out the best test of their lives, scoring a 28.9 to go into cross-country in seventh place. On cross-country, they were also excellent, jumping a steady clear for 17.6 time faults — but on Sunday morning, Grace withdrew before the final horse inspection, which was a disappointing end to such a promising start.

This week, it’s all about redemption — and while this pair might fly slightly under the radar, they’ll be great fun to watch as they meet the hallowed turf of Badminton. If they can start on the same sort of score as at Burghley, brilliant — generally, they’re much more of a mid-30s pair, but that test proved that both are excellent at stepping up to the plate when it really counts. Saturday will be a good and fitting challenge for them, and one they’ve proven they’re very ready for, with last year’s Burghley clear and a top-ten finish at Bramham CCI4*-L, too. This time, we look forward to seeing them in the ring on Sunday, where they may take a rail or two, but the taste of that first five-star completion will be no less sweet.


57: Harry Mutch and HD Bronze (GBR)

This is certainly not the first rodeo (or 5*, whatever) for Harry and his long term partner HD Bronze: they completed here back in 2019 – their debut at the level – were top 20 at the pop-up 5* at Bicton, and have started at Burghley several times, too. Now 18, the Limmerick gelding, was withdrawn at the eleventh hour last year, having developed an annoying niggle, seemingly overnight. He went on to have a successful season, finishing top 10 in the CCI4*L at both Bramham and Burgham, although they did retire on course at Burghley in September.
Wesko alumni Harry, who is based in the wilds of Northumberland, has placed extra emphasis on ‘Fernando’s’ fitness, conscious of his age, and keen to avoid any further ‘niggles.’

Describing him as ‘sensitive but tricky,’ Harry has worked closely with mentor Pippa Funnell to improve his dressage, basing with her for several weeks at a time over the years. His ability cross country makes up for whatever he might lack in the first phase – ‘he is a cross country machine,’ says Harry, and he certainly proved that at Bramham last summer, over one of the hardest 4*L tracks out there. His show jumping is consistent too, with rarely a pole or two falling on the final day. While these two might not break any records, it would be lovely to see them have a happy return to the level after a few issues at their last two Burghley runs and the last minute withdrawal here last year. Fingers crossed that Fernando gets one last hurrah!


59: Gubby Leech and Royal Harvest (GBR)

Royal Harvest came to Gubby’s yard for six weeks as a very naughty four-year-old… and never left. Now attempting his first 5*, ‘Bassett’ has clearly turned his life around, posting some impressive results over the years. Gubby describes him as ‘the most lovely horse, very intelligent, and very opinionated!’ With an incredible jumping ability, he is also ‘very capable on the flat, but also very sharp, and thinks he knows what is being asked of him before it is asked,’ hence a first phase score that can range from low to mid 30’s. As a result, these two won’t be near the top spot after dressage, but this is one speedy character: last year they were 5th in the CCI4*-S at Hartpury after finishing on their dressage score, having done the same thing to finish 9th in the CCI4*-L at Blenheim a year earlier.

‘A fantastic jump’ accompanies that speed – over the last two years, Bassett has knocked just two rails and if he can keep those knees up on the final day at Badminton, he could well climb up the leaderboard. Gubby describes the cross country as akin to ‘getting behind the steering wheel of a Ferrari and pressing “sport” mode,’ and as we all know, a speedy cross country round stands you in very good stead at Badminton. Fingers crossed Bassett and his wonky right ear have a successful debut at the level, and that he doesn’t pre-empt Gubby too much!


60: Jesse Campbell and Cooley Lafitte (NZL)

Cooley Lafitte – or ‘Henry’ – was sent to Kiwi Olympian as somewhat of a last resort: his owners felt that he had talent, but were struggling to eke it out of him. Even in his early days with Jesse he didn’t display too much enthusiasm for the sport and was nearly sent on a one way ferry back to Ireland. Still, if anyone can convince a horse to change their mind, it is Jesse.

Arriving in the UK at the tender age of 21 as part of the New Zealand High Performance squad, Jesse earnt his stripes with none other than Andrew Nicholson. He made his 5* debut back in 2015, at Luhmuhlen, and did so in fine style, winning the cross country prize when he completed the course bang on the optimum time. Henry, meanwhile, made his 5* debut at Pau last October, although a fall at the third water meant that their competition came to a premature end. Regardless, Henry has managed to jump double clear around the CCI4*L at Bramham on two occasions now, landing them within the top 20 on both occasions. He put in a similar performance at Blenheim Palace in 2022, so the challenge he faces on Saturday at Badminton shouldn’t trouble him too much.

Expect to see a dressage score in the mid to high 30’s, though a return to form cross country could see them inch their way back up the placings. Capable of a clear on the final day – Henry knocked just two rails last season – it is not guaranteed, so while they might not manage to maintain their place, Jesse will no doubt be happy with a completion, given that Pau did not quite go according to plan!


61: Alexandra Knowles and Morswood (USA)

Morswood is returning to British soil after a long hiatus. Originally ridden by Piggy March and Susie Berry, Morswood is no stranger to British Eventing, having completed events like Burnham Market and Barbury Castle. But since Allie Knowles took over the reins in 2018, the 16-year-old Chestnut Irish Sport Horse gelding has been pretty much relegated to North American soil, except for a trip to Pau last year, where he placed 18th. Allie describes him as, “He’s just been a total partner. He’s a real dude. He doesn’t always love dressage, but he gives us his best. We have our weaknesses, which has always been show jumping and sometimes it catches us out and sometimes it doesn’t. But he is an out and out amazing cross country horse and I have learned a lot from him.”

Fittingly known as “Ginge,” Morswood has started off his season strong with a good dressage score in the 4*-S at Stable View, but unfortunately he took down three rails in show jumping and was withdrawn before cross country. Historically, Ginge scores in the low-30s to high-20s in dressage, with his lowest score being a 26.1 in the 4* at Unionville. The brave Irish Sport Horse rarely has obstacle faults on cross country, but isn’t the fastest horse on the course, usually crossing the finish line with a handful of time faults. The show jumping phase is a different story, as the chestnut gelding usually puts the pedal to the metal in this last phase. For their first trip to Badminton as a pair, look for Ginge and Allie in the top 20, if not the top 15.


62: Emily King and Valmy Biats (GBR)

The most fun thing about this year’s Badminton is that it really does feel wide open – in this form guide alone we’ll have put forward about six winners. That means that from the word go, it’s going to be exciting, and unexpected, and packed with surprises, and because there are so many great characters to get behind, you won’t be short of cheering opportunities.

And so, with that, let us put forward another potential winner, this time in Emily King – daughter of eventing legend Mary – and her very cool French horse, Valmy Biats. They come to Badminton having won Thoresby’s Grantham Cup CCI4*-S for the second year running (the first pair ever to do so!) and ready to cast aside some Badminton demons.

If good eventing karma is a thing, Emily’s definitely one of the riders who deserves it this week. She pulled Valmy up on course last year, even though he looked brilliant and full of running, because she felt him start to tire incrementally and felt that pushing him on until he began to genuinely struggle would be unfair to him. She was, to that point, looking nearly guaranteed a healthy climb up the leaderboard.
That’s Emily, though: she is, at her core, simply a very good, empathetic horsewoman who truly adores her four-legged partners. That empathy and horse-first system means that sweet Val actually lives out in a field 24/7, where he might look like a bit of a hippo, but he’s miles happier than when he has to come into a stable. That also makes him naturally sure-footed, because he’s used to wandering up and down his hill in all sorts of ground conditions, and Emily gallops him on grass, too.

They’ve been eighth at Pau in 2022 and top thirty at Burghley last year after picking up 11 penalties at the Waterloo Rails. Their first phase is very, very good – they’re 25-or-lower scorers at four-star, but hover around 30 at five-star, and they’re good showjumpers, too. Saturday will be the big question: on paper, they’re more than capable of being hugely competitive, but Emily will need to push past any mental block leveraged by her run of rotten luck at this event. If she can do that, and we suspect she can, they can be right up there.


63: Holly Richardson and Bally Louis (GBR)

Holly and Bally Louis made their 5* debut last September, storming around the hallowed turf of Burghley to finish in the top 25. Not a bad effort for their first run at the level, but unsurprising given the grit with which Louis’ has tackled even the toughest of courses thus far in his career – “Ever since I did my first Novice on him, he has been unbelievable, he’s just flown up the levels and I’ve never come across anything that has phased him yet. Everything I ask him to do, he just keeps saying yes, and keeps jumping. We have had a few mistakes along the way, but it’s usually because I have made an error and fallen off him or something” – said Holly before Burghley this year, so the course at Badminton shouldn’t cause him too much trouble, either.

One thing that Louis does struggle with though, is the dressage – or namely his nerves and the resulting tension – so we are unlikely to see them too far up the placings after the first phase: expect a score in the mid 30’s. Still, there is no doubt that Holly will have been hard at work with trainer Melissa Chapman this winter to improve on their 36.9 at Burghley, so anything better than that will be a bonus for them personally. Another strong cross country performance should see them sitting comfortably within the top 25 again, another commendable result for this unassuming pair and all their connections and testament to what can be achieved through hard work and dedication.


64: Tim Price and Vitali (NZL)

Oh, sweet Vitali, the heartbreaker heartthrob of the pack. This is one heck of a horse, so let’s start with that – he’s a real contender for dressage leader (he was just that at Burghley last year, putting an 18.7 – yes, really – on the board), and he’s pretty likely to hold that lead on Saturday, too (he also did that at Burghley, adding 8 time penalties that he could afford by dint of that wicked lead). But on Sunday? That’s when we all hold our breath. This will be his fifth five-star, and he’s never been out of the top ten at the level – but he’s also never had more or fewer than three rails at it, either. He also had three down at the Tokyo Olympics. Mr Consistent indeed, but we’re sure Tim would like that consistency to reallocate itself somewhere more productive.

Vitali’s actually a very good jumper, but as Tim explains it, it’s a mental block: he’s a funny, quirky, sensitive little horse, and master of empathetic horsemanship Tim is always trying new techniques to help him settle and deliver his best in his trickiest phase. It looks, at the moment, like it might be working: they finished fourth in Thoresby’s Grantham Cup CCI4*-S with a clear showjumping round in a busy, tricky arena, but we’ve also dared to dream before, such as in 2022, when he showjumped clear and very well at Gatcombe en route to taking the British Open Championship title.

And so, if you’re bold enough to risk the emotional turbulence, here’s a horse you can put your emotional bet on – a horse who’s every inch a five-star winner in the making, but also, somehow, nothing close to a sure thing. But what a triumph of patient horsemanship it would be if they did it, right?


65: Arthur Duffort and Toronto d’Aurois (FRA)

Arthur Duffort brings seasoned CCI5* campaigner Toronto d’Aurois forward for his eighth top-level start and third Badminton, and after jumping clear across the country at last year’s wet and wild edition of the British 5*, he’s got to be feeling good as he goes into this year’s competition where, despite another wet spring in the UK, things are looking decidedly drier in terms of the ground conditions out on course. They picked up a fair few time penalties last time, but so did most, and their efforts on cross country day made themselves known in the show jumping, where they rolled five poles – he’s normally a four or eight kind of guy – but they finished up in 27th place at what had been a tough competition.

‘Toronto’ was produced in France up to 2* by part-owner and Arthur’s friend, Paul Gatien. The original plan was for the horse to be sold on, however, Toronto was so difficult that they couldn’t find a buyer and he ended up staying. A bit of a shy guy who’s easily spooked, his groom, Leonore Gignoux, says she would turn off the giant screen in the dressage arena for his test if she could. He’s typically mid- to high-30s in the first phase and, until the end of last season, had been reliable for clear jumping across the country; a 20 at Burghley saw them retire out on course though, so Arthur will be hoping to have put that behind them over the winter as he sets out looking for a sixth 5* completion with the 17-year-old gelding.


66: Daragh Byrne and Kilcannon Ramiro (IRL)

‘Kilcannon’ is owned by Daragh’s dad, James Byrne, who bought the gelding as an unbroken three-year-old from the Goresbridge sales. A steadfast supporter of both his son and his equine “child”, James has never missed a competition. Daragh says the horse is his dad’s “pride and joy”. He’s been brought along slowly through the levels, partly because he’s pretty enormous and so needed the extra time as he matured. He’s stepped up a level each year and came forward for his first CCI5* at Pau last season, where an unfortunate tip-off cross country means they’re looking for their first top-level completion at Badminton this year.

He’s generally mid- to high-30s in the first phase, but he’s pulled out a couple of low-30s results, namely a 32 on his way to winning at Ballindenisk in 2022 on his first attempt at the 4*-L level. He’s certainly no slouch across the country; in 21 FEI starts, he’s had jumping penalties only twice, once at Pau last season and then once back in 2021. He had an unfortunate fall on the flat in the 4*-S Nations Cup at Millstreet last year, but aside from those blips, his record is impressively clean. Based on form, it would be fair to say that show jumping is something he’s still working on, with faults in each of their runs bar a 1* back in 2018, but he kept it to one pole in his season-opener in the 4*S at Kronenberg this year. Daragh — and his dad — will no doubt be delighted if they could get a 5* completion on this horse’s record at Badminton, however it plays out.


67: Helen Bates and Carpe Diem (GBR)

This is a first Badminton for Helen and ‘Demon,’ the Contendro I gelding she bought as a very naughty four-year-old (hence the moniker). Although it took a while to convince him to play ball, Helen’s perseverance has paid off, and the two of them have come through the levels together, completing their first 5* in fine form in Pau last October, where a classy double clear saw them finish in the top 25. Described by Helen as a ‘fever dream,’ that performance was typical of these two, who manage to pull off a double clear more often than not. Over the last two seasons they have had just one rail, and he made light work of the cross country at Pau. They have jumped double clear on all of their starts this season, too.

Helen will be the first to admit that he doesn’t find the first phase quite so easy though – ‘he finds flying changes tricky,’ she says. Still, she has been working hard with trainer Kevin McNab, so hopefully they will be able to improve on the 37.7 they scored at the level in Pau. Indeed, their first phase score this season has averaged more towards the lower end of the 30’s, so if they manage to continue that form at Badminton, and tackle the jumping phases with their usual gusto, then another top 25 finish could be on the cards. Helen’s adorable dog Dora will be tagging along as chief cheerleader as well as Lydia Swan, who groomed for the pair in Pau. Here’s hoping that she is their lucky charm!


68: Selina Milnes and Gelmer (GBR)

The lead-up to Gelmer’s Badminton debut hasn’t necessarily been straightforward: Selina was sidelined at the start of the year with a skiing injury, which meant she handed the reins over to Austin O’Connor to get the season started. He piloted Gelmer around Tweseldown’s Open Intermediate, finishing twelfth, and Thoresby’s Advanced, finishing tenth, before Selina returned to competition for Burnham Market in April. There, she did dressage – a slightly disappointing 37.3 – and had two rails before opting to withdraw the gelding, and the next weekend, fared better at Kelsall Hil, where they had a steady clear in the Advanced/Intermediate.

This Badminton run will be Gelmer’s second five-star start; he made his debut at Pau last year, though it was an educational, rather than glory-covered, start to his forays at the top level. He put a 41.6 on the board to start, and picked up a 20 on course and plenty of time, and then wasn’t presented at the final horse inspection.

But we’ve also seen some very promising moments from him, including a 31 at Blenheim CCI4*-L in 2022. His scores do fluctuate in this phase, and his cross-country runs tend to be not enormously quick, though other than that Pau result, he’s never had a jumping penalty on cross country at an FEI event. On Sunday, he’s clear more often than not, but he does have a few two-rail rounds on his record.
It remains to be seen whether Selina will ultimately run at Badminton or decide to rethink her plan after a tricky spring, but if she does run, this will all be about developing her up-and-comer’s education.


69: Lauren Innes and Global Fision M (NZL)

This will be a third Badminton for full-time chartered accountant Lauren and Global Fision M – or Flipper, as he is known at home. Top 25 here last year, and again at Burghley in the Autumn, Lauren keeps Flipper at home, meaning that she can fit riding and training in around her full time job. Bought as a 5 year old from Brian Morrison, Flipper struggles to manage his nerves when in between the white boards – especially when there is a crowd. However, Lauren – who changed nationality to New Zealand in 2022 – has been working hard with Jason Webb to combat those nerves and keep him as calm as possible. She will no doubt be hoping that it pays off, and they can improve on last year’s dressage score of 46.4. Still, this is a horse that lives for the jumping phases; he skipped around the cross country here last year, despite the acres of mud, and did the same at Burghley later in the year. As Lauren says, ‘nothing is too big,’ hence their ability to climb back up the placings, even if they seem out of touch after dressage.

Debbie McDonald will be taking care of Flipper this week, and once again providing ‘lucky banana’ — complete with a drawn on face –- as his mascot, something of a tradition for Team Flipper! They may not knock the big names off the top spot, but expect another solid performance from Lauren and Flipper, and perhaps an even better finish than last year, if they can keep the nerves at bay in the first phase.


70: Gemma Stevens and Chilli Knight (GBR)

Though Gemma was achingly disappointed to have to withdraw her other ride here, last year’s sixth-placed Jalapeno, in the lead-up to the event, she’s got a peach of a ride to boost her spirits still in the hunt. And what a treat for all of us as eventing fans to get to see the return of Chilli Knight, winner of the one-off Bicton five-star in 2021 – the pandemic pop-up – back on form after sitting out a lot of 2022 and most of 2023.

Gemma’s a dab hand at slow, steady, careful rehabilitation, which she’s shown with Jala, and Chilli Knight’s progression back from the sidelines has been managed very similarly, helped along by Gemma’s proximity to the rolling Surrey hills, which have been a major player in developing strength. So far this year, Chilli Knight has been ‘furious!’, in Gemma’s telling, to have had to run in two four-stars with the handbrake firmly on, but the joy on both horse and rider’s faces at being back in action has been palpable. The handbrake will come off this week, which the son of 2015 Badminton winner Chilli Morning will be delighted about – and when he’s quick, he’s very quick. He didn’t pick up a single cross-country time penalty in his entire 2021 FEI season, which comprised five runs.

It’s always hard to put up a horse who’s been off the scene as a serious contender, because there are so many question marks – but if we follow our hearts, and a little bit our heads, it’s seriously tempting to put Chilli Knight forward as a top-ten finisher, quite possibly a top-five contender, and even – what a fairytale this would be! – a dark horse shout for a win. He’ll be up against it in the first phase, in which his 32-or-so score won’t compete with the likes of Izilot DHI, but this year’s course looks plenty tough and if we see a classic Chilli Knight run over it, he’ll make a tremendous upwards leap on the leaderboard. His final phase can be a touch risky, but Gemma spends a lot of time showjumping over massive tracks, and she’ll have all the tools at her disposal to try to fend off his tendency to a rail. At that Bicton five-star, he finished on his dressage score of 27.9 – if he did the same again at Badminton, that would be a seriously formidable result.


71: Libby Seed and Heartbreaker Star Quality (GBR)

This year’s Badminton line-up is a great showcase of high-flying amateur riders, and among those is Libby Seed, who balances her eventing alongside an intense job in the medical devices industry, where she works in the Vascular Interventional Radiology. She often has to ride ‘Angel’, as her gutsy mare is known at home, in the wee hours of the morning or late into the evening to fit everything in, but the juggling act certainly hasn’t slowed her roll.

This pair has two five-star starts under their belt so far: they made their debut at Badminton in 2022, finishing in the top 30 after a steady clear across the country and a final day clear, too. Last year, they returned to the top level at Pau, earning fourteenth place with a similarly steady clear on Saturday but losing out on a top-ten finish when they had a seriously uncharacteristic four rails down on the final day. Generally, we’d expect a clear – prior to Pau, they hadn’t had a rail in an FEI competition since mid-2021 – and so Libby’s no doubt been working hard at this phase over the winter to understand what happened that day and prevent its recurrence.

In both five-star starts, they’ve begun their week in the 33 range, and we’ll be looking for much the same again this week. On cross-country, they’re both game and reliable, if reasonably steady speed-wise, and on Sunday, we’re confident they’ll be back on form. If so, they can realistically be expected for at least a top twenty finish.


72: Alexander Bragg and Quindiva (GBR)

This will be the second attempt at Badminton for Alex and 14-year-old Quindiva, and only the third attempt at the level for this gutsy little mare. Although they started well here last year, posting a very respectable 34.3 in the first phase, Alex ultimately made the decision to pull up before The Lake out on cross country. Onlookers may have been confused by his decision; she was seemingly tackling the course with ease. But Alex was mindful of the difficult conditions, and as her said at the time ‘I didn’t want to break her heart.’ That decision paid off, and the pair contested a very successful Burghley later in the year, adding just a smattering of cross country time to their dressage score to finish in 15th place.

Hopefully, better ground conditions this year will see them finish what they started last time they were here, especially given the added experience the mare now has under her belt (girth). Particularly careful in the final phase, Quindiva has similar prowess cross country, and Alex has a wealth of experience at this level, having been in the top 5 at Pau and Luhmuhlen with former 5* partner, Zagreb.
Back in 2022 they won the CCI3*-S at both Barbury and Wellington, adding not even a singular time fault to her first phase score. She finished top 10 in the CCI4*-L at Blenheim later that same year in similar style, evidence of the quick turn of foot that complements her incredible jumping ability.

Their dressage scores tend to hover around the mid to high 30s, which will no doubt keep them from troubling the leaders, but there is every chance that they can repeat their Burghley result – or even better it.


73: Laura Collett and Hester (GBR)

Sweet Hester, the second ride of former Badminton champ Laura, is a horse who’s really been around the block: she began her international career as a jumper with Jonelle Price, who did two seasons at the Spanish Sunshine Tour with her prior to the pandemic, and in the midst of those two, husband Tim took the reins to pop her around a CCI2*-S in France. The next year, Jonelle did a run of events with her, culminating in a trip to the Seven-Year-Old World Championship at Le Lion d’Angers, where she finished 28th. In 2019, Alex Bragg took over, stepping her up to 4* with a couple of good placings, but then we didn’t see her again until late 2021, by which time she was part of Laura’s string.

2022 was a pretty quiet year for the pair, too – they’d had the one FEI run at Cornbury CCI3*-S in September of 2021 to get to know one another over a proper track, and in 2022, they ran just once in an international, jumping a steady clear around the CCI4*-S at Thoresby in March. They did a test in Houghton Hall’s CCIO4*-S in May, but withdrew before the jumping phases.

When Hester returned in July of 2023, though, she looked on excellent form, taking the win in the CCI3*-S at Aston-le-Walls before heading to Ireland for a fourth-place finish in Lisgarvan’s CCI4*-S. Her step up to CCI4*-L at Blenheim went well, landing them in a very good fourteenth place to wrap up the season. This year, they’ve been seventh in both their runs in the CCI4*-S classes at Thoresby and Burnham Market.

Much of Badminton, though, will be an exercise in waiting to see what happens: Hester can fluctuate from the high-20s to the mid-30s on the flat, though she’s done a 21 at three-star, and while she’s generally a naturally quick and catty mare, this is a big step up. She is, by dint of all that early-career practice, a very good showjumper. She could offer up some exciting surprises this week.


74: Wills Oakden and A Class Cooley (GBR)

Blair Castle CCI4*-L winner A Class Cooley is the second of two rides here for Scottish-based Wills, who first competed at Badminton in just 2019, and whose best result at the event is 12th place, earned last year with Oughterard Cooley. This will be a second start at the five-star level for the twelve-year-old gelding, who went to Pau last season but was retired on course after a run-out at fence four, which Wills put behind them with a few more positive fences before calling it a day.

Wills is a very, very good cross-country rider, and while this is a relatively inexperienced horse with only the one real dazzler of a result on his international record, it would be foolish to totally discount him. The slightly more big and open track of Badminton could suit him better than Pau’s tight, technical twists, and while his low-30s start won’t have him vying for the win early on, we could well see him climb on Saturday. On Sunday, he’s probably due a pole.

Ultimately, this is a horse being developed for next year and onwards, or even for a competitive crack at another big run this autumn, so start watching him now to enjoy the full benefit of seeing him progress at the top level.


75: Tom Rowland and KND Steel Pulse (GBR)

Another Badminton debutant, although this will be the second start at 5* for thirteen year old ‘Dermot.’ His first crack at the level came last year at Pau, and it was a successful one, with a top 25 finish. Tom himself has ample experience at Badminton – he first came here back in 2019 with the infamous Possible Mission, and together they notched up three completions, so who better than to take Dermot round the course for the first time? Tom, who has trained with such greats as Angela Tucker, Nigel Taylor and Pippa Funnell at various points throughout his career, took the reins on Dermot back in 2016, bringing him all the way from BE100 level to this, the pinnacle of the sport.

Bought from Padraig McCarthy, Dermot hovers around the low to mid 30’s in the first phase – he scored a 35.3 in Pau last year – and although the challenge he faces this week will be an altogether different one to that he faced in France in October, he has jumped clear around the likes of Blair Castle and Blenheim Palace, so there is no reason why he shouldn’t do that here, too. His performance on the final day could see him drop back down the leader board – he had 3 rails in Pau and is more likely to have a rail or two than not. However, another 5* completion would do very nicely indeed, and help to fill the Possible Mission shaped hole in Tom’s life, after he retired from top level competition last year.


79: Caroline Powell and Greenacres Special Cavalier (NZL)

Two-time Caroline and ‘Cav’ were on the start list here last year, too – then just the second run at 5* for this talented mare. 5th in her first 5* back in 2022 at Pau, expectations were high; she had proven herself to be one to watch that season, also coming 3rd in her first CCI4*L at Ballindenisk. A 27.4 dressage got them off to a good start at their first Badminton too, but 40 penalties cross country meant they dropped out of contention, ending up in 30th place. However, Cav redeemed herself at Maryland in the Autumn, adding just time faults to her first phase score of 29 to pull off 6th place. With better ground conditions at Badminton this year – here’s hoping anyway – Caroline will no doubt be hoping to pull off a similarly good result, with the Paris Olympics just a heartbeat away.

There is no doubting the mare’s capability; her dressage marks hover around the low 30’s but in all three of her 5* starts thus far, they have actually dipped into the 20’s, a trend Caroline will be looking to continue at Badminton. Her show jumping record is similarly consistent – more often than not she leaves the poles firmly in their cups, and so Caroline – who will be contesting her 16th Badminton this week – will be hoping that they are able to maintain that form here, and finish well up the leader board, putting last year’s less than perfect run down to experience.


80: Tom Jackson and Capels Hollow Drift (GBR)

This is an exceptionally good partnership, and one that could well be in contention for a win here. Try not to hold their 20 penalties at the European Championships last year against them; that was a real outlier of a result and a first cross-country jumping penalty since pre-pandemic. At five-star, they’ve been very, very good – they were fifth here last year in those grotty conditions, second at Burghley the year prior, and top twenty on the horse’s Badminton debut that spring.

When Tom wants to run ‘Walshy’ quickly, he’s very quick indeed, and he’s straight as an arrow across the country. He’s a very good showjumper, too, and his first phase is constantly improving – where he was once a pretty guaranteed 33 on the flat, he’s now very capable of smart sub-30s. He’s been in the 20s twice at five-star, and has dipped as low as 25.7 at four-star, which he did under pressure at the Europeans.

It’s hard not to think of Tom as a bit of an undersung talent, but few people in the know would be surprised to see him take a career five-star win. Whether it happens this week, or perhaps at a Burghley, or maybe both, remains to be seen. No doubt, though, it’ll come with this excellent stamp of an Irish horse.


81: Pippa Funnell and MCS Maverick (GBR)

It’ll be great fun to see what last year’s Bramham champion makes of his first trip to Badminton. He’s an interesting horse: when Pippa took him to Bramham last year it was as a bit of a litmus test as much as anything, because she’d taken on the ride for stable jockey Helen Wilson and wasn’t sure yet whether she wanted to have the very hot, quirky gelding in the long term. If he was good enough to make Bramham feel like fun, she reasoned, he could earn his place in her string. But winning it was well beyond her anticipations.

Maverick’s excellent performance there is a testament to Helen’s great foundations, and to Pippa’s patience, because keeping him relaxed is all about buying as much extra time as possible for slow, repetitive, calm spurts of work. She likes to arrive a day early to an event so he has extra settling-in time, and he’ll come out for ten or fifteen minutes of gentle lunging lots of times throughout the day, because he prefers to be moving and burning off some of his excesses of energy. Badminton, despite its extraordinary buzz, is actually the sort of place that really allows for riders to dig into the nitty-gritty of what they need to do with their horses, so his progression will be fascinating if you’re interested in the fundamentals of working with a quirky horse.

This won’t be a five-star debut for this horse, for what it’s worth: he made the trip to Pau last year, finishing eleventh despite a seriously uncharacteristic five rails down on Sunday. Hopefully this year he’ll come out a bit stronger for his experiences there, and a touch more physically mature.


82: Harry Meade and Red Kite (GBR)

Harry will be hoping that three’s the charm as he heads out for his third ride on Badminton cross country day looking for for a first CCI5* completion for Red Kite, after picking up 40 penalties and retiring out on course on the horse’s debut at the level at Pau last season. Prior to that his cross country record was pretty clear, with just two non-completions and a 20 on his card over nineteen FEI runs.

Although Harry acknowledges that the gelding isn’t naturally predisposed to cross country, Harry’s traditional style of producing horses – with plenty of educational hunting and point-to-pointing – has stood Red Kite in good stead as he’s progressed through the FEI levels. In the first phase he’s is proving to be a high-20s to low-30s kind of guy – he put down a 32.7 at Pau – but the flashy chestnut has plenty of ability between the white boards; Harry says, “If he stopped mucking about, he could be a scholar!”

He can be speedy across the ground on his day, proving his mettle with a double clear at the notoriously tough 4*-L at Bramham last season and he’s shown he’s game for any going when he took second in the 4*-S at a particularly wet edition of the Eventing Spring Carnival last year, with the third quickest round of the day. Their show jumping record is a bit patchy, but there’s no denying that when they get all three phases to come together, this is an exciting prospect in Harry’s string, it’s just a case of waiting for everything to fall into sync as he continues to gain experience.


5 3 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments