In It To Win It: Team EN Picks Their Winners — and Beyond — for Badminton 2023

Badminton 2023 is upon us, and with it, another chance for the EN team to put our metaphorical money where are mouths are and pick our favorites for a big result this year. Here are our choices — let us know yours in the comments!

Kitty King and Vendredi Biats. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Tilly Berendt

Winner: I think Kitty King has come here with a point to prove, especially after a Burghley last year that she so nearly scooped. She and Vendredi Biats put their best five-star score on the board there — a truly ludicrous 21.2 that saw them lead going into cross-country – and had it not been for a truly unfortunate triggered MIM at those achingly wide oxers, they’d have finished second. She’s been so close to a big one for so long, and I think the fire is truly lit — now that ‘Froggy’ is past his naughty years, he’s a serious competitor and wouldn’t be at all out of place on the illustrious roster of Badminton winners.

Best Foreign Entry: I’m choosing not to consider any of our British-based Kiwis ‘foreign’, because otherwise it’s very difficult to look past Tim Price and Caroline Powell, and frankly, I’d like to give someone else a moment in the sun here. I’m a big fan of Aisprit de la Loge, the ride of France’s Gireg le Coz, who made his Badminton debut last year, finishing in the top twenty after a very good dressage and cross-country and an uncharacteristically lacklustre showjumping. Pau, in October, didn’t go quite to plan for them, but I think they’ll be back with a bang here — and if they can stick to their usual showjumping form, they should pin down a great result. Special mention, too, must go to one of my favourite horses, Lithuanian competitor Aistis Vitkauskas‘s Commander VG. I’ve been following this horse since he was a nine year old, and while his first and final phases will stop him from being truly competitive here, he’s an absolute joy to watch on cross-country, where he’s kind, genuine, and just plain fun. I think he’ll gain a lot of fans this week.

Best Debutant (horse or rider): It’s hard to call Felix Vogg‘s Cartania inexperienced when she’s performed so well at both a World Championships and a Europeans (14th and 8th respectively, for what it’s worth) — but in the grand scheme of things, she is still pretty green, and will be making her debut at the top level this week. She’s flying rather under the radar, as she tends to even on the continent, where she lives in the shadow of stable star and 5* winner Colero, but sometimes those are exactly the right conditions that a horse like this can use to throw out a result that surprises everyone except their rider. I think a very good week could be in store for this pair.

Best Mare: It’s a tough call between Ros Canter‘s gritty, gutsy Bramham runner up Pencos Crown Jewel and the young phenom Greenacres Special Cavalier, who finished fifth in her five-star debut at Pau last season. The first one is my ‘head’ choice and the latter is my ‘heart’ choice, and I’m going to chalk my indecision up to jet lag and keep them both in here, because I think they could both very easily finish in the top ten.

Spoiler Alert: Watch out for Gemma Stevens and Jalapeno — this super blood mare has been out of action for a fair while, but Gemma and her team have put tonnes of manpower and thought into strengthening her for her comeback, and she’s been looking brilliant in the lead-up. I think they could sneak well into the mix, especially if time becomes a big factor on Sunday.

Ros Canter and Lordships Graffalo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Amanda Chance:

Winner: Ros Canter and Lordship’s Graffalo
I think this was the hardest category to pick, since there are legitimately several horses that are capable of winning this thing. While it seems obvious to go for Tom or Ollie, I’m feeling like taking a little bit more of a risk. I mean… not really much of one, because I’m picking Ros, but considering this will only be the second start at CCI5* level for “Walter” (who is only 11 this year), he’s not as established as some. He’s excellent on the flat though, and has never had a cross country penalty in an international start, so I feel like Ros and Walter could absolutely take the win here.
Best Foreign Entry: Tim Price and Coup de Coeur Dudevin
Look, it’s Tim Price. I can’t NOT pick one of Tim’s horses for something, and I’m absolutely obsessed with this horse. It’s another young one, at 11 years old, but “Joker” is top class, and a very good cross country horse. Watching this pair win Joker’s first 5-star last fall at Maryland left me with a massive crush (on the horse, not Tim. No offense Tim.). I think the horse literally threw himself between the flags a couple times, and that’s the level of commitment I’m after. He’s bred for the job, he’s got one of the best riders in the world, and he’s already won a 5-star. Enough said.
Best Debutant: Alex Bragg and Quindiva
It’s hard to watch this mare jump and not want to root for her – she’s got springs in her feet. “Diva” has also been trending sub-30 for her dressage scores and hasn’t had a rail since 2019, so while obviously Badminton is no small ask by any means, she’s entirely capable of not only delivering, but also being competitive.
Best Mare: Ros Canter and Pencos Crown Jewel
Did I pick two Ros mounts and two half-siblings? Indeed I did. These are my predictions, I can do what I want. It’s hard not to love this mare, “Jasmine”, who is from Pennie Wallace’s phenomenal Cornish Faer damline. This will be her first go at Badminton but her third 5-star, and she finished 5th and 11th in her first two goes at the level. This mare has grit, tenacity, and quality – everything you need for success at Badminton.
Spoiler Alert: Gemma Stevens and Jalapeno
Gemma is an absolute queen and so is this little mare, Jala. She’s also bred to the nines for eventing, by Chilli Morning out of a Shaab xx mare. This pair has had some ups and downs along their journey, but she’s super competitive on the flat and a great jumper, and I can think of no one better than Gemma to team up with a gutsy mare to pull off an upset. Can Jala follow in her sire’s footsteps and bring home the Badminton title? It would certainly make a great story, and I’ll always root for that.

Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Cheg Darlington

Winner: Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser – I just can’t help thinking that this will be their year. After the high of winning Olympic team gold and individual silver in Tokyo, and the disappointment of last year’s Badminton (my jaw was literally on the ground with them when they fell), coupled with Tom’s great form at Kentucky last week (where he was second with JL Dublin), he’s got to be fired up for this one. Although… my heart’s set on Kitty King and Vendredi Biats. I believe this is a horse and rider that’s overdue a big win and that they were unlucky not to be even closer to the top of the leaderboard than they were at both Badminton and Burghley last year (they were 7th and 6th). I would love to see it happen for them here.

Best Foreign Entry: This is a total heart pick but I’m going with Lillian Heard Wood and LCC Barnaby because I think he’s such a game kinda guy – also, I had a pony as a teenager called Barnaby – he even looked like his 5* namesake. With eight 5* completions together, Lillian and her Barnaby have rather better form than I managed with my Barnaby, and I really hope that they can add Badminton to that list this year on their second time of trying. LCC Barnaby’s 17 now and he’s been such a game campaigner for Lillian over the years that I think he deserves it.

Best Debutant (horse or rider): Kristina Hall-Jackson and CMS Google. When you hear Kristina speak about Google, it’s impossible not to get caught up in the excitement she has for their partnership. They’ve completed at all but one of their 24 FEI starts together and Kristina says the mare is ‘as brave as a lion’, something that will definitely come in handy on Badminton cross country day. They’re an exciting prospect and I’d love to see all that potential realized this weekend.

Best Mare: Quindiva – Alex Bragg’s ride. With her penchant for double clears, and her trend for sub-30 dressage scores, this could be a very successful week for the little mare, despite it being her first time at the level. She’s known to be a diva and we all know that with great talent comes big personality. It’d be cool to see Alex up there too.

Spoiler Alert: It wouldn’t exactly be a spoiler if he did win it – EquiRatings have him down as favorite – but this could be Oliver Townend and Swallow Springs’ year. He was 5th with Andrew Nicholson in 2019 and 3rd with Oliver last year, and I just have a feeling that it may be third time lucky for this lovely horse. Having said that, Tom Jackson and Capels Hollow Drift are definitely worth a shout out – they were 16th at Badminton last year – the horse’s first 5* – and then went on to finish 2nd at Burghley – that’s got to have Tom feeling great about his chances this weekend. Also… World No.1 Tim Price and Vitali (they were 3rd at Burghley last year) are on my radar – particularly after all the show jumping practice they’ve had recently on the Sunshine Tour – and of course Coup de Coeur Dudevin who Tim won Maryland 5* with last year when the horse was just a ten-year-old… Oh boy! It’s all to play for at Badminton!

Wills Oakden and Oughterard Cooley. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Diana Gilbertson

Winner: My inability to make a decision plagues me on a day to day basis, so to pick just one winner was agonising, I kid you not. I mean, I could just go for an easy, sentimental cop out and say they’re all winners just for getting to Badminton. Let’s face it, it’s pretty much the pinnacle of eventing, and to even get a horse here is no mean feat.

That being said, I have spent far too much time thinking about this over the last few weeks to take the easy road so, I’m going to settle on Tim Price. Or Tom McEwen. Or Tim Price. OHMYGOODNESS THIS IS HARD!

No. I’m going to settle on the Individual Silver medallists from Tokyo 2021, Tom and Toledo de Kerser. Having won Pau 5* in 2019, they are long overdue another 5* win. They took a nasty fall here last year, and who knows who would have lifted the trophy if they hadn’t –he could well have given Ms. Collett a very good run for her money. Reliable (despite that blip) in the jumping phases – his show jumping record is one of the best in the field – and usually at least top 5 after dressage, Toledo and Tom will certainly be looking to lay their ghosts to rest and nab themselves the top spot.

Best Foreign Entry: Can you count Tim Price as a ‘foreign entry?’ I mean, I know he’s a Kiwi, but the World No.1 and his wife (and World No.2 ),  Jonelle have lived in the UK so long they’re almost natives. Still, I’m going to focus firmly on the NZ after his  name, and ignore such minor details.

Tim brings forward two incredible horses, the Maryland 5* winner from last year, Coup de Coeur Dudevin, and Vitali, second at Burghley last year. It’s impossible to choose between them (or at least it is for me). The former has less 5* experience, but his natural ability  is obvious and I doubt Tim is bringing him here for an easy jaunt around. Similarly, Vitali has all the right ingredients, as long as he remembers to pick his knees up on the final day, his only weakness.

I refuse to pick one or the other – they’re both incredible horses, and certainly ones to keep an eye on for the future, so I’d expect them both to be in the top 10, if not higher.

Best Debutant (horse or rider): Tough one, given there are several horses lining up here for the first time – the current Badminton champion, Laura Collett is riding one herself. So I’m going to narrow it right the way down to a first time rider and first time horse, Georgia Bartlett and Spano de Nazca. Georgia has had Nono for 7 years now, and they have done everything together, all the way from BE100. She calls him her ‘best friend,’ and he might not be right up front after dressage, but his fantastic form across country could well see this pair climb the ranks. Trust me, this is a pair worth watching.

Best Mare: Again, there are SO many incredible mares in the field this year (girl power!), but for me, there are two standouts…Ros Canter’s Pencos Crown Jewel, and Caroline Powell’s Greenacres Special Cavalier.

My ultimate pick is probably the latter. She may well be less experienced than Ros’ ‘Jasmine,’ but her form thus far is impossible to ignore. She didn’t have a single jumping fault last year, and came fifth in her first 5* last year at Pau, even though Caroline openly admitted she was really only taking her there for the experience. She clearly has great faith in the mare then, to enter her here, and given Caroline’s own prowess and experience, it seems silly to look past Cav as the best mare in the field. I would even go so far as to say she could be a Badminton winner in years to come…

Spoiler Alert: Well, I’ll freely admit, I’m not really sure what this means. But since it’s my own choice, and so my own interpretation, I’m going to say it’s a result no one saw coming. So I’m going to completely disregard all of the sensible and informed chat I’ve given thus far in my picks and say that ladies and gents, girls and boys, Kings and Queens, your Badminton 2023 winner is…

Wills Oakden and Oughterard Cooley (GBR). Admittedly I’m biased – Wills lives quite close to me and I’ve admired his quiet determination for years – but this man is a serious talent, as is this horse. 13th on their Burghley debut last year, they are capable of a competitive first phase score, and could well climb again after cross country. Ok, I will admit it would be a massive curveball (sorry Wills) if they took actual first place, but I am telling you, they will be RIGHT up there in the final placings. About time too: Wills has been knocking on the door for years now, and its about time  he had his moment

Alex Bragg and Quindiva. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Ema Klugman

Winner: Tom McEwen and Toledo De Kerser (GBR)

Toledo is one of the most experienced horses in the field, and perhaps the most talented in all three phases. He and Tom have eight CCI5* starts to their partnership, not to mention two World Championships and an Olympic Games. Their winning 2019 cross country round at Pau was as close to magic as I have ever seen in eventing: the horse just looked like it was cantering around for a school at home. They are a true “triple threat,” and if they can finish on their (likely very good) dressage score, I cannot see anyone beating them. And there is something about just having being beaten on American soil in Kentucky—an event that Tom would have won if not for the force of nature that is Tamie Smith—that has probably lit a fire under this rider. We may just see him run away with it.

Best Foreign Entry: Austin O’Connor and Colorado Blue (IRL)

This scopey grey will be mid-pack after the dressage, but he is so reliable in the jumping phases that he will make up a lot of ground that the dressage-bred horses tend to lose on cross country day. I first watched this horse at Tokyo, where he was originally named as a reserve. He jumped off the bench for Team Ireland in style, finishing as the best of their bunch, and absolutely jumping the lights out in the two show jumping rounds. Austin is a cross country rider we should all emulate: he’s smooth, fast, and brave, and he and this horse are an incredible team to watch. With seriously good experience under their belts already (including Olympic, World Championship, and previous Badminton experience), I would expect these two to finish on their dressage score. 

Best Debutant (horse or rider): Alexander Bragg and Quindiva (GBR)

When I watched Quindiva on the live stream of Thoresby Park last month, the words that came to mind were “true athlete.” The horse can seriously jump, and hasn’t had a rail in the last three years. Because the show jumping at Badminton can be so influential, she may really shine on the final day. Her jockey, Alex, has quite a bit of five-star experience, so it will be exciting for him to have another horse at this top level. If all goes to plan, she should be in the top 15 or 20 by the end of the competition.

Best Mare: Greenacres Special Cavalier

This ten-year-old Irish Sporthorse mare is exceptional. She is the youngest entry in the field, but with a jockey like Caroline Powell, I would not count her out. I remember watching her show jump at Pau last year and you could have convinced me she was a pure show jumper. She looked as fresh as anything and like the cross-country had taken nothing out of her. On top of that, she has already shown that she can score in the 20s at the five-star level. Badminton takes some jumping, and this horse has jumping talent coming out of her ears. I would expect to see a very good result for this mare this weekend, and even more excitingly, for her to be a great horse for Team New Zealand for several years to come. 

Spoiler Alert: Kitty King and Vendredi Biats (GBR)

Partnered together for nearly a decade, this horse and rider have been knocking on the door for a long time, and for some reason, I think it will all come together for them this weekend. If they were on any other country’s list of pairs in contention for selection, they likely would have been at both the recent Olympics and World Championships, but British selection has been so competitive recently that they have just been left off the squad a few times. That disappointment likely has Kitty hungry and gives her a real point to prove. They came close to a big result at Burghley last year after winning the dressage on a 21 but having a pin on the cross country, but maybe that sort of “almost” result has driven them to be completely ready for the challenge this year. I just love “Froggy’s” expression as he goes around the cross country: he hunts for his fences and looks as honest as they come. If everything goes their way this weekend, I think they could just end up near, or at, the top. 

Tim Price and Coup de Coeur Dudevin. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Cassidy Oeltjen

Winner: Rosalind Canter with Lordships Graffalo. I feel like the 2018 World Championships really taught Rosalind how to win – an important skill when you’re riding a horse with as much promise as ‘Walter’. He was second here last year to London 52 at his first 5* and fourth at the Eventing World Championships in Pratoni at the ripe young age of 10. I think 11 just might be his year to come out on top.

Best Foreign Entry: Tim Price with Coup de Coeur Dudevin. I’m not going to be the one to bet against the top ranked FEI rider in the world, even if it’s on a horse that he’s only had the ride on a short time. Tim brings two very talented horses to this year’s Badminton, but I think it’s this young, striking bay that will be up the leaderboard on Sunday. They won the 5* at Maryland last fall, and although it was a small field, the pair proved their worth, finishing on a 28.2, and I thinkthey could finish lower here (as long as he keeps the rails up on Sunday!).

Best Debutant (horse or rider): Caroline Powell with Greenacres Special Cavalier. Besides Coup de Coeur, I think another experienced New Zealander will find themselves going late in the day on Monday with their debutant Badminton horse. This mare might be young, but I always think the best horses have some quirks, and this one was one of the quirkiest as a young horse. But a wise man once told me that 10 is when Irish horses get their brain in the mail, so Badminton might just be the place that Queen Bee gets her chance to show off her smarts.

Best Mare: Rosalind Canter with Pencos Crown Jewel. Rosalind’s two rides are actually half siblings who share another 5* mare in their lineage. Having tenacity in her blood will help Jasmine move up the leaderboard, although they shouldn’t be too far off striking distance on
day one. It may be her first Badminton, but she’s no stranger to big tracks, and with Rosalind as her jockey, she should be in good shape to best the rest of the mares in the field.

 Spoiler Alert: Amanda Pottinger with Just Kidding. I love a longshot, and I love a thoroughbred. And I REALLY love a little (15.2) thoroughbred who loves to fancy-prance. Last year he scored a 25.9 in the first phase here, and if he can match that, he’ll be sitting pretty to storm around the cross country. Show jumping may be his achilles heel, but if the cups are deep and the pole-tapping gods are on his side, I think they could be sitting pretty Sunday afternoon.

Oliver Townend and Swallow Springs. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Abby Powell

Winner: Tom McEwen will be rolling into Badminton fresh off his second-placed finish at Kentucky with JL Dublin. Worried about him being exhausted from riding in back-to-back five-stars? Nah! Tom’s a marathoner in his “spare” time! Not to mention his Olympic silver-medal winning mount, Toledo de Kerser, isn’t exactly a slouch either. After an uncharacteristic fall on course here last year, this pair is in it for both the big win and little redemption while they’re at it.

Best Foreign Entry: It really feels like Tim Price shouldn’t quite count as a foreign entry, given his residence in the UK. But he does very proudly fly the New Zealand flag after all, so I’ll take it! If I can use this category to stick him and his Maryland 5-Star winner Coup de Coeur Dudevin up in the ranks, then do so I shall.

Best Debutant (horse or rider): I’ve got to throw a US pair into the mix here somehow, so I’m picking Katherine Coleman and her five-star first-timer Monbeg Senna for this accolade. 

Best Mare: Ros Canter’s Pencos Crown Jewel will be making her third 5* start here at Badminton, having placed fourth in the pop-up 5* at Bicton in 2021 and then jus outside the top ten at Burghley last year. This mare has a big bright future and I’ll be watching her closely this weekend.

Spoiler Alert: Oliver Townend and Swallow Springs may be EquiRatings favorites to win, but they feel a little more like spoilers to me for whatever reason. Oliver and former winner here, Ballaghmor Class, could also just as easily snatch another win here. Oh, and watch our for Ros Canter and Lordships Graffolo too! Gosh, this is another tough one to call.  

Ros Canter and Pencos Crown Jewel. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sally Spickard

Winner: Ros Canter and Lordships Graffalo

I think it’s going to be time for Lordships Graffalo — who at the age of 10 was a narrow second here at Badminton in 2022 — to have his day. With another year of experience under his belt, as well as a fourth place individual finish at the FEI World Championships last fall, we should see this pair ready to smash out a win or two on the international circuit in 2023. In 2022, Ros and Lordships Graffalo finished the Badminton weekend on their dressage mark of 26.0 — if they can achieve this or better this year, we could be looking at our next champion.

Best Foreign Entry: Tim Price and Coup de Couer Dudevin

Our Maryland 5 Star winners in 2022, Tim Price and Coup de Couer Dudevin are ready to tackle another major event. While Badminton might bring a slightly stiffer field, I think this Kiwi pair could be ones to impress or even swoop in for the whole win this weekend. An easy choice for this pick would also be Tim’s Pratoni mount, Vitali — toss a dart at the wall to figure out who the better pick would be. It’s science!

Best Debutant (horse or rider): Georgia Bartlett and Spano de Nazca

Ok, real talk: I’m mostly picking this pair because I am newly OBSESSED with the diminutive-but-mighty Spano de Nazca, who’s absolutely going to be chomping to get this weekend underway. If you haven’t met this pair, don’t miss their rookie profile penned by Diana Gilbertson here. While this pair won’t threaten the leaders on the first phase of competition, they’re a pretty reliable cross country pair who stands poised to make a climb on their first 5* effort.

Best Mare: Pencos Crown Jewel

I’m just on the Ros Canter train this weekend, and I think you might even be able to swap out this lovely mare for her stablemate in the winner pick column. Even better, “Jasmine” is a half-sister to Lordships Graffalo, really keeping it in the family of incredibly talented horses on Ros’ string at the moment. This will be another pair that will need to do some climbing through the jumping phases, but if they can finish on their dressage mark we could see them finish in that top percentile of this very competitive field.

Spoiler Alert: Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser

It feels somewhat silly to put Olympic silver medalists (and team gold medalists) into the spoiler field, but this is EN and we do what we want. Tom is hot off a second place finish at Kentucky with JL Dublin this past weekend and will be eager to get his old friend back out on a big track at Badminton. While they suffered a pretty heavy fall (no injuries) at the tricky solar panels on the 2022 track, that was an anomaly if nothing else as we can typically expect this pair to go quick and clear across the country. If Tom can manage a FOD again this weekend, Toledo could be the one wearing the crown when the dust settles on Sunday.

Badminton Horse Trials: [Website] [Entries] [Schedule] [Live Stream – Badminton TV] [Radio Badminton] [Tickets] [EN’s Coverage]

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments