(1) *Live first horse inspection results are being posted as they happen.
After a stellar spring season on the national circuit, Andrew Nicholson, whose best previous Badminton result was 2nd in 2004, has perhaps his best chance of lifting the Mitsubishi Trophy, worth Â£65,000, with the Spanish-bred Nereo, winner of Bramham CCI*** (GBR) last year, or the home-bred grey Avebury, first at Saumur CCI*** (FRA) in 2009.
It will be like old times for Nicholson, as his former team mate Mark Todd has finally come in off the wait list – the event received a massive 150-plus entries and will run about 80 – and competes at Badminton for the first time for 10 years. Todd, a triple winner (1980, 1994 and 1996), rides the New Zealand Thoroughbred NZB Grass Valley.
Although last year’s winner Oliver Townend (GBR) is a notable absentee – he had actually withdrawn before his fall at Kentucky last weekend – the Kiwis face stiff British opposition.
An equally popular winner would be Kristina Cook (GBR); the reigning European Champion. Known as one of the best Cross Country pilots in the business, she first competed at Badminton in 1993 but has never yet finished in the top three. However, that could all change this time, as she brings her dual European gold medalist Miners Frolic, also the dual bronze medalist at the 2008 Olympics, and all eyes will be on the exciting Thoroughbred as he makes his debut at a British 4-star.
Cook’s team mate, the always hard-to-beat William Fox-Pitt (GBR) comes to Badminton with the advantage of a winning 4-star ride under his belt. Just last weekend, he captured his first Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event – he is the only rider in the world to have won four different 4-stars – and, at Badminton, which he won in 2004 on Tamarillo, he has the choice of three proven horses.
William can choose between the magnificent long-striding chestnut Idalgo, Badminton runner-up last year; the German-bred Sea Cookie, 6th at Kentucky last year; and the Argentine Thoroughbred Macchiato, winner of LuhmÃ¼hlen in 2008.
Alongside these veterans of the sport, such as 48-year-old Mary King, a former dual winner (1992 and 2000), a host of younger riders will be hoping to make an impression. They are headed by the European silver medalist Piggy French (GBR); Juan Carlos Garcia (ITA), the only rider to win silver medals in Eventing and Jumping in the same season (2009); Ireland’s premier couple Michael and Patricia Ryan, plus Sam Watson (IRL) and Elizabeth Power (IRL); Portuguese first-timer Duarte Seabra; South African debutant Alex Peternell and former Young Rider European Champion Emily Llewellyn (GBR).
In other international firsts, Aistis Vitkauskas is the first Badminton competitor from Lithuania, and Alex Hua Tian, 20, the first from China. 12 nations are represented in all: Australia, Belgium, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, New Zealand, Portugal and South Africa.
* Veteran New Zealand rider Mark Todd is among the entries this weekend – 30 years after his Badminton debut.
* Australian Paul Tapner contests the 4*, while his wife Georgina competes in the Badminton Grassroots Championship.
* Aistis Vitkauskas (Lithuania) and Alex Peternell (South Africa) are the first from their countries to compete at Badminton.
* The Badminton entry list includes two full-time vets in Kent rider Tony Warr and James Robinson, from Leominster.
* Herefordshire rider Louise Skelton’s two Badminton horses – Bit of a Barney and Party Pickled – are full brothers.
* The Badminton Horse Trials first took place in 1949. The event has been cancelled three times due to bad weather and once because of a foot and mouth outbreak.