The draw has been announced for the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (April 21-25) and 2009 Badminton champion Oliver Townend will be first out of the starting gate on cross-country day on Easter Sunday.

Townend may well prove hard to catch. The in-form rider, who dominated the main pre-Badminton run, at Belton, has four horses to choose from, although he probably poses the greatest threat on his second ride, Ashdale Cruise Master, on whom he recently won a third consecutive international class.

However, the best has been saved for last. The equally in-form New Zealand horseman Mark Todd, who scored the first of his three Badminton wins in 1980, before Townend was even born, winds up proceedings, probably on Townend’s former horse, NZB Land Vision, another grey.

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There are five more former winners in a highly competitive field: William Fox-Pitt, the world number one, last triumphed in 2004; triple winner Pippa Funnell has made a remarkable comeback to top level; dual winner Mary King, 49, is as competitive as ever; Lucinda Fredericks (2007) should get off the waitlist with another good mare, Prada, and you can never discount last year’s winner, the hard-working Australian Paul Tapner.

Todd’s fellow Kiwi, Andrew Nicholson, has a good draw with his world bronze medallist Nereo, and many people believe it’s his turn to win after 27 years of trying.

Other veterans still hungry for a first Badminton win Americans Karen O’Connor and Phillip Dutton; Burghley winners Caroline Powell (NZL) and Lenamore; France’s 2002 world champion Jean Teulere, Polly Stockton, back from maternity leave, reigning European champion Tina Cook, and the popular German Ingrid Klimke.

Event director Hugh Thomas unveiled his cross-country course this week, with interesting new routes at the Lake, Huntsman’s Close, Farmyard and Carisma Pond. The box office closes for advance tickets on Monday (April 11). Visit www.badminton-horse.co.uk for further details.

Photograph by Sffubs