We reveal our favourite riders, fences, shops and facts.
- Sir Mark Todd, one of the all-time greats and, at 59, the veteran of the field (rides Oloa and Leonidas).
- Andrew Nicholson, who has completed Badminton a record 33 times (Calico Joe, Nereo).
- World number one William Fox-Pitt on the gentlemanly stallion Chilli Morning.
- Olympic gold medallist Ingrid Klimke, bidding to be the first German winner (Hale Bob).
- Dashing cross-country rider Izzy Taylor, who has a true Badminton pedigree— her great-aunt, Anneli Drummond-Hay, won in 1962. She rides the ‘hunter’ Thistledown Poposki, bred by her aunt, Lady Anne Whiteley (whose late husband, Eton beak Martin Whiteley, owned the 1970 winner The Poacher), and KBIS Briarlands Matilda.
- The ISH Studbook Huntsman’s Close (fence 8) is the first serious test and safe negotiation of two enormous brush-topped corners will bode well for the rest.
- Riders splash through the iconic Lake twice, over a huge hanging log into the Outlander Lower Lake (10) before continuing over the Mitsubishi Pickups L200s, the willow wave combination and upturned boat (11, 12 and 13).
- The Swindon Designer Mound (15 and 16) was influential last year, even after riders requested a modification, and it returns, albeit in slightly friendlier form.
- After the famous Vicarage ditch area, walk up to the Gatehouse New Pond (20), where higher ground gives the best viewing and silver birch trees provide a picture-perfect backdrop.
- On the home run, the Sense Silver Birch Treble (25 and 26), adjacent to Worcester Avenue, is a late test of steering, power and control. When you weary, screens in the arena and tradestands show all the action.
- Some 200-plus shops sell everything from hats to hot tubs. There’s a Rupert Till wire goose or a quirky Rebecca Campbell print from Collier & Dobson (stand 75). www.collierdobson.com
- A classically designed garden room from Malvern Garden Buildings Ltd (49). www.themalverncollection.co.uk
- Gorgeous silk jackets from Beatrice von Tresckow Designs (194). www.beatricevontresckow.com
- An original Harris-tweed trilby from John Halifax Ltd (216). www.johnhalifax.co.uk
- Or presents for your host from Wyke Farms & Sloemotion (198), which produces chutneys and hedgerow-fruit liqueurs. www.wykefarms.com
- Badminton is the only ducal seat in Gloucestershire and Beaufort is the only dukedom named after a non-British place—it’s a castle in the Champagne region of France; the 1st Duke was a descendant of John of Beaufort, a son of John of Gaunt.
- There has been a manor house at Badminton since Domesday, which listed the village as Madmintune, but the house in its present form began to take shape under the 1st Duke, who was given his title by Charles ll in recognition of family loyalty to Charles l— the family had loaned the monarchy the enormous sum of £900,000
- The 3rd Duke, a prolific art collector, built the Great Hall and, in 1726, commissioned the Badminton Cabinet from a Florentine workshop for £500. In 1994, it became the world’s most expensive piece of furniture when it fetched $15.1 million (£10.1 million) at auction.
- British army officers introduced the Indian game of poon, involving a net and shuttlecock, to guests at Badminton in 1863, after which it was known as badminton.
- There has been a pack of hounds at Badminton since at least 1728, but, in 1762, after an unsuccessful day hunting deer, the 5th Duke drew Silk Wood (now part of the Westonbirt Arboretum) and had such a good run on a fox that, thereafter, the hunt concentrated on this quarry. The 10th Duke was master of the Duke of Beaufort’s hounds for 60 years, from 1924 to 1984, and was so respected that he became known simply as Master throughout the hunting world.
- The 11th Duke, who is chairman of Marlborough Fine Art, has competed in the horse trials; he was second in 1959 on Countryman lll, a horse he bought from The Queen.
Event riders up and down the country are dusting off their boots in preparation for the new eventing season. We