Olympic stars head for Badminton Horse Trials

The 2013 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials on May 3-6 is set to be the most thrilling yet after the event received possibly its strongest ever entry.

Thirteen of the London Olympic medallists will contest the £60,000 Mitsubishi Motors Trophy, headed by Germany’s outstanding horseman Michael Jung, the only rider ever to hold Olympic, World and European titles simultaneously.

Jung has let it be known that he considers Badminton a glaring omission in his illustrious CV, and he will be making his debut on his best horse, La Biosthetique Sam, who is unbeaten at the highest level, plus an able second string in Leopin FST.

Three of his Olympic team mates are also coming, including bronze medallist and rapidly rising star Sandra Auffarth on Opgun Louvo.

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All five of Britain’s silver medal squad are entered with their London horses: Kristina Cook (Miners Frolic), Mary King (Imperial Cavalier), Zara Phillips (High Kingdom), William Fox-Pitt (Lionheart) and Nicola Wilson (Opposition Buzz).

Cook, King and Fox-Pitt all have other horses entered as well, and Britain fields some promising entrants that are back from lay-offs due to injury, such as Redesigned, fifth at the 2010 World Games with Pippa Funnell, Jakata, Piggy French’s Olympic-listed horse, and Fernhill Urco with Mary King.

Another leading rider, Ruth Edge, has a promising ride in Westwood Mariner, whose usual jockey, Polly Stockton, is expecting her second child.

However, most of the spotlight will fall on Fox-Pitt as, with four-star wins at Burghley 2011 and Kentucky 2012, he is in line to be the first rider to win the $350,000 Rolex Grand Slam since Pippa Funnell in 2003.

The rider who can thwart him is New Zealander Andrew Nicholson, the world number one, if he wins at Kentucky on the week before Badminton. He will be riding the popular grey Avebury, winner of Burghley last year, and Nereo, his Olympic horse and winner of Pau, France, last October.

Nicholson’s team mates, who won bronze in London, are out in force, with Sir Mark Todd – the only knight on the circuit – out to defend his 2011 title.

After the crushing disappointment of Badminton’s cancellation last year, enthusiasm for tickets has reached record-breaking levels and grandstand seats are almost sold out, although there are limitless tickets for Sunday’s cross-country day (www.badminton-horse.co.uk).

The only fly in the ointment is an untimely single case of equine herpes in a hunt horse in the Badminton stables, but measures are being taken to confine the disease and it is not expected to pose a threat to the 80 or so event horses due to arrive in six weeks’ time.

Buy tickets for Badminton Horse Trials on their website

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