Lausanne (SUI), 25 April 2011 – It was a special moment in Eventing history as an ecstatic crowd at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (GBR), first leg of the HSBC FEI Classics, rose to their feet to salute the achievement of Mark Todd (NZL) in winning for the fourth time here since 1980.
“Thirty-one years’ experience comes in handy sometimes!” joked the ever-relaxed Todd, whose mount NZB Land Vision had never experienced the rarefied CCI4* atmosphere before.
“It is incredibly special, though, right up there with the back-to-back Olympic golds. When I came back to the sport (in 2008) it was to see if I could get back to top level. It has always been my aim to win another big one.”
Long acknowledged as the one of the best horsemen the world has ever seen, Todd is also the oldest winner of Badminton (after Andrew Hoy) by an astonishing eight years; he has matched Mark Phillips’ record of four Badminton victories (only Lucinda Green has more, six) and has achieved this major victory after just three years back in the sport after an eight-year “retirement”.
The 56 finishers produced 20 Jumping clears between them on Claire Fourgacs’ straightforward track, but it inevitably becomes much harder to achieve as the pressure mounts, and it would be hard to think of a more high-pressure finale than this one, in which the price of a fence covered the top 12 riders.
Caroline Powell (NZL), lying 10th after Cross-Country, was first to apply the pressure with a sparkling clear on her 18-year-old Burghley winner Lenamore and this ultimately pulled her up to sixth place.
Sweden’s Niklas Lindback, fifth on the much-admired Mister Pooh followed suit, as did Sam Griffiths (AUS) on Happy Times, fourth, and Mary King on Imperial Cavalier (third). Piggy French (GBR) showed the cool head that won her a European silver medal in 2009 and jumped clear on Jakata to score her best four-star result.
But they could only watch nervously as the atmosphere reached fever pitch and the stakes rose higher. The next three riders all faulted: Andrew Nicholson (NZL) on Nereo had two down and dropped to 12th below his other ride, 10th placed Avebury; Nicola Wilson (GBR) slipped four places to seventh on Opposition Buzz, and Marina Kohncke (GER) suffered the disappointment of having the final fence down on Calma Schelly, plus two time faults, which relegated her to ninth.
Land Vision was a tired horse at the end of Cross-Country, but he looked supple and athletic as he jumped around cleanly, only giving one fence a rattle. “In the end it came down to horse-power, and I’ve obviously got a good one here,” said Todd. “Charisma (his double Olympic gold medallist) will always be the most special horse, but this one has no weak links.”
In a good day for mature riders, third-placed Mary King, 49, who said “Badminton is the reason I’m still competing”, revealed that Piggy French, a mere 30 years old, used to send her fan mail. “And she’s still got my letters back in her bedside table! But it’ll be me writing to her now.”
“Finishing in the top three at Badminton has been my dream,” confessed French. “I didn’t feel too nervous and felt that what will be will be. I just wanted to do my best. I didn’t think the course was that tricky when I walked it, but that’s what can make it much harder. You just had to stay focused.”
Now, Todd is also looking to consolidate his early lead in the HSBC FEI Classics and flies to Kentucky tomorrow morning, where he will be riding his world bronze medal ride NZB Grass Valley. King is also aiming to collect more points and is taking two horses, Kings Temptress and Fernhill Urco.
HSBC Training Bursary
Fiona Hobby (GBR), 39, who moved up 18 places to finish 26th on the grey mare Roma ML, won the $1,000 HSBC Training Bursary as the best first-time four-star finisher. “I’m definitely going to spend it on dressage,” she said. “Roma couldn’t believe it when she arrived in the arena and saw all those people, but she was great across country, really focused. I’m delighted.”
Hobby runs a schooling yard in Wiltshire and is a qualified sports injury therapist. Her previous attempt at Badminton, in 2003, on Le Chef, ended when the horse was withdrawn after Cross-Country. Roma ML is a Holsteiner, by Bazar, bred in Germany but bought from Ireland. The pair finished seventh at Blenheim CCI3* last year. Hobby, who is married with two children, is from a Jumping background – her sister, Tina Fletcher, is a member of Britain’s Nations Cup teams – and she was National Junior Champion twice.
1 Mark Todd/NZB Land Vision (NZL) 36.8 + 6.8 + 0 = 43.6
2 Piggy French/Jakata (GBR) 36.0 + 9.2 + 0 = 45.2
3 Mary King/Imperial Cavalier (GBR) 44.2 + 1.6 + 0 = 45.8
4 Sam Griffiths/Happy Times (AUS) 46.3 + 0 + 0 = 46.3
5 Niklas Lindback/Mister Pooh (SWE) 46.7 + 0 + 0 = 46.7
6 Caroline Powell/Lenamore (NZL) 47.2 + 0 + 0 = 47.2
7 Nicola Wilson/Opposition Buzz (GBR) 44.0 + 0 + 4 = 48.0
8 Laura Collett/Rayef (GBR) 36.5 + 8.8 + 4 = 49.3
9 Marina Köhncke/Calma Schelly (GER) 39.8 + 4 + 6 = 49.8
10 Andrew Nicholson/Avebury (NZL) 47.2 + 0 + 4 = 51.2
HSBC FEI Classics Leaderboard in 2011 (after 1 out of 5 events)
1 Mark Todd (NZL) 15 points
2 Piggy French (GBR) 12 points
3 Mary King (GBR) 10 points
4 Sam Griffiths (AUS) 8 points
5 Niklas Lindback (SWE) 6 points
6 Caroline Powell (NZL) 5 points
7 Nicola Wilson (GBR) 4 points
8 Laura Collett (GBR) 3 points
9 Marina Köhncke (GER) 2 points
10 Andrew Nicholson (NZL) 1 point
Full results on www.badminton-horse.co.uk.
HSBC FEI Classics Calendar of Events in 2011
1 21-25 April – Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (GBR)
2 28 April – 1 May – Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event (USA)
3 16-19 June – Luhmühlen presented by E.ON Avacon (GER)
4 1-4 September – Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (GBR)
5 13-16 October – Les Etoiles de Pau (FRA)
Mark Todd first came to international prominence at the 1978 World Championships. He then arrived in Britain in 1980 with Southern Comfort, accompanied by Andrew Nicholson as groom, and won Badminton at his first attempt. He won again in 1994 on a chance ride, Horton Point, and in 1996 on Bertie Blunt. He has also won Burghley five times, in 1997 on Wilton Fair, in 1990 on Face the Music, in 1991 on Welton Greylag, in 1997 (taking the Open European title) on Broadcast News and in 1999 on Diamond Hall Red.
He won back-to-back Olympic titles in 1984 and 1988 on Charisma and won world team gold and individual silver on Broadcast News in 1998. In 2000, after winning an individual bronze at the Sydney Olympics on Eye Spy, he retired to his native New Zealand to train racehorses. But the lure of Eventing proved too strong and he returned to Britain in 2008 to campaign for the 2008 Olympics, where he finished 18th on Gandalf.
He is now based near Newbury, Berkshire, with a string of horses. Land Vision won the Young Horse CIC3* at Blenheim (GBR) and was second at Boekelo CCI3* last year.
HSBC Training Bursary:
HSBC, the platinum partner of FEI and global sponsor of Eventing, has supported the HSBC FEI Classics since 2008 and is the title sponsor. At the centre of this sponsorship is a commitment to the development of the sport of Eventing at every level.
HSBC has introduced a Training Bursary, which is a unique award presented to the highest placed rider at each HSBC FEI Classics leg who completes a 4* event for the very first time.
The winning rider receives a training voucher to the value of $1,000, which is spent on sessions with a trainer of the athletes’ choice approved by the FEI and National Federation.
HSBC FEI Classics prize money
Over the next three years, HSBC will be contributing US$1 million in prize money, which represents the biggest prize fund on offer in Eventing on an annual basis.
At the end of the season, the five riders with the highest number of points collected among the five HSBC FEI Classics 2011 events are awarded their share of a total prize pot of US$333,000, split as follows:
1st US$150,000 (Series Champion)
The HSBC FEI Classics 2012 season will begin at Les Etoiles de Pau CCI 4* (FRA) on 12-16 October 2011. This is also the location for the final leg of the 2011 season. Competitors therefore have the unique opportunity to secure points for both the HSBC FEI Classics 2011 and 2012 seasons by competing at Les Etoiles de Pau.
1 Les Etoiles de Pau CCI 4* (FRA) – 12-16 October 2011
2 Australian International 3 Day Event (AUS) – 18-20 November 2011
3 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event (USA) – 26-29 April 2012
4 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (GBR) – 4-7 May 2012
5 Luhmühlen CCI 4* presented by E.ON (GER) – 14-17 June 2012
6 The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (GBR) – 30 August – 2 September 2012
Mark Todd: http://www.lloydbell.co.uk/access/client_zone/BHT_Mon_PM_Todd_Long.mp3
Piggy French: http://www.lloydbell.co.uk/access/client_zone/BHT_Mon_PM_French.mp3
Mary King: http://www.lloydbell.co.uk/access/client_zone/BHT_Mon_PM_King_Long.mp3
Niklas Lindback: http://www.lloydbell.co.uk/access/client_zone/BHT_Mon_PM_Lindback.mp3
Kai Ruder: http://www.lloydbell.co.uk/access/client_zone/BHT_Mon_PM_Ruder.mp3
HSBC Bursary winner Fiona Hobby: http://www.lloydbell.co.uk/access/client_zone/fiona hobby.mp3