IT WAS an Aussie win at Badminton Horse Trials after a thrilling finish, but it wouldn’t be Highworth’s Paul Tapner taking the honours.
Dorset-based Sam Griffiths was the victor in an unlikely turn of events that saw him take the title having moved up from 25th after the dressage phase, and fifth after the cross country. Well, they did say it wouldn’t be a dressage competition.
Sam Griffiths lowered a single rail on his Irish mare Paulank Brockagh. Tapner would jump last with two fences in hand, but a usually very careful Kilronan knocked down four fences to relegate them to fourth. The hugely competitive and slightly rueful Tapner was therefore unable to clinch his second Badminton title, after it looked the likeliest outcome.
Winner Griffiths was surprised at the end result saying: “I thought if I do well cross country I could move up and obviously I did. I was lying fifth going into the showjumping and there was some really good guys ahead of me so I thought I could put some pressure on and to my surprise here I am. It was a twisty up to height course, the ground is a bit dead but my horse is very careful and she tried her hardest and that’s how she came out on top. She is one tough nut, she’s really tough but she’s got a massive heart.”
Wendy Scaheffer was the only clear round of the day with Koyuna Sun Dancer who jumped like a pure showjumper but even they added some time penalties.
Highest placed Brit Oliver Townend and Armada moved up to second from fourth yesterday with eight faults. Townend said: “I’m fairly speechless about it still. It’s just a dream come true. At certain points riding round the cross country course I thought ‘this is what it is really all about’. You need an exceptional horse to win Badminton.
“Giuseppe has been brave and he’s made this a proper four-star competition. This is how Badminton should be. The showjumping reflected what we all did yesterday. It was stamina sapping over a very big course, it’s not great not to have any clears but I don’t think it was an unfair test just a reflection of what we’ve all been through.”
One of the most popular results of the day however was Chippenham’s Harry Meade finishing in third on Wild Lone. His placing pleased many, due in no small part to his admirable comeback from serious injury last season that had put his career in jeopardy, and in fact he only started riding again February. He recorded one of only five rounds to finish with just four faults in the final phase to secure a leap from eighth to third overall.
An emotional Meade said; “To be honest I’ve been quite calm all week because I didn’t let myself get too ambitious and dream or see the scoreboard, I just enjoyed it. Even going into the showjumping today I felt very relaxed and just told myself to enjoy it. I found myself wandering up to the arena like I was jumping in the field at home. This week has probably all exceeded my expectations so I just went with it and enjoyed it.”
Prior to the competition, Meade had been ambivalent about his chances with Wild Lone saying; “He’s been a very consistent four star horse and his dressage is improving all the time, so I’m feeling positive. This will be my ninth Badminton and I know well what we’re capable of in each phase so I’m confident but equally realistic.”
Meade’s rotational fall last season had left both elbows shattered and in fact he’s still awaiting surgery . Riding cross country on Saturday Meade was heavily bandaged on both elbows but he maintained he was happy with how he felt saying; “They actually feel really good, this week was always going to be a question mark about how they held up but they’re fine.”
Marlborough based Tim Price had been the penultimate competitor, and after lying second after the cross country he had warned that showjumping wouldn’t be his horse’s strongest phase. Unfortunately that proved to be the case, and a costly 16 jumping penalties dropped him down to a still very creditable ninth place.
Badgerstown based Swede Ludwig Svennerstal rode a lovely round on Alexander to boost them to eighth place to equal his Burghley ranking on King Bob last season.
Sir Mark Todd gave the four-star debutante Leonidas a very sensitive ride and nursed him home with eight faults. Added to two time penalties, they would finish 14th – an excellent result for the young horse, which was largely down to Todd’s expert guidance.