Dreams really do come true...

Sunday, 08 May 2022

Laura Collett’s fairytale week ended with the happily ever after she’s dreamed of since she was a little girl – her first Badminton win. Partnering Karen Bartlett, Keith Scott and her own London 52, the Wiltshire rider lead from start to finish to claim the first ever Mars Equestrian sponsored-Badminton title.

It went down to the wire and it was to be no easy task for Laura and ‘Dan’. Ros Canter piled on the pressure with an immaculate clear aboard Michele Saul’s Lordships Gruffalo, adding nothing to their combined dressage and cross-county score of 26.0 to climb up from overnight fourth. Heading into the jumping phase in third, Tokyo pathfinders Oliver Townend and Karyn Shuter, Angela Hislop and Val Ryan’s Ballaghmor Class couldn’t afford any mistakes and the time allowed over Kelvin Bywater’s clever course was very tight.

As Burghley winners, Oliver and ‘Thomas’ can jump under pressure but today, despite an athletic round, they lowered the bogey orange plank toward the end of the course and clocked up 0.4 of a time fault for a total of 30.3 to drop a place behind Ros and, indeed, 2019 Badminton champions Piggy March and Trevor Dickens’ Vanir Kamira, who added four to their total for a score of 30.1.

Oliver’s second ride, Swallow Springs, who he’s taken on from Andrew Nicholson for loyal owners Paul and Diana Ridgeon, could give him another shot at the title if he could conjure a coveted clear round, which had been hard to come by all day. Sadly, they lowered a fence late on to finish on 29.7, which relegated them a place and moved Ros and ‘Walter’ up to second.

Laura and Dan entered the electric arena, knowing they had a fence in hand and a little bit of time to spare… but the pressure was palpable. Each up-to-height fence came, each was cleared, each with the crowd willing the duo over. It was clear… and just one second over – only 0.4 added to their dressage score to spoil a faultless performance and the accolade of finishing on their dressage score - a record low final total of 21.4 for any Badminton winner. However, one suspects that Laura won’t lament that fact – instead, she’ll remember this as one of the performances of her career, those four days where she bossed it at Badminton.

In addition to the £100,000 first prize, Laura, Karen and Keith can now enjoy the amazing new Badminton Horse Trials trophy from Judy Boyt, which features three horses made from silver spoons from Badminton House on a plinth carved from a fallen oak in the parkland.             

It’s was also a historic day in that, for the first time in 20 years, Britain completed a full podium sweep at Badminton. It was last done back in 2002 when Pippa Funnell took the title with Supreme Rock and was supported by William Fox-Pitt and Leslie Law.

This crowns a fantastic 18 months for Laura, following the toughest of times most riders could face when injury threatened her future, but she fought back to the top and has now realised another lifetime dream.

In the top-three press conference, Laura kicked off in saying, “He’s the horse of a lifetime. He’s done so much for me and I came into this week saying he owes me nothing, and then he goes and does that. I’m the luckiest girl in the world to be sat on a horse like him. He just gets better and better, and the most exciting thing is he’s still young enough to come back and do it all again, hopefully!

“It’s not often you get to go into the ring at Badminton with a fence in hand. At the end of the day, the horse is just phenomenal and jumped better and better…and better. Piggy [March] said to me this morning in the stables "would you swap him for any other horse in the field." I said no, I might swap the rider but not the horse!”

“I just had to remember that I was out on an unbelievable jumper, and he showed that today. I can’t sum it up, I’ve had a whirlwind 18 months. From winning my first five star in Pau in 2020, to an Olympic gold medal, to coming here and winning my first Badminton, there are no words,” she exclaimed.

To which Oliver quipped; “You’re doing a good job!” And the onlooking crowd laughed.

Ros was full of praise for her 10-year-old who’s really come of age this week and now has a legion of new fans. “He is an amazing horse, I’ve always thought that of him, but at the beginning of the week I questioned if it was even the right decision to bring him here. He came out on Tuesday and we went for a hack and his eyes were everywhere, he’s never seen anything like this before. But he settled into it and I truly think he’s had a wonderful week. He’s very laid back and I think he’s enjoyed every part of it – particularly the prize-giving!  Before the dressage test, I’d have been happy with two clean flying changes, so to be where I am I feel he’s learnt so much in the last few days. There’s lots more to come hopefully,” she said.

Oliver was extremely philosophical about his 2022 Badminton; “It’s been a very special week. I keep knocking on the door – it’s the third time at Badminton on the bounce that we’ve had two in the top six, so the consistency’s there. I keep turning up and hopefully I get my turn again soon. The horses are very professional, Andrew Nicholson has obviously done a great job on producing Swallow Springs, and Ballaghmor Class is hugely special. It’s been a really good week and actually enjoyable. It’s been great to see people back at events, the atmosphere has been unreal and I’ve really enjoyed that. I hope everyone who’s come through the gates has enjoyed the sport as much as we obviously have – so well done to you guys.”

And so the sun sets on a truly iconic Badminton. We’ve missed this hallowed turf, the striking backdrop afforded by Badminton House and the world’s best spectator base – plus, the most amazing collection of horses, riders, owners and grooms who put on such sport for us all to enjoy. Thanks to our new presenting sponsors Mars Equestrian for your support to get this show back to its very best.

Full result available here.

Today's BBC coverage will also be replayed on the BBC Red Button at 6:50, 12:50, 18:50 and 21:45 tomorrow.