Well it’s a whole new Covid world we have one year on from the first lockdown…. how we laughed at the thought Badminton 2020 may not be on the cards. I think its a blessing we had no idea what lay ahead for sure!
British Eventing have come under allot of flak for their massive overspend on an IT project (EARS) that was not fit for purpose. Mistakes were made, heads have rolled and there is a new vision in the pipeline which has been driven by our very own NZ owners Di Brunsden and Terry Miller. The team at BE were instrumental in putting together a plan for elite riders to cover a build up and runs for horses aimed at Badminton and Kentucky 5 stars and were supported by venues like Aston le Walls, Oasby and Cirencester.
When Badminton pulled the plug it was a big blow to these events that had committed to running elite only events to facilitate the runs. A handful will risk the Kentucky option over the trundle down the M4 to Badminton and with the prize money at Kentucky down some 70% and the freebies like entries and stabling ( nearly 1k) off the table it looked like it was going to be tough to get there.
But Aston le Walls had committed and to their credit they ran the two days as promised as a ‘training day’ to comply with government regulations around outdoor ‘competition’. Nigel Taylor and his team came up with a unique format of having a novice and intermediate SJ track side built side so you could pick and choose your height throughout your round, you went directly to the XC start where you had an identical track of novice and intermediate fences laid out together.
Tim is a fan! He had 5 horses there today (due to the EHV outbreak restricted to those not on the Sunshine Tour who have remained at Mere Farm) with a variation in experience from 5 star though to up and coming super stars (like Happy Boy) . They all did their dressage which meant no frantic changing of clothes before heading to the showjumping which had a novice and intermediate track laid side by side so you could pick your route through… maybe the intermediate double followed by the novice treble for example…then you went straight to the XC warm up and ran around a track that again had novice and intermediate options side by side. The going was pretty tacky so it meant that Tim could canter round at schooling pace and pick and choose his own course. He said it was ideal and a perfect first start to 2021. Several other high profile riders backed this up as a way forward in March as well.
Tim rode Xavier Faer ( Hugo) and Bango ( Uno) who are now both Kentucky 5 star bound after the cancellation of Badminton. He also had Saumur bound Senza Fine and Falco and up coming superstar Happy Boy and so it was a great opportunity for all of them to have a blow out and lose some cob webs along the way. I had predicted that Tim might get bucked off at his first start so he was happy to report he stayed on board!
Jonelle found the new style exceptionally beneficial as her sole runner was Grappa Nera ( Grape) who was supposed to have been on the Sunshine Tour but was dropped when Kentucky abandoned only to be resurrected when Kentucky Crowd Funded its reinstatement. That was too late to add her to the tour but Jonelle was able to run today. She rocked on down to the dressage warm up some 45 mins before her time and then explained to the steward that her mad horse could not possibly execute a test on the allotted time and could they give her a later time. They duly did and after some lunging and more patent riding Jonelle posted what would be described as Grape’s best ever test at that level and then went on to shine in the two jumping phases as normal.
So to sum up what was regarded as a bit of a box ticker for BE has become a real visionary for early March events in the UK. No records, pick your ground, choose between intermediate and novice fences in sticky ground… its a winner all round. Lets hope it moves forward to 2022. The future is looking good!