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Classic Challenge In Olympic Year

Back in history the severity of the Badminton course used to reach a rotational peak in Olympic year. Now the challenge for the world's premier Event is equally demanding every year.

This year is the third with the new layout at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, starting and finishing in the main arena, and convention dictates the direction alternates. The course will visit many familiar landmarks, but some 15 new fences will give an exciting new feel, even for those riders who have tried for the Mitsubishi Motors Trophy several times before.

Course Designer Hugh Thomas was asked which were the most difficult fences and he said "I have tried hard this year to make the riders think all the way round. There are lots of alternatives and especially lots of slightly different lines through combinations, with a choice of striding, so the riders will have to decide the best way for their particular horse."

He continued "We always hope that any faults will be well spread round the course; but I would have to pick out the Shogun Hollow, the Colt Pond, the Lake complex if only for the very special atmosphere generated by the huge crowd there, and the Australian Wine Garden in Huntsman's Close as the areas the riders will be particularly pleased to negotiate successfully."

As two years ago, riders jump the FLOWER BED, leave the arena and head clockwise. Next is the massive but inviting KEEPER'S BRUSH. A short canter is followed by a drop down and out over a solid spread at the LITTLE BADMINTON DROP.

Heading to the Beaufort Steps site there is the first brand new question with two curved palisades at the top and bottom of the slope. The brave route at the GRANDIS PALISADES is to take the top option on the right and head straight for the left hand option at the second element. Being two separately numbered fences 4/5, the less ambitious can circle between the two without penalty.

Avoiding the lake complex this early in the course, they take a flier at the SHOOTING BUTT before having to steady up as they turn right at the SHOGUN HOLLOW (7/8). A single upright sets them up for a traditional coffin type fence, an upright with drop, ditch, upslope and final upright. This type of obstacle is always influential.

A left turn takes the competitors to the PININ BANK, identical to last year, then on to SHOGUN SPORT TURN, a ditch followed by an angled brush, which some years ago saw off the challenge of Andrew Hoy with Darien Powers.

The course now weaves back and forth over the drain known as the Vicarage Ditch. THE CENTERPRISE OXER is an uncompromising 'old style' Badminton fence then comes the COLT POND again, a birch post and rail followed by a timber drop into the pond and a fence away.

Right again to the decorative MIKE WEAVER'S HAYCART and back to one of the most demanding 'technical' jumps. The angled double corners of the HUNT KENNELS have now proved themselves a real tester in both directions.

Coming back into the main park is a revamped PONY CLUB SUNKEN ROAD (named in honour of this year's nominated charity, who celebrate their seventy fifth anniversary), and then to the spectators' favourite The Lake. The usual 'gauntlet of fear' is marginally softened this time. First come the MITSUBISHI DOUBLE CABS (16) then a hedge (17 A) all within the amphitheatre before a turn left into a massive brush (17 B) with no alternative, over a JETTY in the water and a choice of exits STEPUP AND BRUSH.

In these days of prefabricated jumps the course builder can move various features round the site. These hedges were used two years ago at Huntsman's Close.

Heading directly to Badminton House come the WADSWORTH 'S BARRELS then to the much cleared HUNTSMAN'S CLOSE. To avoid complacency the first and last elements are proper upright five bar gates, with three log pile boxes through the trees, THE AUSTRALIAN WINE GARDEN. Back over a nineteen-sixties style ELEPHANT TRAP and a longish gallop to the OUTLANDER TREE TRUNKS, first tree compulsory with a choice of right or left angled exit.

THE COUNTRYSIDE ALLIANCE QUARRY starts with the PLATFORM in the gulley then either a sharp right up a steep slope and a SHEEPFEEDER or a longer alternative.

One from home is the double at the ROLEX TURN and finally the MITSUBISHI GARDEN.

As ever, just completing Eventing's ultimate challenge is a thrill, but those few who finish with a clean score sheet will have deserved their pride.


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