At Sunday’s press conference, the top three riders were asked who would win the 2023 Badminton Horse Trials. You might expect them to choose themselves, but only one rider did: Rosalind Canter.
Both Oliver Townend (GBR) and Austin O’Connor (IRL) emphatically pointed at the world no. 3, feeling that she would be invincible. And so it proved.
After the gruelling exertions of cross country, all 30 horses who completed the course flew through the final trot up to advance to the show jumping phase.
Course designer Kelvin Bywater created a true test for the riders with only two horses coming home completely fault free. Those were Tom McEwen (GBR) and Toledo De Kerser, who finished just off the podium in fourth place on 54.4 penalties and Tom Jackson (GBR) riding Capels Hollow Drift who took fifth on 58.4.
Only one rail separated second and third place. Entering the arena third from last, Townend had a rail down and a time fault to finish on 50.3, giving O’Connor a bit of breathing space. Colorado Blue look on track to a clear right up until the penultimate fence, but lowered rails in both parts of the double to finish on 51.9, handing Townend and Ballaghmor Class second place.
O’Connor is the first Irish rider to podium at Badminton in 30 years. The last rider, Jessica Harrington, has gone on to train racehorses at the highest level, winning some of the biggest races in England and Ireland.
Last to return and EquiRating’s overwhelming favorite at a 98% win chance, Canter and Lordships Graffalo came into the arena knowing that they had a comfortable four fences in hand. The 11-year-old bay gelding looked utterly imperious as he cleared every fence with ease, rubbing only the water table. The pair added four time penalties to their tally but still finished on 35.3, 15 penalties ahead of Townend.
“He is an amazing horse, totally made for the job,” said Canter. “He wouldn’t be very happy just sitting at home and coming to Badminton is the highlight of his year.”
Canter also finished in the top ten on Pencos Crown Jewel, taking ninth, just ahead of 2003 Rolex Grand Slam and three-time Badminton winner Pippa Funnell (GBR) aboard Maja’s Hope.
“I was absolutely fantastic today,” said Canter. “Show jumping in front of a lot of people is not [Pencos Crown Jewel’s] idea of fun, and she struggled at Burghley last year, so to come out today and to jump that well was great—she is a gutsy, fantastic mare that tries her heart out.”
World no. 1, Tim Price, who was fourth overnight on Viatali, had three fences down to be demoted to seventh place, behind Gemma Stevens (GBR) on Jalapeno.
USA’s Katherine Coleman jumped without lowering a pole on Monbeg Senna but added one time fault to their total, finishing 23rd place. Fellow American, Lillian Heard Wood only had one rail down with LCC Barnaby and climbed a massive 40 places from 60th position after dressage to finish 20th.