When Jonelle Price carried the weight of a nation to victory at the 2018 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials this morning, she entered a rather exclusive club.
Not only is she the first female from New Zealand to have won the event, but she is also just the fourth rider from these shores to have done so. Her win meant back-to-backs for New Zealand – Andrew Nicholson and Nereo were the victors in 2017, with Jock Paget and Clifton Promise winning in 2013 and Sir Mark Todd with his clutch of wins from 2011 on NZB Land Vision, 1996 on Bertie Blunt, 1994 on Horton Point and 1980 on Southern Comfort III.
In 1995 Todd famously rode Bertie Blunt over the cross country with just a single stirrup – sadly they were eliminated the following day in the final horse inspection but they did come back the following year to win.
The last time a woman won Badminton was 2007 when Lucinda Fredericks (Australia) steered Headley Britannia to victory, with Margaret Hough the first female to win in 1954 aboard Bambi.
Classic Moet becomes the seventh mare to have won the prestigious event. Thirty-one New Zealand riders have completed Badminton – Nicholson leads the way with his 37 that span from 1984 on Kahlua through to his victory last year on Nereo. Todd is next with his 30, with Caroline Powell on 15 and Blyth Tait on 10.
Price admitted the victory was still sinking in when we caught up with her a few hours after the presentations.
“What can you say? We won Badminton . . . we rode our luck a little bit today but someone said afterwards that I earned my luck yesterday and used it today. I think that is quite fitting,” she said. “Despite rattling our way around today, Classic Moet is a deserving champion. She really deserved a big win. She has been so special and I am so pleased for her and her owner Trisha Rickards that it came at no other than one of the biggest.”
ESNZ high performance eventing manager Graeme Thom was full of praise for both horse and rider. “They did it in great form,” he said. “She is a horse who can gallop better than any other out there. It is a testament to Jonelle’s dogged determination to continually succeed.”
But it was very much a victory for the wider team too. “She has quite a team around her – (high performance coaches) Isobel (Wessels), and Luis (Alvarez Cervera), husband Tim and the rest who help her – but Jonelle certainly steers the ship.”
Thom said New Zealand continued to be a stand-out at events like Badminton.
“Even though this was an individual event, it is amazing and a real testament to the culture of New Zealand and its team spirit that everyone, from athlete to owner to support staff to groom, all rally around each other right up to the podium. It is a true team and what is so special. That feeling and spirit is something that will carry us through WEG too.”
Badminton was driven by the 10th Duke of Beaufort who hoped it would help British riders train for future internationals. The first event in 1949 attracted 22 starters from two countries with £150 on offer for the winner and a prize pool of £500. Today there was £360,750 in the prize pool with £100,000 for the winner of the Mitsubishi Motors Trophy.
“I am just going to enjoy the moment and go from there,” said Price. “I am really privileged to join the elite club as a 4* winner and no better than to do it with my great friend Molly.”
Price also won the William Miflin Memorial Trophy as the rider with no cross country jumping penalties and closest to the optimum time. Classic Moet won an embryo transfer from Tomlinson Equine as the highest placed British bred or domiciled mare. Co-owners Trisha Rickards and Price won a £500 stud voucher as the owners of the highest-placed British-owned mare and groom Holly Fitzgerald won the Mark Holliday Memorial Trophy. Elaine Hepworth was honoured as the breeder of Classic Moet. Armada Dishes – for five completions – were handed to Dan Jocelyn and Tim Price.
By Diana Dobson – HP Media Liaison