HUDDERSFIELD’S Oliver Townend is prepared to wait for a second success at Badminton after admitting this year’s dressage test cost him his chance of glory.
World No 4 Townend pulled no punches in analysing his bid for a 2013 conquest, admitting there were “no excuses” following a 34th-placed finish with Armada.
The duo were four places behind Northallerton’s Nicola Wilson on board Opposition Buzz.
Townend and Armada were 37th after three mistakes in the opening day’s dressage which Townend felt immediately blew his chances of repeating his 2009 win. Victory instead went to rising New Zealand star Jonathan Paget following a dazzling display on board Clifton Promise.
Paget is just 29. But Townend is only 30 and the Huddersfield eventer knows he has time on his side – especially with a young team of horses at his disposal described as the best he has had.
Armada will now be aimed at the Burghley and Bramley Horse Trials, but for ambitious Townend the show continues today with attention turned to the rising stars of the future at Aston-Le-Walls.
The Yorkshireman hoped to be heading the event today as a two-time Badminton winner – but for now, at least, repeating his 2009 success must wait.
“It’s always good to get to Badminton and obviously having won it once before you want to do the same thing again,” Townend told the Yorkshire Post.
“But that isn’t always going to be possible and I keep reminding myself that Mark Todd had to wait 14 years between his first and second victories there and Andrew Nicholson still hasn’t won it after 33 completions.
“I think I’d be a bit more miffed if that was the case with me.
“It wasn’t our year this year and while the draw didn’t help us there were no excuses.”
The writing was arguably on the wall before this year’s Badminton had even begun for Townend who was drawn to go first out of 84 entries.
The Yorkshireman then felt his chance had already gone after sitting 37th after the dressage test.
Thirteen places ahead of him at that stage was Northallerton’s Olympic silver medallist hero Wilson and Opposition Buzz, who were joint 24th.
Townend then turned things around with a foot-perfect cross country round to zoom up to 20th approaching the final day’s show jumping test.
Wilson and Opposition Buzz also jumped the cross country clear with the only slight blip being a completion 0.4 seconds over the time. That dropped Wilson to 16th in the pecking order, but both Yorkshire riders then endured a frustrating showjumping test with both dropping out of the top 20 with four rails down apiece.
Townend maintains that the dressage test was the one that mattered most.
“The dressage was a very good test, but three mistakes cost Armada a good mark,” said the Huddersfield rider.
“If you are not in the top five after the dressage you aren’t going to win it.
“Armada’s cross country was class, but those three mistakes in the dressage cost us and it’s a case of old habits die hard. He’s not straightforward and if he was I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to ride him.
“His cross country was extremely good and he couldn’t have had a better spin really – it was exceptionally good.
“The showjumping was disappointing, but at the same time when you are down in 20th place what difference does it make?
“If you were in first or second you might have been a bit more annoyed.”
On the contrary, Townend is instead full of enthusiasm for the future – beginning at Aston-Le-Walls, near Daventry, today.
He added: “I’m very happy with the way things are going and I feel that overall I have got the best team of horses that I have ever had.
“Hopefully, Armada can fill in the gaps over the next few years because this is the best group of horses I have had for a long while.”
Northallerton’s Wilson was also in a decent frame of mind following her showing on Opposition Buzz, who was one of the darlings of last summer’s London Olympics.
“After doing a great dressage test and a fabulous cross country round, he was very much on his toes and got strong in the second half of the showjumping,” said Wilson.
“But he felt fantastic and it is such a joy and privilege to ride him.”