Ambitious Cawood spurred on by Badminton showing

MARKET-WEIGHTON’S Lucie Cawood has set her sights on a four-star future after a helter-skelter debut at Badminton this week.

Lucie Cawood

Cawood, 25, and her home-bred Alfie secured an impressive 11th-placed finish at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Grassroots Championships at 2013 BE90 level.

Yet it was so nearly a third-placed finish for the duo who agonisingly knocked down the third bar of the triple-bar fence seven during Thursday’s showjumping event.

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Predictably, the competition produced thrills and spills with fellow Yorkshire competitor Jonathan Procter and his Sumas William Of Orange eliminated after running out after the cross country course’s water jump.

The building firm owner pulled no punches following his setback and admits he was found out by the rise in class.

But gracious Procter also paid a warm compliment to Cawood who, but for a minor faux pas in the showjumping, would have been in the top three. Cawood blames herself for the mistake and not her equine partner but both can be proud of their 11th-placed finish from a field of 62 – part of an experience that has got ambitious Cawood yearning for future visits to Badminton.

“Competing at Badminton has been fantastic and just so special,” Cawood told the Yorkshire Post.

“When I was on the cross-country course there was a point where I pulled up at the top of the hill and just had a look round. I thought ‘wow, you’re at Badminton’. I had to take it all in a little.

“Alfie has been fantastic, unbelievable and he didn’t put a foot wrong. I cannot fault him. It was my fault and not his that we just clipped the bar as I should have gone for a short one when instead we went for a long one.

“We just tapped it and but for that we would have been third but my aim was to come in the top 20. To come 11th was brilliant.”

Cawood and Alfie also sat 11th overnight following Wednesday’s dressage competition. The duo then slipped slightly down the order after the showjumping before finishing on a high after a fine cross-country round. The event was won by Lucy Robinson on Red Dandy ahead of Tracey Day on Carello and Jess Beasley aboard Urbanes.

For Cawood, plans are now in place to step Alfie up to novice and then one-star level. Longer-term, the duo could end up even higher than that.

“I really want to crack on with him now and take him up a level to novice in May,” said Cawood, who celebrated her impressive showing with a well-earned glass of Pimms.

“Then the ultimate aim this year is for him to do his first one-star. I’m definitely sure it’s onwards and upwards for him and the ultimate aim is to be back here for the four star. Why not? You’ve got to dream.”

For now at least, the four-star competition which concludes on Monday will be left to Nicola Wilson and co.

Cawood hopes the Northallerton rider or Oliver Townend for that matter can bring the main prize back to Yorkshire.

Cawood added: “It will be exciting to see how the main event goes. It would be great to see William Fox-Pitt win and do the Grand Slam but obviously we want Nicola to win it – she’s got to do it for Yorkshire hasn’t she?”

Despite his elimination from the BE90 event, Skipton’s Procter also did the White Rose county proud.

He was 14th overnight following the dressage before, like Cawood, knocking one pole down at the showjumping stage. But Procter and his mount were then eliminated after missing a tight turn and running out after the water jump during the cross-country event.

The duo were one of 10 BE90 pairings eliminated at the cross-country stage.

Procter, 49, was naturally disappointed but he too is yearning for a Badminton return.

“I haven’t been doing it long enough really to learn all the sharp turns needed to get round and we were found out, but it’s a learning curve and I’m not giving up,” said Procter. “I’d love to be back here next year at BE100 level.

“I’m actually competing at that level already but a BE90 at Badminton is quite a different thing. Competing at Badminton has been fantastic and it’s an incredibly well run organisation. “It was brilliant to be a part of.”

Hailing the achievements of Cawood, Procter admitted: “Lucie has done really well and to finish where she did is fantastic.

“I admire anyone who gets round this course.”

Townend not ruling out second title win

HUDDERSFIELD’S Oliver Townend says the victor of this weekend’s Badminton Horse Trials will be fulfilling a lifelong dream akin to winning the Grand National.

World No 5 Townend and Armada will begin the second leg of their attempt for Badminton glory with tomorrow’s cross-country test which gets underway at 12 noon.

The CCI four-star event will then be concluded with Bank Holiday Monday’s showjumping event with both Townend and Northallerton’s Nicola Wilson – on Opposition Buzz – flying the flag for Yorkshire.

Townend flew that flag to victory in 2009 on Flint Curtis and says whoever is crowned champion on Monday will feel mightily proud.

“Badminton is about the biggest competition in the world and it’s like all big competitions in that things happen that wouldn’t normally happen,” said Townend.

“But at the same time I have been lucky enough to win there before once and hopefully I can try and do it again, though it’s a bit like the Grand National.

“When I won it in 2009 I was pretty sure that I was going to do well in it, but it was obviously a lifetime’s ambition to achieve that.

“It put everything into perspective and it was like being a Grand National-winning jockey or a Hickstead Derby winner I suppose – it’s something that’s on your CV for life because it’s something that so few people do.

“It’s not the sort of competition that you go to thinking you are going to win every year – the same as the Derby.

“But it’s a competition that you get as ready as possible for and hope that you are going to go and do well.

“We’re positive and we shall see – I know that I am on a horse that is capable of jumping round.”

Townend was due to begin his quest for glory with yesterday’s dressage test – the Huddersfield eventer drawn first in the first discipline, which continues today.

Wilson was due to start 44th of the 85 competitors.