Armada can help Townend sail in for second triumph at the ‘Grand National’ of eventing

THERE are 15 months to Rio 2016, but Huddersfield’s Oliver Townend says this weekend’s Badminton Horse Trials are “just as big as the Olympic Games”.

Oliver Townend riding Armada.

The world No 5 bids for glory on last year’s runner-up Armada, which 2009 winner Townend believes is better than ever at 16.

Townend will lead a four-pronged attack from Yorkshire in the year’s second CCI four-star class with Northallerton’s London 2012 silver medallist Nicola Wilson represented by rising stars Beltane Queen and One Two Many.

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Beverley’s Gary Parsonage sends stable star Sligo Luckyvalier to an event Townend compares to eventing’s Grand National.

At 32, the Yorkshireman is seeking his second win at the prestigious competition, six years on from tasting glory on Flint Curtis in 2009.

Flint Curtis was 13 when savouring glory – three years younger than Armada – but Townend reports his charge better than ever ahead of an event the rider says is comparable to sport’s ultimate summer spectacular which arrives every four years,

“Badminton is as big as the Olympics for us,” Townend told The Yorkshire Post.

“It’s the most important event in the world and it’s the same as our Grand National or one of those big sporting occasions. It’s obviously very important.

“You need luck on the day so we shall see, but Armada is in great form and he’s better than we’ve possibly ever had him. We’ll see how we go.

“He’d be completely different to Flint Curtis altogether but both are very, very good horses. Armada has got a lot more class than Flint Curtis and he is going in with everything feeling right.”

Townend and Armada were only denied victory last year by Australian star Sam Griffifths on Paulank Brockagh alongside stablemate Happy Times.

Townend believes world 
No 2 William Fox-Pitt and world No 8 Andrew Nicholson will likely be the two to beat. Fox-Pitt is represented by three-time Bramham winner Chilli Morning with New Zealand ace Nicholson relying on Nereo and Calico Joe.

Olympic champion and world No 1 Michael Jung has not entered but world No 3 Jonelle Price bids for glory with the New Zealand rider on board The Deputy and Classic Moet.

“Everyone that’s anyone will be there and there’s some very good horses about at the minute,” said Townend. “I think the ones to beat will be Fox-Pitt and Nicholson, the same as always.”

Yet Townend has already been there and won and admits that having one Badminton safely in the bag relieves the pressure as he tries to add a second.

Townend added: “Winning in 2009 was a big step forward in my career and it almost takes a bit of pressure off because in some ways at least I know I am capable of winning the big ones, as I’ve done it. But, at the same time, you need a partner in crime that’s trying as much as you.

“If Armada gives me his best and I give my best on him then you’d hope that we’ve had a good result. The draw is very good – I’m 73rd to go so no worries with the draw.”

Barnsley’s Joe Whitaker won the prestigious Area Trial at the area15a British Showjumping event held at Bishop Burton.

East Yorkshire’s Ollie Dales finishing sixth out of 40 world-class riders and took the coveted ‘KUDU Equestrian’ trophy as a reward for her majestic efforts.

Award-winning Barnsley-based equestrian artist Jane Lazenby will hold the second instalment of her 2015 ‘Open Studio’ event this weekend.

Lazenby is offering a 20 per discount on commissions over the event at Mount Pleasant, Cawthorne Lane, Kexborough, Barnsley S75 5DY.

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