9:53am Monday 30th April 2012
ORGANISERS have cancelled this year's Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials after they accepted there was "no chance" of the ground drying out in time.
The most prestigious four-star competition in world eventing was due to start on Friday with two days of dressage, followed by cross-country on Sunday and Monday's showjumping finale.
It had been given added significance this year by Britain's world number one William Fox-Pitt going for the £220,000 Rolex Grand Slam, a prize for any rider that wins consecutive Burghley, Kentucky and Badminton titles.
Fox-Pitt last night added the Kentucky crown to his Burghley victory seven months ago - both aboard Parklane Hawk - but his Badminton hopes have now been dashed.
And businesses relying on trade from the trials, particularly local hotels, bed and breakfast accommodation and pubs, were disappointed by the announcement but not entirely surprised.
"The recent exceptional rainfall has left the ground at Badminton totally waterlogged and partially flooded," Badminton director Hugh Thomas said.
"Further rain is due this week, leaving no chance of the ground drying out.
"Very sadly, therefore, the 2012 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials has been cancelled. Purchasers of advance tickets, exhibitors, sponsors and riders will of course be refunded as soon as is practical."
The event will not be rescheduled, with today's announcement confirming the first cancellation since 1987. It was also called off in 1975, 1966 and 1963.
Reigning Badminton champion Mark Todd Tweeted last night: "Not liking the look of the weather forecast for this week - not at all."
But it is a major blow to the sport, given the huge crowds that Badminton attracts, especially on cross-country day.
This year's competition would have seen a Badminton debut for Germany's Michael Jung, the current world and European champion, in addition to Todd defending his title and Fox-Pitt spearheading a powerful British challenge.
It is also comes as a setback for the British selectors three months before London 2012, although most of the top riders were not entered at Badminton on their potential Olympic horses.
Britain will send a team of five to London, with Fox-Pitt, Mary King, Piggy French and Nicola Wilson seemingly having nailed down four of those places.
The fifth spot, though, remains wide open, and attention will now switch to Chatsworth Horse Trials in Derbyshire from May 11-13, where several possible Olympic combinations are due to compete.
Foxham event rider Georgie Spence said on Twitter: "Can't believe Badminton is cancelled!!!''
International eventer and London 2012 hopeful Laura Collett, who is based on the Membury Estate near Marlborough added on Twitter: "Absolutely gutted that Badminton has been cancelled.... I HATE the British weather!!''
I have 2 horses that are the fittest they've ever been, in the best form they've ever been in, sat in their stables with no party to go to.''
Meanwhile Jayne Barker, of Stiling Hayes bed and breakfast, Malmesbury, said: “I’m assuming people will be cancelling now, which won’t be good for me.
“I only had two rooms but they were fully booked for Badminton.
“It can’t be helped but we probably won’t be able to fill those rooms now. This is my second year and any business is good.”
Hundreds of people living overseas have booked and paid for their flights, car hire and accommodation to visit Wiltshire, will be among those who are bitterly disappointed by the announcement.
Emma Amati, of Dauntsey Park House, had 11 bookings for the event. She said: “Obviously I am assuming that everyone who has booked will cancel now
"Everybody is disappointed but not hugely surprised.
“It’s one of my key weekends as we get people coming for a nice long time but you can’t beat the elements. I don't really want vehicles to be being pulled out of the car park with a tractor.”
And Caroline Hawkins, of Sheldon Manor, where 24 people were booked to stay for the event, said: “Badminton needed to be cancelled because of how dangerous it was.
“I have been expecting the announcement since Wednesday.
“It would be irresponsible if they had allowed it to go ahead.”
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