Olympic gold medallist Oliver Townend has been denied a shot at history at this weekend's Mars Badminton Horse Trials (May 9-12).

The former champion had been hoping to claim equestrian's richest prize - the Rolex Grand Slam - on the Duke of Beaufort's estate near Wiltshire but has been forced to withdraw his mount, Ballaghmor Class on the eve of the competition.

Townend, 41, won Defender Burghley last autumn on Karyn Shuter, Val Ryan and Angela Hislop’s Ballaghmor Class, and last weekend he took Defender Kentucky on Paul and Diana Ridgeon’s Cooley Rosalent.

Had Ballaghmor Class won at Badminton, the Shropshire rider would have scooped the £230,000 prize for triumphing at the three most challenging CCI5* competitions consecutively. It is a feat only achieved twice before - by Pippa Funnell and Michael Jong in 2003 and 2016 respectively.

The 17-year-old grey, who was part of Britain’s gold medal-winning team at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, finished second at Badminton in 2023.

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class. Photo: PAOliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class. Photo: PA (Image: PA)

Townend said: “Absolutely gutted to withdraw Ballaghmor Class from this week’s MARS Badminton Horse Trials.

"He had a abscess earlier in the season and consequently missed a couple of runs and gallops. This morning he went for his final gallop and with the 11.5 mins cross country course combined with the possible soft ground we don’t feel he’s at his normal 5* fitness right now.

"This is the first time in his career he’s missed a 5* and with the Rolex Grand Slam being at stake (for the third time for me!) and Thomas’s record with 10 top-five placings at 5*, 4 of which from Badminton including twice 2nd place, and his 3 wins at Burghley and Kentucky, we really hoped he would finally get the Badminton trophy he so badly deserves.

"He’s fit and well, and knowing his huge heart he’d give us his all, but it’s simply not in his best interest to run this week and his welfare is our top priority.

"Thomas will be rerouted to plan B but for now we’d like to give a huge thanks to his owners, our sponsors and our team who are all equally gutted but support us to make this call to look after our superstar."

Event director Jane Tuckwell said: “we are all devastated for Oliver and highly respect his decision not to run. We look forward to welcoming Oliver and Thomas back to Badminton in 2025.”