French toasts dramatic Badminton Horse Trials triumph
05 May 2019 / 14:36
Piggy French has grown so used to congratulating others she could scarcely comprehend her first-ever five-star event victory at the Badminton Horse Trials.
It had been a case of so near yet so far for the 38-year-old, who narrowly missed out on Badminton glory in 2011 when she finished second with Jakata.
But French, gold medallist at last year’s World Equestrian Games, capitalised on leader Oliver Townend’s show jumping slips to prevail on 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare Vanir Kamara.
“It hasn’t sunk in. I can’t believe it,” she said.
“I started to half-dream on the final morning and then I walked the course and thought ‘not a chance.’ It just didn’t suit, it wasn’t for her at all.
“You get so used to congratulating people that when it starts, you convince yourself you’ll be happy, go home and keep going.
“I usually come here quite negative because it’s not been happy hunting-ground at all. I probably don’t believe in myself enough.
“But my team are great and it’s so hard to get a horse here in one piece, and then its nose over the line first, I’m delighted.”
French ended the two-day dressage stage with a score of 26.0, placed well in fourth with five-time five-star winner Townend in the lead.
Townend led after the cross-country event too but committed four jump fouls and crucially added a 1.6 time penalty that saw French end on top spot with 26.8 to her name.
The Northamptonshire-based rider paid tribute to Vanir Kamara’s performance in conditions that didn’t favour her.
“She’s such an amazing little mare,” said French.
“If I built this track at home, she’d annihilate it every time but there’s something about her that when it matters, she doesn’t find it easy.
“She busted a gut and fair play to her.”