WEXFORD’S Lucy Latta has joined the elite group of Irish riders who have finished on the podium at Badminton, finishing second there in what was her first ever five-star event. Riding the 13-year-old gelding RCA Patron Saint, Latta produced the fastest cross-country time of the day on Saturday, which saw her climb 43 places after dressage (36.8 penalties) into third place overall. A tough final show jumping phase saw very few clears, but Latta’s two fences down inside the time saw her climb another place to take runner-up. She was in superb company too, behind New Zealand’s Caroline Powell who secured the coveted win aboard the Meath-bred Irish Sport Horse Greenacres Special Cavalier.

Speaking about her incredible cross-country round, Latta said: “He (RCA Patron Saint) is truly one of the great cross-country horses out there. He gave it to me everywhere. He looks for the flags. He was just unbelievable.”

Meath’s Sarah Ennis also finished inside the top 20, taking 17th place with Grantstown Jackson (ISH)[TIH]. Ennis was another rider to rocket up the rankings after cross-country. In her case, just 3.6 time penalites left her in fifth place, but with 20 penalties on the tough show jumping track, it wasn’t to be. Another two Irish-bred horses in the top five were Quindiva (KWPN), bred by David Gray and Cliodhna Carroll, in third with Britain’s Alexander Bragg, and Capels Hollow Drift (ISH), bred in Co Clare by Jeanette Glynn and ridden by Tom Jackson (GBR), finishing fifth.

Latta was agonisingly close to ending the 59-year wait for an Irish victory, after Major Eddie Boylan’s triumph on Durlas Eile in 1965. The 27-year-old recorded a tally of 45.2 penalties, but Powell’s clear show jumping clinched the win on a total penalty count of 43.2 to Latta’s 45.2.

It was Latta’s speedy cross-country round, with just 0.4 of a time fault, that proved crucial when British rider, Alexander Bragg and Quindiva, drew level with a clear round on Sunday - but the faster time gave Latta the advantage. It was a drama-filled afternoon across the board, as the top two riders heading into the final day – Tim Price (NZL) and William Fox-Pitt (GBR), both dropped down the final standings after picking up costly show jumping penalties.

Fox-Pitt, who was second going into Sunday’s show jumping finale, was in contention to win for a third time at the age of 55, however, six fences down on Grafennacht saw him drop to 13th.

“I won’t be coming back to Badminton,” Fox-Pitt confirmed afterward. “It is a shame to finish on a bit of a downer, but she is a great horse and I look forward to seeing what happens next.”

Fox-Pitt has won 20 major championship medals during his eventing career and represented Great Britain at five Olympic Games, winning two team silver medals and one team bronze.

Caroline Powell with Greenacres Special Cavalier, winners of Badminton Horse Trials 2024 \ Equus Pix

Dream come true

“What a week,” said Latta, still trying to take it all in. “I’d have bitten your hand off if you told me this would have happened at the start of the week.

“It was total rider error at fence three (show jumping), so I’m kicking myself about that. I sat up when I should not have, but that’s for me to learn from my mistake, and I won’t do that the next time.

“I couldn’t have asked for any more from him. He’s the best cross-country horse there is. He really jumped for me, considering that was his first time over 11min 19 (the cross-country course length) and how big the fences were yesterday.”

Georgie Goss, who was lying eighth after dressage with Feloupe (KWPN), finished 27th after running into some problems in both jumping phases. Sam Watson and SAP Talisman finished 33rd and Ireland’s final rider Daragh Byrne (Kilcannon Ramiro) retired on the cross-country phase.

Something special

Winner Caroline Powell has her Irish partner to thank for sourcing the phenomenal specimen she partnered to triumph at the event. ‘Cav’, as she is known, was one of just three horses to jump clear inside the time on the final day to take victory.

Greg Kinsella from Co Kildare, made the initial trip to breeder Michael Callery’s yard at the suggestion of his mother, Gwen, which is where he first laid eyes on Greenacres Special Cavalier, who was four at the time, and the rest is history.

“I went home to Ireland looking for horses for (owner) Chris Mann and mum suggested we go to we go to Callery’s,” Kinsella told The Irish Field.

“I rang him, said we were looking for three and four-year-olds and went to Greenacres to meet him. Michael wanted to show us his foals but we had no intention. That was when I saw her standing in the stable staring and asked ‘what’s that over there?’ - but he said she might be sold. I asked him to show her to us - as soon as he pulled the rug off mum and I looked at each other and said ‘she is coming home with us’.

“It wasn’t necessarily the breeding or how she was put together, it was the way she looked at you - the intelligence, she was remarkable, gorgeous.

“I rang Caroline and I said ‘get on a plane and come over’. We rented an arena in Maynooth and Michael brought her down in the horse box the very next day. We put her on the lunge and they popped a fence and that was it. Caroline was sold.

“From the start, she was an amazing animal. She’s not been an easy mare, she’s very opinionated, slightly outrageous and hard to contain at times, but not in a bad way. She has really settled over winter and has had a fantastic spring, so we are really excited about what’s to come.

“The mare is special, a freak of nature, so so intelligent, she has you summed up before you even get a bit on her. She is also such a trusting animal, and is at one with Caroline, it’s wonderful to see them get to this level and to win it is just phenomenal.” Kinsella also sourced Powell’s second ride at Badminton, CBI Aldo (bred by Raymond Carroll), in Ireland at Monart.

“I wasn’t ready for that,” Powell said after her victory. “I’m not in my youth and just to get a horse to this stage is difficult enough, but to win – I can’t believe it.”